NFL Week 7: Steelers steal one on a bizarre Sunday

Terrible referee decision kills the Dolphins; total incompetence in San Diego; "He grabbed my crotch;" hot player of the week; Favre loses in Lambeau; and Jay Cutler's favorite target.

By Jim Buzinski
Outsports.com

How I saw Week 7 of the NFL:

“Screw job:” That’s how Miami coach Tony Sprano described the horrible officiating at the end of the Dolphins-Steelers game, won by Pittsburgh, 23-22. Sprano was furious about a fumble by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger late in the game with the Dolphins ahead 22-20.

Roethlisberger was ruled to have scored a touchdown on a run. But he lost the ball as he was heading into the end zone and the ball wound up in a pile of players. Replays clearly showed a fumble and also pretty clearly showed Miami recovering. The referee ruled it a fumble but said it could not be determined who recovered it, so it was Steelers’ ball on the 1.

jordanshipley300
Hot player of the week: Jordan Shipley

The problem was that the refs ignored the ball in the pile once the side judge incorrectly ruled that Roethlisberger had scored. I thought that the league decided to allow plays to go beyond their conclusion exactly for situations like this. Since it was a fumble and the ball wound up in the end zone, someone had to recover it, so the officials screwed up by not determining possession. The NFL said the rule was interpreted correctly -- if so, it's another rule that needs to be changed. To argue that your officials had no clue who recovered a fumble is not acceptable; the ball didn't simply vanish. On every other fumble, possession is determined, so why should an end zone play be any different?

The result was Miami’s third loss at home. While the refs did not help them, the Dolphins’ inability to score touchdowns really hurt; they had to settle for five field goals, two of them coming when Miami (3-3) had the ball inside the 10.

The Steelers (5-1) have the look of a team that is both good and charmed. Super Bowl teams often have that vibe.

Incompetence: The San Diego Chargers held the New England Patriots to 38 yards in the first half … and trailed, 13-3. The reason was mistake after mistake, most of them mental. On one, a Chargers receiver deliberately laid the ball on the ground after a first-down catch, thinking he was down. But he was not touched and the Patriots recovered the ball.

A series later, Philip Rivers threw a pass behind the line of scrimmage to Jacob Hester, who dropped it and gave up on the play. The problem, though, was that it was a backwards pass, making it a live ball. The Patriots recovered. Throw in some dumb penalties and the Chargers dug themselves a big hole.

It was one they almost climbed out of, but fell short 23-20, when Kris Brown’s last-second 50-yard field goal hit the upright. It didn’t help Brown that a lineman moved before the snap, making the kick five yards longer.

The Chargers, who trailed by 17 in the fourth, were in the position to tie because of an awful coaching decision by Patriots coach Bill Belichick. He decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from midfield with two minutes left. The Chargers stuffed the running play and took over. The reason it was a dumb call was that San Diego had all three timeouts left, so a first down would not have clinched the game. In that situation, a punt deep into San Diego territory was the right call, but Belichick obviously did not learn from 4th and 2 last year against the Colts.

Creative coaching: The biggest shocker of the day was Cleveland’s 30-17 pasting of the Saints (4-3) in New Orleans. I give a game ball to the entire Browns’ coaching staff. They called a cool backwards pass on a kick return to set up one score, ran a fake punt for 68 yards that set up another and had QB Colt McCoy catch a pass from a running back for a key late first down. The defensive staff cooked up a game plan that forced Drew Brees into four interceptions, two returned for touchdowns. That’s how a team with only 210 total yards and 11 first downs wins a game on the road by double digits.

The Saints look like a far cry from the team that started 13-0 last year and won the Super Bowl. Brees threw 11 interceptions in 2009 and has 10 through seven games this season. Up next is a big Sunday night game against the Steelers. The Saints are lucky to be playing in the NFC, where 4-3 is only a game out of the conference's best record.

Dirty Saints?: After the game, Browns players accused the Saints of playing dirty, with Josh Cribbs telling this to the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "They were grabbing my crotch.''

"I was at the bottom and they were gouging my eye and all of that stuff," added safety Nick Sorensen. "They were gouging my eye and ripping into my face. It was dirty, but that's just what happens. They pulled my helmet off a couple of times, but I don't know if it's the helmet or the fact they probably shouldn't be grabbing my facemask. I don't know, it's just part of the deal."

A Lambeau Loser: Brett Favre came up short in his second game in Green Bay as a Minnesota Viking. The Packers won, 28-24, in a terrific, pulsating game that saw a late Vikings touchdown on 1st and 30 overturned (correctly) on replay. Favre threw three interceptions, including a pick six, then almost rallied the Vikings. It was the vintage "good Favre/lousy Favre" we have come to expect. At 2-4 and heading to 6-1 New England, the Vikings' season is hanging in the balance. For Green Bay (4-3), it was a close win after three straight three-point losses and left them tied with the Bears.

Absurd: DeAngelo Hall was Jay Cutler’s favorite receiver, with four catches and one touchdown. Only problem is that Hall is a defensive back for the Washington Redskins and his four catches from the Bears’ Cutler were four interceptions. I was interested to see that 19 defensive players in history have had four interceptions in a game; I would have thought it was more rare.

draftshipleyweek7Hot player of the week: At Texas, Jordan Shipley was Colt McCoy’s roommate and BFF. He was also an Outsports Weekend Hot Jock after his smoking hot shirtless pics made the rounds on the Internet. Now a rookie with the Bengals, Shipley has become a solid slot receiver and shined Sunday against the Falcons – six catches, 131 yards and a 64-yard touchdown catch.

Quick hits: Tennessee is the quietest 5-2 team in the league. Their quarterback situation is unstable, with Vince Young and Kerry Collins banged up, but they are well coached with a solid defense and a definite playoff contender. … The Ravens are a shaky 5-2 after a lucky 37-34 overtime win against the winless Bills, where the Ravens allowed 500 yards to the league's 30th-ranked offense. The Ravens blew a 10-point lead and lost last week in overtime to the Patriots. Against the Bills they again blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lea,d but a Bills fumble and then a personal foul penalty in overtime set up the game-winning field goal. … Raiders 59, Broncos 14. In Denver. WTF? The most points ever scored by the Raiders. The Broncos are 2-5 this season and 4-13 since starting 6-0 last season. The crowd was even chanting "Tebow!" in the second quarter. …

The Bears (4-3) have lost three of their last four and back-to-back home games. … I don’t think Tampa Bay is any good, but at 4-2 they are a half-game in front of the Saints in second place in the NFC South. That shows how weird of a year it is in the NFL. … Only one NFC team (Atlanta) has five wins, while five (New York, New England, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Tennessee) have that in the AFC. This is a reason why many more NFC teams can have serious playoff chances, while in the AFC 10 wins might not earn a wild card. …

Great to see pro-gay marriage advocate Scott Fujita of Cleveland shine in his game against his old team, the Saints (he picked off Drew Brees once and had a team-high 11 tackles). … There were nine interceptions returned for touchdowns on Sunday, the most in one week in NFL history.

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