Today on Season Ticket, host Chris Gasper (@cgasper) and NFL reporter Ben Volin break down an epic battle between the Patriots and Steelers that ended in a controversial overturned touchdown and a game-winning interception. They debate the "catch rule" that led to the overturned touchdown and whether the Steelers made the right call on the following play to go for the win instead of the tie. They also look at tight end Rob Gronkowski's career performance, Tom Brady's uncharacteristic streak of interceptions, and Rex Burkhead's injury.
- Ben Volin (@BenVolin), National NFL Reporter, The Boston Globe
On the Steelers going for a touchdown instead of kicking a field goal on the play that ended in a game-winning interception
Ben Volin: I don't mind the decision. I like it. You're being aggressive, there's time there to make one more play. You're trying to catch the defense off guard and disorganized. And for a lot of teams that play probably works or, at worst, you throw an incompletion. You live to see fourth down and you kick the field goal. The Steelers obviously have this big monkey on their back when it comes to the Patriots and they wanted to be aggressive and go for the win. I liked the play call. It was the execution that was horrible. Ben Roethlisberger can't be trying to force it in there on double or triple coverage. He needs to just throw the ball out of the end zone if the play is not there. And Roethlisberger just kind of blew it with the execution. So that's, once again, the difference between the Patriots and everyone else. The Patriots calmly handled a crucial late game situation while the Steelers melted down.
Chris Gasper: And the other thing with Roethlisberger is he sort of intimated after the game that once you snap the ball it's like, well, you have to make a play, like you have to throw the ball. I completely disagree. If he looks at that play and says, "Geez, we don't have it. They're all over Eli Rodgers. Let me just throw this away. We'll kick the field goal and live to fight in overtime," that's what you do. But to force it in there like that is just a terrible, terrible decision. I mean Roethlisberger with Antonio Brown out of that game for the Steelers is their best player. And if you look at this game down the stretch, the Patriots' best players, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, rose to the occasion and played their best. Roethlisberger cannot make that decision and not make that mistake at that juncture of the game if you're the Pittsburgh Steelers. So, once again, a Patriots opponent complicit in their own demise.
"The Patriots calmly handled a crucial late game situation while the Steelers melted down."Ben Volin
"Once again, a Patriots opponent complicit in their own demise."Chris Gasper
"It's a familiar sight now, the Patriots coming away with a win and the Steelers dejectedly going away with a loss."Ben Volin
On the "catch rule" and the overturned touchdown
Chris Gasper: I think that the referees made the right call ... My issue with this is the NFL's catch rule ... He catches the ball, he starts to bring it in, and then he starts to extend it. And the inconsistency to me is that if that were LeVeon Bell who had been handed off the ball or Ben Roethlisberger who was scrambling and got to the end zone and they did exactly the same thing, that play would have been dead the moment the ball reached over the goal line. So it seems like wide receivers are the only ones you have to play by different rules when it comes for stretching out to the goal line.
Ben Volin: I'm going to disagree with you here. I think the NFL is trying to take subjectivity out of the catch rule and trying to make it as black and white as possible. And, if you think it's inconsistent now, give the referees more latitude to determine what's a catch and what's not and it's going to be all over the place. I think it's pretty clear, when you talk about those running backs, they're already established in the field of play. The wide receiver, Jesse James in this case, catches the ball and quickly turns up field, but he's also falling in one motion and you need to complete the catch. And it's pretty clear that when the ball hits the ground, it moves, and he temporarily loses possession of it. And the rule says you have to maintain control and survive the ground. They're trying to make it as black and white as possible.
Chris Gasper: It's not working, though, because the average fan looks at that play ... and they say, "Why isn't that a touchdown?"
Ben Volin: Well, if people are confused than it's up to me and you and the NFL to explain to people why it's not a touchdown.
Chris Gasper: I think if people are confused it's an unclear, bad rule. That's my opinion. They got the call right by the rule, but I don't think the rule is clear enough or consistent enough.
On the Patriots victory
Ben Volin: It's a quintessential Patriots victory here. They were composed and they handled the situations and overcame a game that they had no business winning ... And the whole season, honestly, may have changed on a couple of those plays because now the Patriots are the frontrunner for the number one seed. We all know they could have been looking ... at the three seed, potentially falling behind Jacksonville if they had lost that game. And then everything turned on a couple of plays last night and now the Patriots are looking at home field advantage and the number one seed and the road to the Super Bowl most likely goes through Foxboro again.
Chris Gasper: I also think [the game] sort of epitomized their run of success since 2001. They were very, very good when it mattered the most and also a little bit fortunate ... And there's no shame in that at all.
Ben Volin: The Steelers had a good game plan and Roethlisberger was efficient. Even when [Antonio] Brown went down he was still moving the ball. Martavis Bryant and [JuJu] Smith-Schuster had fantastic games. LeVeon Bell was chewing them up. The Steelers pass rush was getting to Brady. It was all falling into place and then the Patriots in the fourth quarter, as our good friend Dan Shaughnessy likes to say, they just ripped the Steelers hearts out and stepped on it on the floor. It's a familiar sight now, the Patriots coming away with a win and the Steelers dejectedly going away with a loss.