In yesterday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Giants' rookie RB Saquon Barkley made an amazing athletic leap from about the four-yard line to the endzone to score a touchdown. You'll see it on highlight reels all week, and deservedly so. But while impressive, the play also revealed a pretty glaring hypocrisy in the NFL's rulebook.
While still in midair, Barkley loses control of the football. Cowboys LB Joe Thomas goes up to stop Saquon, like a center protecting the rim in basketball, and hits the RB's arm as he's diving forward. The ball is dislodged before Barkley hits the ground.
However, because the ball broke the plane of the goal line before Barkley lost control, the play is ruled as a touchdown.
That's fine; that's the rule. And I'm sure that Ezekiel Elliott has benefited from that rule at some point in his career, and likely will again.
But now take that rule and compare it to what the NFL considers as "completing the catch" on a receiving play. Why is it so complicated and exacting for a catch to be a catch, but then Barkley's play is so easily called as a touchdown?
The issue is the concept of having possession of the football. It's a lot easier to say that running back, who got the ball handed to him and then dives toward the endzone, had clear possession of the ball.
But let's say the quarterback lobs the ball up in the endzone and a receiver catches it in midair. He has the ball securely in his hands and is hovering above the endzone. He's a good five yards past the goal line.
That receiver still has to land, while controlling the ball, to be awarded the catch and touchdown. If a defender comes up and knocks the ball out of his hands before that, it's ruled incomplete.
Even if the receiver lands briefly, but a defender comes through and immediately dislodges the ball in some way, it's not a catch.
See the disparity?
Of course, I'm bringing this conversation back to Dez Bryant and the 2014 playoffs. What good Cowboys fan wouldn't?
Dez catches the ball, takes two steps, dives forward, and maintains possession all the way to the ground. The ball only becomes dislodged upon hitting the turf.
Had he been a running back diving forward on a carry, it's no problem. The ground can't cause a fumble.
But according to the NFL rules, it CAN cause an incompletion.
Now let's go back to Barkley's play; his feet weren't even on the ground when the ball crosses the goal line. He loses control of the ball while still in midair.
And again, rules are rules. The officials made the right call yesterday on Saquon's touchdown. I'm not disputing that one bit.
But my point here is that the NFL expects a whole heck of a lot from these receivers, but gives tremendous leeway to running backs in similar situations. "Possession" is a much higher standard for one type of play than another.
An even better example is this play from last season:
Patriots-Steelers 2017 NFL Week 15 12-17-2017 Ben Roesthlisberger pass to Jesse James incomplete after touchdown is overturned by Referee Tony Corrente. Good call, Ref.
Jesse James is on the ground, ball in his hands, and breaks the plane. The football doesn't move until it hits the ground, and because he's a receiver that's an incompletion.
Simply put, it isn't fair.
If Barkley can get a touchdown the way he did, then James certainly deserved one on that play. Dez deserved his catch. So did Megatron. So have a lot of other receivers.
It just puts on display what the NFL can't seem to figure out; consistency in legislation. Whether it's plays on the field or in their enforcement of their domestic violence policy, the league's logic rarely aligns.
I know this seems like small potatoes given that Barkley's touchdown ultimately didn't cost Dallas the game. Even if it had, the Cowboys wouldn't have been hurt by the loss in any way.
But it's still stuck in my craw since yesterday, and reminded me of Dez's catch and other infuriating moments in recent years. Even these calls now on defensive players who can't seem to hit a QB cleanly, no matter how hard they try.
I just wish football still made sense.
Cowboys Next 3 Games Pivotal To Playoff Run
A popular way of evaluating a team's season is by breaking their results into quarters. Because teams play 16 games in the NFL, if you are able to finish 3-1 each quarter of the season then you will likely be in competition for a first round bye come January.
Through the first quarter of this season, the Cowboys accomplished that exact goal. Sitting at 3-1 wth the second quarter of the season to go, the Cowboys deserved to feel pride in how they started their year off.
With a home loss last week, though, the Cowboys are already behind the eight ball for their second quarter of the season. When you look at the upcoming schedule, however, you see a huge opportunity for the Cowboys going forward.
If Dallas is to make a playoff run, and Jason Garrett is to earn a contract for next season, these next three games are massive.
