Public Nuisance

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The first Republican president once said, "While the people retain their virtue and their vigilance, no administration by any extreme of wickedness or folly can seriously injure the government in the short space of four years." If Mr. Lincoln could see what's happened in these last three-and-a-half years, he might hedge a little on that statement.
-Ronald Reagan

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Monday, January 06, 2003
Some Very Wild Cards

After Saturday's wipeouts, today's Wild Card games produced some real excitement. I confess that I had given up on the 49ers after the score went to 35 - 14, and if I hadn't checked in during commercials on a Buffy rerun, I could easily have missed the incredible ending.

Coming back from a 24 point deficit to win against one of the league's hottest teams has to be one of the great victories in franchise history. Congratuations go first to Terrell Owens, a prima donna but a great player, the offensive line which (aided by Garcia's scrambling) never allowed a sack, and Jeff Garcia.

Garcia, having the misfortune to follow after by far the greatest one - two QB punch in the history of the sport, has never gotten the credit he deserves, even, in fact especially, in his home town. Even his looks go against him. Montana was a male model, with looks to match Brad Pitt or a young Robert Redford. Young is ruggedly handsome. Garcia is, sorry about this, plain ugly. But the win he engineered today was as impressive as anything Montana or Young ever did. He passed for 356 yards, averaging 8 yards per attempt, threw 3 touchdowns and 1 interception, and ran for a touchdown and several key first downs.

Not many congratulations go to the defense, which gave up 38 points although they did hold in some key late situations. Chike Okeafor came very close to making himself the goat, commiting an incredibly stupid pass interference on the final play which would have cost the team the game, if not for an offsetting ineligible downfield penalty on the Giants. Okeafor's penalty was particularly bad because the ball came down outside the 5 yard line. He could have just allowed the completion then made the tackle. An equally foolish and more fatal mistake was made by Giants holder Matt Allen, who should have spiked the poor snap to preserve another field goal opportunity instead of throwing a desperation pass.

Football players aren't really chosen for mental acuity, so dumb mistakes like the above have some sort of excuse. But coaches are supposed to be selected on smarts, so why is it that NFL coaches who have been around the game all their lives don't understand how to use the clock? In both of today's comeback victories, the team that was driving for go-ahead scores called premature time outs with a minute or more left. As a result the 49ers left 1 minute on the clock for NY, while the Steelers left 0:54 to the Browns. In essence, both teams used their time outs to benefit their opponents.

Lastly, I would like to thank Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons for the fact that I will never again have to hear an announcer say that the Packers have never lost a post-season home game.

Correction: As has now been discussed at some length, the only penalty that was called on the final play was ineligible downfield against the offense. The interference call wasn't made, either because it was just missed or because the official incorrectly believed the player being interfered with (69, normally an offensive tackle) was ineligible on the play. Had it been called, there would have been offsetting penalties, and a game or half can't end on offsetting penalties, just as they can't end on a defensive penalty. Which was what I always thought was the rule, until I incorrectly believed I had learned otherwise on Sunday.

Unfortunate for the Giants, but I remember saying last year, when the famous bad call changing a fumble to an imcomplete cost the Raiders a playoff game in Foxboro, that the Raiders' real problem wasn't the blown call but not playing well enough to overcome it. That's even more true of the Giants, who will watch from their homes this weekend because they blew a 24 point lead, not because a ref failed to throw a flag.