When I was probably about 10 years old playing youth baseball, every game would have a mercy rule, which dictated that once a team was up by a certain margin the game was over regardless of the inning. This is not unique or different, and it’s surely still done throughout the summer on baseball diamonds dotted with pint-sized sluggers. The purpose is two-fold: to prevent undue embarrassment for the losing team, and more quietly, to shorten an already lengthy evening and allow parents the opportunity to get the hell home.
The expression “getting mercied” quickly evolved, and I distinctly remember it being used later on the schoolyard as the sort of cutting, searing word that boys use to poke at their peers in the way that only a young boy can, because they’re the worst.
The mercying then became more of a quest than actually winning. Being mercied was to be pummeled into submission, which was a victory that went far beyond the scoreboard. It meant your team was insufficient, and not able to even compete. It meant you didn’t belong.
Under the shining light of Thanksgiving Day, the Packers were mercied.
Technically they weren’t, of course, because that rule doesn’t exist. And what’s odd about their 40-10 loss to the Lions is that even if it were possible to mercy an NFL team, I’m not sure the rule would have even kicked in anyway. The larger point, though, is that for the betterment of all who were watching — and therefore, for the betterment of America — continuing the game felt unhealthy and wrong.
I suppose that should have been expected with a game that featured Matt Flynn as a starting quarterback. Savior he is not, and mere bumbling placeholder he is, and that’s what he’ll be forevermore. It was particularly gruesome watching him hold the ball delicately as though it was a fine piece of china, which inevitably led to seven sacks, two fumbles, and most comically, a safety.
In fairness, that last bit of laughter wasn’t Flynn’s fault. You see, escaping a behemoth man named Suh is difficult when no one bothers to block him.
They both basically pass him off to each other. Flynn has just got the ball here and Suh is already past: pic.twitter.com/qr3S2xsjRI
— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) November 28, 2013
But the end game with Flynn is what became hazardous to human eyes, and led to some borderline historic figures.
As he took those sacks and fumbled those balls, and converted on only 50 percent of his pass attempts, the Packers offense did nothing. Historically nothing, and yet early it didn’t matter because of the Lions’ own bumbling and befuddling, including two fumbles (one by Reggie Bush, and another from Matthew Stafford), and an interception.
Because of that graciousness, I’m now able to type something that defies all human logic and coherent thinking. Here goes: at the 12-minute mark of the second quarter following Stafford’s fumble that turned into a touchdown, the Lions were up 159-57 on the offensive yards scoreboard, and down 10-3 on the actual scoreboard.
That really happened. There was a point in this game — over a quarter into the game, specifically — when the Packers led by a touchdown, despite being able to accumulate (a word I’m using by its loosest possible definition here) over 100 fewer yards offensively.
Although a correction inevitably came, at halftime the two scoreboards — the actual scoreboard, and the offensive scoreboard — were still amiss. The Lions were leading now, but their lead of only a touchdown seemed miniscule considering this: they had 340 offensive yards to the Packers’ 43.
I want you to pause and truly absorb those numbers from just one half of football for a minute, a half in which the amount of first downs converted by Green Bay was even with their defensive takeaways. Done? OK good, now try these ones: when the game reached its merciful conclusion, the Lions had out-gained Green Bay 561-126.
Some perspective here:
- That yardage was the lowest total given up by a Detroit defense since 1992.
- The offensive yardage differential of 435 was the most in any game this season.
- Until some meaningless late-game offense from the Packers, there was a very real chance they could have been outpaced by over 500 yards. Had that happened, it would have been the first time since 1962, and only the third occurrence in league history.
- Taking that further, the Lions came even closer to gaining 450 more yards than their opponent, which hadn’t been done in 25 years.
- Of the Lions’ total yardage, 234 of it came on the ground, the first time they had gone over 200 yards since 2004
The optimist in Green Bay will point to Aaron Rodgers almost surely returning from his collarbone injury next week, and that while this loss stings, the Packers are still clawing in a muddled NFC North at 5-6-1. But then the pessimist will kindly note that with a 2-2-1 divisional record and three teams currently ahead of them for the final wild card berth, the Packers will need help, and a lot of it.
The realist will do what a realist does, and note the obvious: this game was unwatchable.
Fun with numbers
- When Matthew Stafford threw his second quarter interception to Tramon Williams, he had five picks over just his last 57 pass attempts. *Consults abacus* Yes, I do believe that’s not good.
- And when Reggie Bush turfed a ball in the red zone (his personal contribution to that yards-to-points weirdness in the first half) it was his fourth fumble of the season, and it came on his 163rd carry. In Week 13 he’s already matched his fumble total over each of the past two seasons, and in those years he needed many more carries to get there (216 in 2011, and 227 in 2012). But while those slippery hands sucked, before long they mattered so very little (see below).
- Moving on to another game with a comical imbalance of offense at one point, at the two-minute mark of the second quarter in a game they eventually coughed up with 24 unanswered points because Raiders, Oakland was outpacing Dallas (the new NFC East leaders) offensively in that quarter 133-0. A two-minute drill touchdown drive brought that gap to a more respectable and somewhat ordinary level. But yeah, the fact the Cowboys went almost an entire quarter without an offensive yard and still won a game is…special.
- The Raiders’ pass defense had allowed an NFL high nine receivers with 100 yards or more. Yet the best the Cowboys could do was Dez Bryant’s 61 receiving yards.
- Justin Tucker had more points than the Packers.
A Rule that lacks logic
The Thanksgiving nightcap was everything we always expect from a Ravens-Steelers game: mostly hatred, brutal physicality, the odd deep sailing ball, and lots of profanity. But one play stood out during the Ravens’ 22-20 win, one that could have altered the score, and one that definitely altered Le’Veon Bell’s physical well being.
