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Owners should override Competition Committee on Calvin Johnson rule

calvin-johnson-detroit-lions-04dd2d63b84a684e_large AP

As expected, Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay explained to the media on Wednesday that the league’s rule-making body won’t recommend to ownership any substantive changes to the rule regarding pass completions while the receiver is going to the ground.

That’s why the owners need to take the bull by the ball (the football, not the other kind) and come up with a rule that will allow consistent and easy application by the officials, and that will mesh with reasonable fan expectations.

Here’s what McKay said regarding the Competition Committee’s decision to stand pat:

“We spent an awful lot of time on catch-no catch. It’s not the first time that we’ve spent a lot of time on it. We seem to do it a lot. Let me give you a couple of things that we started at. We started in Indianapolis going through it with the committee itself and just watching the plays and asking is that a catch or not a catch – let’s go back through the rules. We came out with the fact that we all see an inherent conflict between what goes on with respect to the scrutiny provided by replay or slow motion and what goes on in live action. I think all of us came out at a point that we have to make sure that we write the rules for what is officiated on the field at full speed in live action, and not what gets looked at in super slow motion. I think what will come out and what will be written in our report is that we’ll confirm the rule that’s really been there for more than 70 years, which basically says there are three elements to a catch: number one, you’ve got to secure control of the ball in your hands; number two, you’ve got to maintain that control when you have two feet down or any body part other than your hands; and number three, which will be the clarification that we’ll add to the book, we’ll say you must control the ball long enough after A and B, meaning you’ve caught it cleanly and you’ve got two feet down or a body part, and after those two elements then you’ve got to maintain control long enough, and we’re going to use the language we’ve had in the book for a long time, in which you would have the ability to perform any act common to the game. It doesn’t mean you have to perform the act, but it’s an element of time and you’ve got to write it in such a way where people understand that it’s not just bang-bang and that’s a catch.

“So in our mind, and I think in the coaches subcommittee’s mind when we went back and watched the tape with them, if you asked me the simple question of would Calvin Johnson be a catch in 2011, the answer in our minds would be no. You still wouldn’t have those three elements having been maintained, especially because in his act he is going to the ground in the act of catching a pass, and the way the language will be written this year to make sure that people understand it, it will say if the player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass with or without contact by an opponent, he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. So that’s a lot of verbiage, but that’s kind of how we look at it. There are three elements to the catch and there’s the element of if you’re going to the ground you’re going to have to maintain it throughout the process of contacting the ground. So we looked at I can’t tell you how many plays that probably go back over the span of three or four years just to make sure we’re consistent, and the one thing we’ve come away with is you have to put some responsibility on the receiver and that responsibility is maintaining possession throughout contacting the ground, because otherwise you’re going to have a real issue with respect to how replay conflicts with live action officiating. We’ve got a long part of our report that will be written up that deals with those two issues, so maybe I didn’t explain it as clearly as I could but I think it’ll be written in the report.”

Based on the first paragraph, it sounds like the Competition Committee will potentially be making the process more complicated by codifying the vague “second act” exception that was used, despite not appearing in the rule book, during Super Bowl XLIV, when Saints receiver Lance Moore caught the ball while falling down near the goal line, reached the ball across the plane while falling, lost possession of the ball upon hitting the ground, and ultimately was awarded two points via a ruling that the catch was valid.  Those two points put the Saints up by seven instead of five late in the game.  Knowing that a Colts touchdown could have merely tied the game instead of taking the lead may have made Saints cornerback Tracy Porter more inclined to jump the route that produced a backbreaking touchdown in New Orleans’ eventual victory.

Though the owners have in the past refused to adopt rule changes recommended by the Competition Committee, it’s unusual if not unprecedented (as Eagles president Joe Banner said during today’s PFT Live) for the owners to interject their own rule change that the Competition Committee specifically decided not to suggest.

Well, there’s a first time for everything.

