Labriola On

Labriola on zebras, blitzing, AB

Ready or not, here it comes:

  • Somebody should have been fired.
  • During Week 4 of the 2015 NFL regular season, there were two clear instances of a team losing a game as a result individual incompetence. In Pittsburgh, the individual's name was Josh Scobee. In Seattle, the individual's name was Greg Wilson. Scobee is a player, a kicker to be specific, and he was cut because of what he did. Wilson is an official, a back judge to be specific, and he presumably will be working a game this weekend as a part of referee Tony Corrente's crew despite what he did.
  • Scobee missed two field goals – 49 and 41 yards – both within the final 150 seconds of a game the Ravens would tie with three seconds left and then win in overtime. The NFL is claiming Wilson missed a call that incorrectly awarded the ball to Seattle at its own 20-yard line instead of putting the ball at the Seahawks 1-yard line and allowing the Detroit Lions to maintain possession.
  • What I believe happened is Greg Wilson didn't know the rule.
  • The Lions trailed, 13-10, and they were facing a third-and-1 from the Seahawks 11-yard line with 1:51 remaining in the fourth quarter. Matthew Stafford completed a pass to Calvin Johnson, who was trying to dive into the end zone when he had the ball punched out of his hand by Kam Chancellor. The ball bounced into the end zone and toward the end line when Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright came running by and directed the ball out of the back of the end zone. Wilson, the back judge, can be seen in replays straddling the end line, with a direct sightline to Wright and the ball.
  • An unrecovered fumble that goes out of the end zone is awarded to the defensive team on its 20-yard line, but the defense cannot help the ball go out of bounds. Wright clearly made no attempt to do anything except help the ball out of the end zone, and he made no attempt to deny doing exactly that. "I wanted to just knock it out of bounds and not try to catch it and fumble it," he said. "I was just trying to make a good play for my team."
  • When NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino explained what happened, the version offered to the public was that referee Tony Corrente "did not see that part of the play because that is not his area. The back judge [Greg Wilson] felt it was not an intentional act, that it was inadvertent." Telling the story this way allows the event to be classified as a missed call, which isn't as egregious as not knowing the rule. But when you watch the replay, it is clear the back judge has a perfect view and it's just as clear the Seattle player intentionally batted the ball out of the back of the end zone.
  • That's why I believe Greg Wilson didn't know the rule. And that's why I believe the NFL should fire him.
  • The league's ultimate response, of course, will be to add this to the things that can be reviewed by instant replay, at which time the hope would is that someone within the process would know the rule and how to apply it correctly. Another way to handle it would be to weed out the guys who don't know the rules and replace them with guys who do, so that the play can be called correctly and enforced appropriately the first time.
  • I know. That's crazy talk. My bad.
  • The unit has a stated goal of putting more pressure on the passer, and so far the Steelers defense is delivering. Through four games, the unit has 14 sacks, which currently ranks fourth in the league, which projects to 56 over a whole season, which would break the franchise record of 55. This defense is a long way away from something like that, but what coordinator Keith Butler has shown is a willingness to blitz.
  • This approach put Joe Flacco on the ground five times and forced two turnovers, but at times it also was complicit in the Ravens rushing for 191 yards. Now, 191 is way too much, but if the Steelers can clean up some of the missed tackles unrelated to blitzes leaving the defense vulnerable to some types of running plays, then that might bring the total down to a more manageable number.
  • But if it comes down to: sack the quarterback, or stuff the run, I'm picking sack the quarterback.
  • Coach Mike Tomlin doesn't want to be in the position to have to make that choice much longer. "Ultimately, I believe your ability to pressure the quarterback is measured by your ability to rush with four," he said earlier in the week. "We didn't do that a lot in the (Ravens) game. We usually brought more than four, but that was the game plan. As we move forward, we obviously want to establish a good, consistent rush that's steeped in the four-man principle."
  • Because a good, consistent rush that's steeped in the four-man principle is how the New York Giants twice defeated the New England Patriots – and rattled the NFL's toughest quarterback to sack – in the process. The Giants sacked Tom Brady five times and hit him nine times in sending the 17-1 Patriots home losers after Super Bowl XLII; and it was two sacks and eight more hits on Brady in the Giants' 21-17 victory in Super Bowl XLVI.

Top photos of wide receiver Antonio Brown.

  • Martavis Bryant's suspension is over, and he's expected back in the lineup – in some capacity – on Monday when the Steelers face the Chargers. There is a lot of excitement over Bryant's size and his ability to get deep – and how that meshes nicely with Mike Vick's accuracy on long passes – but the focus of the Steelers' passing attack always should be Antonio Brown.
  • Brown is a more complete play-maker, a more complete receiver, and like most of his peers at the NFL level, he needs to be coddled some. And so Vick should make it a point to get him the ball early in the game, and then again early in the second half. Keep Brown interested and focused. The Steelers will be better off if they do.
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