First and foremost, I'm glad Austin Collie is okay.
The Colts wide receiver left the game in the second quarter of the Indy's 26-24 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. He has a concussion, which is very serious, but at first look it seemed much worse, as he laid motionless on the grass at the Linc for several minutes.
Now at risk of being labeled the guy who always whines about the refs...I'm going to whine about the refs.
"The fact of the matter is that the ball was incomplete," referee Carl Cheffers was quoted as saying on ESPN.com. "So he has protection throughout that entire process on that play because we don't have a completion. At no time did he have possession and become a runner to where he would have transitioned out of being a defenseless receiver."
Was I watching a different game?
What I saw was Collie make a leaping catch, land on two feet while turning upfield, brace himself for impact with the closing defenders, then get hit from his right by the Eagles safety Quintin Mikell driving him toward his left, while simultaneously getting hit from his right by safety Kurt Coleman.
Coleman and Collie's helmets collided, knocking out Collie and knocking the ball loose.
The Eagles recovered the ball and began to run, but the officials blew the play dead as an incomplete pass.
Now, I'm all for protecting "defenseless" receivers from unnecessary roughness. Lord knows, Philadelphia sports has seen its share of concussions over the years, with the Eagles' DeSean Jackson just returning this week from a scary collision just a few weeks ago.
Also see the Flyers' Eric Lindros and Keith Primeau.
But to state that Collie is this case was a defenseless receiver is ludicrous.
He made a "football move." He braced himself. He took a total of three steps. The ball came out, but only after the impact that knocked him out.
Once Collie makes a catch, he becomes a "runner," and is not covered by this crackdown by the NFL on helmet-to-helmet hits.
Crazy as it sounds, you are allowed to hit a runner with his helmet at that point.
But that's not what the referee was saying in this case. He claimed a catch was never made, which simply isn't true.
Which brings me to my next question: Why didn't Eagles head coach Andy Reid challenge the ruling on the field of an incomplete pass?
Although the play was ruled dead, rules were adjusted this year to allow a recovering team to be awarded possession if the recovery was obvious, but it would be at the spot of the fumble.
But Reid didn't throw the red hankie.
Was it because decorum wouldn't allow him to do it while Collie lie motionless? I don't think so.
I'm guessing that because of the penalty on the play on the Eagles, the down didn't count. Which means that this incorrectly applied rule was a game-changer, because the Colts finished the drive just a few plays later with a touchdown, then added a field goal right before the half to take the lead.
Now the Eagles did manage to win the game so it didn't figure in the outcome. But I think that should give more credence to looking closely at what happened on that play, that this isn't just a "You cost us the game, you bum" rant.
The speed of the NFL game has increased significantly in the past few years as players get stronger, quicker, heavier.
These moments happen in the blink of an eye, and we expect the men in stripes, who are also on the move, to be able to get these calls right.
And why not? This is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Wins and losses translate into cash.
Why can't the officials call for their own review?
Why can't a personal foul call be reviewed?
I may be wrong, but I think they can look to see if a punch is thrown before they eject (or "disqualify") a player. So with so much emphasis on head shots, why can't the ref go check it out?
Fifteen yards is a big chunk of real estate. Sometimes possession-changing real estate. Sometimes game-changing real estate.
In this case, the penalty nullified a possible change of possession. So why isn't the entire play reviewable, particularly when the supposed offense happened at the ball?
We can review the spot of the ball. We can review forward pass or fumble. These are referee decisions that get clarified.
Major penalties, like unsportsmanlike conduct or even pass interference, should be reviewable.
Why can't they?
Every play of every NCAA football game is reviewed. Every single one. Why?
To get it right.
They only buzz down when they have something egregious that needs to be looked at. Sometimes the incorrect adjudication of the rules is egregious.
The NFL should want to get that right, too.
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