We see two potential approaches.  First, the owners should adopt a rule that recognizes a catch as a valid completion if the receiver lands with both feet on the ground, or a knee, leg, butt, torso, elbow, shoulder, or head touching the turf, regardless of what happens as the rest of his body hits the deck.  Alternatively, and preferably, the owners should go back to the rule that applied before Bert Emanuel had possession in both hands but the ball touched the ground and the league thereafter decided that under certain circumstances the ball would be allowed to touch the ground as long as it didn’t move.

So what’s wrong with requiring the player to catch the ball and to not allow it to touch the ground at any point in the process of making the catch?  If the player is going to the ground while catching the ball, the ball should not touch the ground.  If it does, the catch is not a catch.  Though some may think that it’s not “fair” to take away a good catch simply because the pigskin grazes the grass, at least there would be no room for ambiguity or inconsistency.

At a time when the owners are surely feeling like they don’t have control over much of anything, this would be a great opportunity for them to take charge of their game — and to give the fans a clear rule that widely will be regarded not only as fair but sufficiently clear to allow folks who in varying degrees of intoxication to understand when a catch is a catch, and when it isn’t.

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Bears and 49ers refusing to pass, which is good for everyone

Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard (24) runs against San Francisco 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt (29) and safety Antoine Bethea (41) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) AP

It’s snowing in Chicago, harkening back to a simpler time.

A time before the forward pass.

The Bears and 49ers are refusing to throw the ball since the conditions aren’t conducive to it, which at least keeps the clock rolling.

They’ve combined for just three pass attempts early into the second quarter, with Matt Barkley’s two ahead of Colin Kaepernick’s one. The 49ers have done a better job of running, with five first downs to the Bears’ single one.

This game is really something.

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Saints’ defense continues to struggle as Lions lead

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 04:  Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions scrambles for a first down against the New Orleans Saints during the first half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 4, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Saints’ defense has struggled all season, and today is no exception.

On two drives early in today’s game, the Lions have marched down the field with ease. Although they were stopped in the red zone on the first possession and had to settle for a field goal, on the second possession they got into the end zone to take a 10-0 lead.

The Lions’ first drive also saw Lion-turned-Saint Nick Fairley take a cheap shot at former teammate Matthew Stafford, although the officials didn’t see it.

The Saints’ offense has had some unforced errors, most notably a bad shotgun snap on a third-and-1 that forced a punt. On the Saints’ second possession they punted again, with Sean Payton deciding not to go for it on fourth-and-1.

That may have been a mistake: The Saints are going to need to take some chances to keep up with a Lions offense that’s moving the ball effectively.

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Kiko Alonso questionable with hand injury, Ravens rolling

Baltimore Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta, center, scores a touchdown between Miami Dolphins free safety Bacarri Rambo, left, and strong safety Isa Abdul-Quddus in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton) AP

The problems are mounting for the Dolphins, as one of their most productive defensive players has already left inured.

Linebacker Kiko Alonso is questionable to return with a hand injury, after leaving in the first quarter.

The Ravens are taking advantage of his absence and the Dolphins in general, up 14-0 so far. The madcap Ravens converted a fourth-down conversion as well, taking some chances and making them pay off.

Joe Flacco’s thrown a pair of touchdown passes already, and is 11-of-14 passing for 136 yards.

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Nugent field goal gives Bengals early lead

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 23:  Mike Nugent #2 of the Cincinnati Bengals attempts a field goal during the fourth quarter of the game against the Cleveland Browns at Paul Brown Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Cleveland 31-17. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bengals got the ball first Sunday and drove inside the Eagles’ 20 before stalling, as they’ve done too much this season.

Struggling kicker Mike Nugent made a 32-yard field goal, drawing a sarcastic cheer from the home crowd. So, the Bengals and Eagles are off to a flying start.

The Eagles got to midfield on their first drive before they stalled and had to punt.

Both teams are just about out of chances to stay in the playoff race, though the winner will at least live to scoreboard watch another week.