After a 20-yard pass to Heath Miller, the Steelers were on Baltimore’s one-yard line while down by eight points with 1:32 left in the fourth quarter. The next play call was an easy one: hand off to Bell, and let him do his bruising. Then, something bizarre followed.
Bell crossed the goal-line, but while doing so he was rocked by Ravens corner Jimmy Smith, and momentarily knocked unconscious with his helmet flying off. It’s the last part that became the problem, because when a player’s helmet comes off, the play is blown dead immediately.
The true intent of that rule is to both protect players, and to prevent a Brian Cushing neanderthal idiot situation. But in this case, it prevented a touchdown.
Looks like helmet is off before the ball is out. Crazy situation: pic.twitter.com/Ko9XLu7Yls
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) November 29, 2013
The helmet is clearly removed before Bell crosses the goal-line, making the play dead. The Steelers scored two plays later on a one-yard pass to Jerricho Cotchery, but Bell was still knocked out and concussed for nothing. Well, not nothing: he showed the convoluted and confused nature of the National Football League and its approach to serious injuries.
Players are asked to put their bodies in situations which could cause great physical harm, much of which lasts long after their playing days. And they do that willingly, and without question, because in their mind every little contribution they make is a valuable one towards a win, and ultimately a championship. That makes the bruises, the busting — and yes, maybe even the concussions — all worth it.
So you have a league filled with players who have that attitude, but also a league that wants to protect said players from themselves. Those two things have resulted in the creation of a rule that can erase the gains made by a player’s painful sacrifice, the sort of sacrifice that could have long-lasting effects.
Basically, be safe, players. And if you happen to have an accidental moment in which a piece of equipment falls off while you were knowingly embracing the extreme inherent danger of this sport, well, that’s a do-over.
Aaron Rodgers is still a wild and crazy guy
I would very much prefer to watch Rodgers play football, but this will suffice…
— Jason Wilde (@jasonjwilde) November 28, 2013
The guys who could play on a day in which America worshiped turkeys did some neat things, the sort of things that altered your fantasy foosball universe. Let’s discuss…
Reggie Bush knows how to make you forget
Yeah, about that fumble.
Reggie Bush had 148 total yards in just the first half during the Lions’ win, while finishing with 182 yards at a pace of seven per touch. That included a 32-yard catch, and a 23-yard run.
On the season Bush now has six games with 100 or more yards from scrimmage. Last year he finished with four.
Joique Bell was quite Reggie-like
Joique Bell accounted for 128 of the 310 total yards from the Lions backfield, and he did it while also slashing for some long gains (a 19-yard run, and a 27-yard catch). He’s now averaging 5.8 yards per touch, with 813 total yards despite only three games with double-digit carries.
DeMarco Murray is…efficient
DeMarco Murray scored three touchdowns, which led to a finish with 30 fantasy points. But he did it on just 63 rushing yards, which is…yes, efficient.
At one point Murray had more touchdowns (three) than yards per carry (2.5). That wonky stat line corrected itself as the Cowboys killed clock in the third quarter to ice a 31-24 win and Murray accumulated yardage, but the fact it existed at all through nearly three quarters adds to the growing list of Turkey Day oddities.
There’s also this: Murray became the first Cowboy to score three rushing touchdowns in a game since Julius Jones in 2004.
Before he broke, Le’Veon Bell was bruising
Prior to that injury on a bizarro play, Le’Veon Bell was very much looking like a Pittsburgh Steelers running back. He ran with force through holes, and generated yards after contact while also being a threat as a receiver. In total his contribution was 136 yards, which includes a 43-yard run and a 29-yard catch, the sort of chunk plays the Steelers were looking for last spring when they invested a high pick in his services.
Torrey Smith did more deep dazzling
Of Smith’s 93 receiving yards during the Ravens’ win with a touchdown, 54 of them came on one first quarter catch. That was not at all even a little bit surprising, because deep ballin’ is what Smith does.
His first-quarter catch was Smith’s seventh for 40 yards or more, which is already a career single-season high. He’s now averaging a 40-yarder once every seven receptions.
Andre Holmes wants you to meet him
While ascending the depth chart due to Denarius Moore’s injury, Andre Holmes diced a weak Cowboys secondary with seven catches for 136 yards. He had only 65 yards over his previous two games appearances.
Mike Tomlin totally didn’t know Jacoby Jones was coming
Aside from the Bell injury and his touchdown being disallowed, this was the other whacked play from the Ravens-Steelers game.
The situation: Jacoby Jones is a fast person, and he broke free on a kickoff return and appeared to be blazing towards seven points. It was the middle of the third quarter, and Jones’ return was coming after Ben Roethlisberger had hit Emmanuel Sanders for an eight-yard touchdown pass. Pittsburgh had pulled within a touchdown (13-7), so an immediate answer in the form of another touchdown from the Ravens was huge and potentially crushing.
At that moment and at that critical juncture, Mike Tomlin just happened to be taking a leisurely sideline stroll…
To answer your question: yes, Tomlin absolutely did that on purpose. Just don’t ask him that question, because blatant weasels don’t usually admit to their weaseling.
“I always watch the returns on the jumbrotron, it provides a better perspective for me. I lost my placement as he broke free and saw at the last second how close I was to the field of play.”
Jones altered his path, which helped Cortez Allen bring him down and turn seven points into three (Justin Tucker hit a 38-yard field goal). To be fair, Tomlin apologized and took responsibility for losing track of where he was on the sideline.
No worries, Mike, just next time when you’re looking at the giant video screen that can be seen from anywhere, make sure you don’t step on the field of play and directly in front of an opposing kick returner. Thanks.