Unbeaten in New Jersey
Two of the Cowboys' next three games will be played at MetLife Stadium, and if they are to make the playoffs, they have to go unbeaten in the state of New Jersey.
After two straight losses the Cowboys have the perfect "get-right" game against the winless Jets on Sunday. Then, following their bye week, the Cowboys go back to East Rutherford to finish their season series with the Giants.
These have to be two victories.
The Jets have been an absolute disaster this season, and while Sam Darnold returns from his illness this week, they are still 7.5 point home underdogs to the 3-2 Cowboys.
Not only are the Giants a conference and divisional opponent, but they are one of the Cowboys' only remaining "gimme" games on the schedule. Following their game against the Giants the Cowboys go through a gauntlet of sorts, facing the Vikings, Patriots, Lions, Bills, Bears, Rams, and Eagles before finally seeing the Redskins.
That's 7 straight games against teams with winning records, including 5 against teams they are directly fighting for playoff positioning with.
Yeah, it's not going to get any easier.
Battle for First Place
Sandwiched between these two games in Jersey are the Philadelphia Eagles. As it stands right now, both Dallas and Philly sit at 3-2. So regardless of what happens this week in their respective games, this match-up will be for early control of the NFC East.
I don't have to tell you how important a game with the Eagles is, especially one the Cowboys will have at home.
Going 3-0 over these next three games would put the Cowboys in an excellent position before they must face one of the toughest second half schedules in all of football.
Cowboys en Español: Problemas Defensivos al Frente
Los Dallas Cowboys fueron aplastados por la ofensiva de los Green Bay Packers toda la primera mitad durante el encuentro de la semana 5 de la temporada. Fue un tal Aaron quien los dominó, pero no el "Aaron" al que los Cowboys están acostumbrados. Esta vez, Aaron Rodgers apenas y tuvo un juego decente en Dallas. Sin embargo, fue porque el corredor Aaron Jones corrió para 107 yardas y cuatro anotaciones terrestres, además de sumar 75 yardas por la vía aérea. Tal juego por parte de su corredor le dio a los Packers una victoria con marcador de 34-24 y un récord de 4-1.
¿Qué salió mal en este partido para Cowboys? Lo más sencillo y sinceramente lo principal fueron las entregas de balón. En la NFL, es casi imposible entregar el balón tres veces y salir victorioso. Después de lanzar tres intercepciones, la derrota de Dallas era casi inevitable.
Sin embargo, la defensiva tampoco funcionó. Hasta ahora, los Cowboys han tenido una unidad defensiva comandada por Rod Marinelli y Kris Richard que ha estado lejos de cumplir con las expectativas. Aún después de sostener a los New Orleans Saints a solo 12 puntos, ha sido un cuerpo defensivo que nos ha decepcionado.
El mayor problema, en mi opinión, viene en la línea defensiva. A pesar de que muchos han criticado mucho al ala defensiva DeMarcus Lawrence por su "ausencia," dichas críticas han sido un poco exageradas. Si bien no ha aparecido tanto en la ficha de juego, Lawrence ha forzado a equipos contrarios a mandarle doble cobertura para cuidar a sus mariscales. El hecho de jalar a dos ofensivos solo para bloquear es de gran ayuda para el resto de la defensiva. ¿El problema? El problema es que no lo han capitalizado.
Robert Quinn sorprendió desde su regreso de suspensión, convirtiéndose rápidamente en uno de los líderes en sacks y presiones. A pesar de ello, el interior de la línea defensiva ha sido deplorable.
La lesión de Antwaun Woods ha sido una muy dolorosa, pero la verdad es que Maliek Collins tampoco ha hecho mucho desde su puesto. Al pelear contra el juego terrestre, los tackles defensivos de Cowboys han ganado pocas batallas en las trincheras. Trysten Hill, el novato de segunda ronda, ha demostrado no estar listo para ser titular en la NFL. El equipo de Marinelli ha sufrido por no querer invertir en un buen tackle defensivo.
Estos problemas en el frente defensivo han repercutido a la actuación de un dúo de linebackers de quienes se esperaba mucho. Leighton Vander Esch y Jaylon Smith no se han visto del todo bien y en parte ha sido su culpa. Contra Packers, Vander Esch pudo haber tenido la peor mitad de su carrera en la NFL. Jaylon Smith ha tomado ángulos equivocados.