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Falcons, Chiefs trade quick touchdowns

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

Both offenses came out in fine form in Atlanta on Sunday afternoon.

The Falcons drove 81 yards in just under five minutes to open the game with a touchdown and the Chiefs needed just over two minutes to answer back with a score of their own. The Falcons lead 7-6 after blocking Cairo Santos‘ extra point attempt, however.

Atlanta’s drive saw a heaping helping of Julio Jones as the Falcons wideout caught four passes for 52 yards as they cruised down the field. An apparent touchdown catch by Taylor Gabriel was wiped out by a holding penalty on Jake Matthews, but Devonta Freeman was able to punch the ball in from a yard out after a pass interference call on Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen in the end zone.

Travis Kelce played Jones’ part with the Chiefs thanks to a pair of catches that covered 56 yards. Spencer Ware scored on a three-yard run to put Kansas City’s first points on the board.

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Lamar Miller heads to locker room with apparent rib injury

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 21:   Lamar Miller #26 of the Houston Texans rushes the ball against the Oakland Raiders at Estadio Azteca on November 21, 2016 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans have a tall order at Lambeau Field on Sunday. It could be getting a lot taller without running back Lamar Miller.

Miller has gone to the locker room for evaluation of an injury. Per Tracy Wolfson of CBS, trainers were looking at Miller’s ribs.

The Texans had a nice drive to open the game, but a fumble by tight end Ryan Griffin ended the effort. The Packers drove to the doorstep of the Houston end zone, but a fumbled snap was recovered by Texans defensive lineman Vince Wilfork.

UPDATE 1:31 p.m. ET: Miller has returned to the lineup.

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Joe Flacco spreading it around effectively, Ravens up early

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throws to a receiver in the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) AP

The Dolphins are the ones on the streak, but it was Joe Flacco who was elite early today.

Flacco just completed a sharp opening drive with a touchdown pass to running back Terrance West, giving the Ravens a 7-0 lead over the Dolphins.

Flacco was 6-of-7 passing for 73 yards, finding six different receivers on the drive.

The Dolphins have won six straight, but are in a fight for a wild card spot, making this game crucial to their chances. A missed field goal on their ensuing possession didn’t help their cause.

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Patriots go for it on early fourth down, get 43-yard touchdown

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  LeGarrette Blount #29 of the New England Patriots in action against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots didn’t let the absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski stop them from going for it on fourth down near midfield on their first possession of Sunday’s game against the Rams.

The Rams didn’t stop them from getting a touchdown on the play. LeGarrette Blount took a handoff from Tom Brady and turned the corner for a 43-yard touchdown run that put the Patriots up 7-0 less than five minutes into the contest.

The Patriots used three different running backs on the drive with Blount seeing the ball three times for 55 yards and Danny Woodhead going unused, which likely confounded Rams coach Jeff Fisher. Brady completed all three passes he tried, but all were of the shorter variety and added up to 12 yards in total.

Los Angeles will now get the ball for the first time, although they’re missing wide receiver Tavon Austin and left guard Rodger Saffold on their visit to New England.

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Tom Savage a surprise scratch with elbow infection

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Tom Savage #3 of the Houston Texans looks to pass against the Arizona Cardinals in the third quarter of a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

If the Texans were considering a change from Brock Osweiler to Tom Savage, it’s definitely not happening on Sunday against the Packers.

Savage is inactive for Sunday’s game. Per multiple reports, he has an infection.

Savage had not appeared on the Week 13 injury report.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that Savage has a “viral infection” that is causing him to get antibiotics. Tracy Wolfson of CBS reports that Savage woke up with an infection in the elbow of his throwing arm. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the infection is in the skin.

The development sounds a lot like the staph infection that suddenly appeared on the knee of defensive end J.J. Watt two days before an October 2015 game at Jacksonville. If the infection on the elbow of Savage is bacterial and not viral, the question becomes whether the Texans have now had a pair of staph infections in consecutive years, and whether that will prompt an effort to scrub the team’s locker room and other facilities.

