With no rooting interest in the New York Giants-Seattle Seahawks game Sunday, I was still dispirited by the Seahawks' victory. Annoyed, irritated. I actually stopped eating leftover turkey for a few seconds, I was so upset.
Football players played football for almost five quarters, but the game was won -- and lost -- by placekickers, men whose main job is staying awake on the sidelines all afternoon without reading magazines.
Death to placekicking.
Down 21-13 on the road, the Giants outplayed the Seahawks down the stretch, tying the game with an acrobatic touchdown catch by Amani Toomer and then a two-point conversion pass from Eli Manning to Jeremy Shockey.
New York had a chance to win in regulation, but kicker Jay Feely pushed a 40-yard field goal attempt wide left as regulation time expired. Then he was short on a 54-yarder in overtime, a very long kick, but had yet another chance to win, a 45-yarder. He was short on that too.
The Seahawks, having been saved from extinction twice, finally cashed in, winning on a 36-yard field goal by Josh Brown.
The look on Manning's face after Feely's third miss, his second of an attempt well within his range, said it all.
The look said, "I bust my ass, play my best game as a pro, hit 29 of 53 for 344 yards and two touchdowns, Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress and Jeremy Shockey and Tiki Barber play like hell to overcome 473 false-start penalties, our defense keeps the best offense in the conference under control, and we can't win because Sparky the Soccer Refugee can't kick the stupid ball straight?
"That King Kaufman was right! Placekicking drags down our great sport. Football games should be decided by football players making football plays -- and yes, I know the word 'foot' is in football. The word "head" is in head cheese, but they don't make it out of heads."
OK, I might be projecting a little, but the look was definitely not saying, "It sure is great how a missed field goal can add so much excitement to an NFL game."
In the aftermath of one of Feely's misses, a TV camera caught defensive end Michael Strahan on the sideline saying, "How the hell do you miss that!?"
Feely was a mensch about the whole thing, apologizing to the team in the locker room and then facing the media. "People are going to say it's a team game and they're going to say the right things," he said about his teammates. "But the fact of the matter is that you've got to come through when you have one opportunity -- much less two good opportunities."
The fact of the matter is it's a lousy way to decide a football game. The Chicago Bears, who have a great defense but are also living something of a charmed life, also won Sunday -- or at least avoided overtime -- when Matt Bryant of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers missed a 29-yard field goal attempt.
And I don't just mean missed field goals are a lousy way to decide a football game. A made field goal is about the most unexciting play in professional sports -- it has rivals in the free throw, the intentional walk and the rest of a World Cup soccer game after the first goal is scored.
Four NFL games went to overtime this weekend. Which was a more exciting finish: LaDainian Tomlinson of San Diego dashing 41 yards for the winning touchdown against Washington or Jason Elam of Denver bunting home a 24-yard field goal to beat Dallas?
Kevin Curtis of St. Louis taking a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick and racing 56 yards for the winning score against Houston or Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck crabwalking for a few feet before lying down to put the ball in the center of the field for Brown's kick?
All over the Northwest, kids burst into kitchens shouting about how they'd just seen the hometown quarterback crawling backwards and over a few feet. "I want to be a quarterback when I grow up so I can crawl around backwards too!"
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The Giants were flagged for 11 false-start penalties Sunday.
Isn't that a coaching thing? Shouldn't a disciplined, well-coached team have a whole lot fewer than 11 false starts in a game, even in a loud, hostile environment like Qwest Field in Seattle?
And aren't the Giants all about discipline, as instilled by their no-nonsense coach, Tom Coughlin, of "if you're not five minutes early for a meeting, you're late" fame?
Could it be that all that spit-shine, military discipline stuff is just a load of bull, and has no effect on a team's ability to win football games?
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Journalism notes from all over [PERMALINK]
Ryan Fitzpatrick, who came in to his first NFL game to rally the Rams from a 21-point deficit to an overtime victory over the Texans Sunday, had a similar experience in his first college start at Harvard in 2001.
Harvard trailed Dartmouth 21-0 at the half in that game, but Fitzpatrick, then a freshman, led a 31-0 second-half rally for the win. At the time it was the largest lead Harvard had ever overcome to win a game.
But it wasn't the greatest comeback in Harvard history. That happened in 1968, in The Game, the annual battle with Yale. Calvin Hill and the undefeated and nationally ranked Elis led 29-13 in the final minute, but the Crimson -- including all-conference tackle Tommy Lee Jones -- scored 16 points in 42 seconds to tie the game at the gun, and that's how it ended in those pre-overtime days.
Why am I talking about this? Because I'm an aficionado of great headlines, and how many excuses will I get to mention one of my all-time favorites, from the next day's Harvard Crimson:
"Harvard beats Yale, 29-29."
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