A todo esto, le sumamos que hay muchos linieros ofensivos llegando al segundo nivel debido a un pobre trabajo de los tackles defensivos.
En resumen, la defensiva frontal de Cowboys fue dominada contra Green Bay y no ha sido convincente el resto de las semanas.
Si Dallas va a llegar lejos esta temporada, necesitan que la defensiva despierte. Hasta el momento, ha sido lo más decepcionante del año.
A pesar de las críticas tras un partido en el que Dak Prescott lanzó tres intercepciones, los Cowboys están clasificados como el equipo #1 en ofensiva según DVOA (estadística utilizada para evaluar si una jugada fue exitosa o no tomando en cuenta escenarios específicos). Ezekiel Elliott no está jugando mal, a pesar de las conclusiones precipitadas de muchos al ver que solo acumuló 62 yardas. El total es bajo, pero lo consiguió en 12 acarreos (promediando 5.2 yardas).
Sinceramente, los Cowboys han sido mejores de lo que su récord indica. Mientras muchos están eliminándolos por el resto de la temporada, este equipo podría estar 5-2 en un abrir y cerrar de ojos previo a su semana de descanso.
Es una temporada larga en la NFL.
Ezekiel Elliott’s Carries Have Decreased Three Straight Weeks, Here is Why
All-Pro Ezekiel Elliott had his first 100-yard performance in a Week 2 win on the road against the Washington Redskins. After 48 yards on 11 carries in the first half, Elliott had only 36 yards in the second half until a 27-yard run pushed his overall total to 111 yards on 23 carries. Exactly the kind of yardage and attempts you would expect from your bell cow. However, the last three weeks have been a little different as his carries have diminished each game. It hasn't been from a lack of commitment to the run game per se, but sometimes certain game situations force you to adjust your gameplan.
When the Miami Dolphins came to town in Week 3 they were considered by many to be the worst team in the league. That all sounds good on paper but games are played on the field, and as we all know, every team gets fired up for the Dallas Cowboys. The first half saw the Cowboys score ten quick points on their first couple of possessions but they wouldn't score again before halftime. The one bright spot was Elliott who ran for 86 yards on 13 carries as the Cowboys led 10-6.
The Cowboys jumped all over Miami with back to back touchdowns from Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott to start the second half pushing the lead to 24-6. Elliott wasn't really needed much after that point and his last carry came with under nine minutes remaining in the game. This allowed rookie Tony Pollard to take over the fourth quarter with 74 yards on 8 carries, and keep Elliott fresh for a showdown with the New Orleans Saints a week later.
In all, Elliott ran for 125 yards on 19 carries, extremely productive and not taxing on the body. Pollard running for 103 yards himself allowed Elliott to stay on the sidelines and rest up for the next game.
In Week 4 the Cowboys faced the Saints on the road in prime time. Unfortunately for Elliott, this would be a game where his offensive line would get manhandled for four quarters. This put the Cowboys in quite a few second/third and long situations because Elliott seemingly saw gold helmets in his face immediately after taking each handoff. He would only rush for 35 yards on 18 carries, less than two yards per attempt.
In these situations when an offense can't muster anything on the ground you simply stick with it just to keep the defense honest and not become one-dimensional. The flow of the game, in this case, dictated that Elliott wouldn't see a lot of touches with his offensive line getting dominated.
This past Sunday against the Green Bay Packers could've been a monster day for Elliott considering he would be going up against the 26th ranked run defense, but like the previous two weeks, the flow of the game forced a different scenario. The first half saw the Cowboys invade Packers territory on three consecutive drives, but one stalled due to a sack and the other two ended with interceptions. Elliott had 60 yards on 10 carries in the first half but the Cowboys found themselves in a 17-0 hole.
That deficit quickly ballooned to 31-3 in the second half and virtually took Elliott out of the game. He had only two carries after halftime and finished with just 62 yards on 12 carries. Early turnovers put the Cowboys behind so much that the only way to get back in the game was to air it out the rest of the way.
Given the way the previous three games have unfolded no one should be overly concerned at this point about Elliott's carries going down. The Cowboys simply adjusted to what was happening on the field and in these cases. Elliott was either not needed or taken out of the gameplan.
This Sunday against the New York Jets the Cowboys will be facing a good defensive front seven. I would still expect Elliott to be used early and often to establish what the Cowboys do best which is run to set up the play-action passing game.
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