Per McClain, Savage is expected to return to practice on Monday. So whatever it is, it’s serious enough to knock Savage out for Sunday, but apparently not much longer than that.

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Sean Payton quietly resumes play-calling duties

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 17:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints walks the field before their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last week, Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to relish hanging 49 points on former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. As it turns out, Payton had a more direct role in the output than usual.

Via Ed Werder of ESPN, Payton called the offensive plays in the Week 12 game against the Rams — and Payton will do it again on Sunday against the Lions.

We’ll switch this throughout the year,” Payton told reporters in September. “It’s not like we’re going to come out and make an announcement to you guys that we’re doing it. Pete’s in with the quarterback on every meeting, and we’ve just been together long enough where we feel comfortable with it.”

Payton may feel even more comfortable with the idea of calling plays, now that the Saints are in win-every-week mindset. The fact that the offense nearly put 50 on the board last weekend suggests that Payton should keep doing it, too.

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No Tavon Austin, Robert Quinn or Rodger Saffold for Rams

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Robert Quinn #94 of the Los Angeles Rams celebrates a sack during the second quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Coliseum on November 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots listed a fair number of their players as questionable to play against the Rams this Sunday, but key parts of the team like Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett are all active for the game.

Things didn’t go as well for the Rams when it came to game-time decisions. The team’s list of inactive players for the matchup at Gillette Stadium includes defensive end Robert Quinn and left guard Rodger Saffold.

Quinn has a concussion and it seems he did not get cleared through the concussion protocol in time to play the Pats. Saffold has a hand injury that knocked him out against the Saints last week. Saffold started that game at left tackle in place of the benched Greg Robinson, but Robinson is back on the active roster this week.

Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin is also inactive, although that was expected after he missed practice all week with a chest injury before being listed as doubtful on Friday.

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DeVante Parker active despite back injury

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03: DeVante Parker #11 of the Miami Dolphins is tackled by Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter of the game at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker went through a pregame workout Sunday morning and convinced the team’s decision makers he’s healthy enough to play Sunday vs. the Ravens.

Parker suffered a back injury last week. Parker didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, and the team promoted rookie wide receiver Rashawn Scott from the practice squad in anticipation of Parker missing the game.

Scott is inactive Sunday.

Parker has 14 receptions for 246 yards and a touchdown over the last three games.

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Week 13 early inactives

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 13:  Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos reacts after a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 13, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Broncos won 25-23. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Every week we bring you all the inactives from the early games in one post, constantly updated with the latest information. Check back to see the full list as it becomes available a little more than an hour ahead of the 1 p.m. ET kickoffs.

Chiefs at Falcons

Chiefs: WR Jeremy Maclin, QB Tyler Bray, CB Phillip Gaines, RB Knile Davis, LB Dadi Nicolas, OL Mike Person, TE Ross Travis

Falcons: DE Adrian Clayborn, S Sharrod Neasman, RB Terron Ward, CB Deji Olatoye, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, OL Trevor Robinson, OL Wes Schweitzer

Dolphins at Ravens

Dolphins: C Mike Pouncey, CB Jordan Lucas, CB Xavien Howard, LB Jelani Jenkins, T Bryce Harris, WR Rashawn Scott, TE Thomas Duarte

Ravens: TE Crockett Gillmore, G Alex Lewis, RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, CB Chris Lewis-Harris, RB Buck Allen, LB Kamalei Correa, OL Ryan Jensen

49ers at Bears

49ers: QB Christian Ponder, CB Marcus Cromartie, RB Mike Davis, LB Aaron Lynch, DT Tony Jerod-Eddie, OL John Theus, TE Je’Ron Hamm

Bears: QB Jay Cutler, WR Eddie Royal, CB De’Vante Bausby, CB Deiondre’ Hall, OL Cornelius Edison, DL Jonathan Bullard, S Adrian Amos

Eagles at Bengals

Eagles: RB Ryan Mathews, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai, WR Jordan Matthews, DE Steven Means, OL Josh Andrews, OL  Dillon Gordon, DT Taylor Hart

Bengals: WR A.J. Green, DE Wallace Gilberry, S Derron Smith, LS Clark Harris, TE C.J. Uzomah, OL Christian Westerman, QB Jeff Driskel

Texans at Packers

Texans: LB Jadeveon Clowney, RB Tyler Ervin, LB John Simon, WR Jaelen Strong, QB Tom Savage, OL Oday Aboushi, OL Josh Walker

Packers: G T.J. Lang, LB Kyler Fackrell, C J.C. Tretter, CB Makinton Dorleant, LB Blake Martinez, WR Trevor Davis, DL Christian Ringo

Broncos at Jaguars

Broncos: QB Trevor Siemian, LS Casey Kreiter, WR Bennie Fowler, WR Marlon Brown, G Connor McGovern, DB Lorenzo Doss, G Billy Turner

Jaguars: WR Allen Hurns, RB Chris Ivory, DE Jared Odrick, QB Brandon Allen, CB Josh Johnson, OL Jeremiah Poutasi, TE Julius Thomas

Rams at Patriots

Rams: WR Tavon Austin, QB Sean Mannion, DB Steve Williams, T Pace Murphy, OL Rodger Saffold, TE Temarrick Hemingway, DE Robert Quinn.

Patriots: S Jordan Richards, WR Matthew Slater, RB D.J. Foster, DL Woodrow Hamilton, OL LaAdrian Waddle, DT Darius Kilgo, CB Justin Coleman

Lions at Saints

Lions: LB DeAndre Levy, WR Marvin Jones, LB Tahir Whitehead, S Don Carey, T Cornelius Lucas, OL Joe Dahl, QB Jake Rudock

Saints: T Terron Armstead, RB Daniel Lasco, LB Sam Barrington, RB Marcus Murphy, WR Jake Lampman, OL Landon Turner, CB De’Vante Harris

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Rams extend Les Snead, too

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 21: Les Snead, general manager of the St. Louis Rams looks on during warm ups prior to playing against the New York Giants at the Edward Jones Dome on December 21, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

Rams coach Jeff Fisher isn’t the only guy who has gotten a new contract in L.A. G.M. Les Snead has a new deal, too.

PFT has confirmed that the new contract for the coach coincides with a new contract for the General Manager.

Snead, who was hired in 2012 from the Falcons front office, has worked closely with Fisher over the past five years. The fact that Fisher was hired before Snead created the impression that Fisher runs the show, and that Snead sets the table for the draft and free agency.

Snead presumably has a two-year extension as well. It’s unclear whether the extension previously was in place, but given that Fisher’s was, it’s safe to assume Snead’s was, too.

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Sean Payton not a fan of Brandin Cooks trade speculation

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 16:  Brandin Cooks #10 of the New Orleans Saints catches the ball for a first down against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 16, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks aired some frustrations after going untargeted by quarterback Drew Brees in last week’s game against the Rams, something that coach Sean Payton said doesn’t concern him but could lead to a move this offseason.

According to multiple reports, Cooks could find himself on the trading block this offseason. The Saints have two other productive receivers in Michael Thomas and Willie Snead and scored 49 points last week despite getting nothing on the stat sheet from the wideout. Trading Cooks could allow them to address other needs on the roster, notably a defense that remains a work in progress in New Orleans.

Or they could just continue on with Cooks. Payton retweeted a Twitter user castigating Ian Rapoport of NFL Media for reporting on the possibility of a Cooks trade, although Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that “some believe” there were talks with the Patriots about a trade involving Cooks and linebacker Jamie Collins before the Patriots traded Collins to the Browns.

Cooks has 51 catches for 736 yards and six touchdowns this season, leaving him on pace to fall short of his totals from last year with five games left this season.

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