Bills receiver Stevie Johnson had a big day on Sunday against Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. But Johnson’s performance always will be remembered for a post-touchdown celebration that cost his team 15 yards of field position. After a botched kickoff gave the Jets a short field, Johnson’s touchdown quickly was matched.
The incident has prompted plenty of discussion this week, with much of it centering on the question of whether Johnson crossed a line by pretending to shoot himself in the leg. The bigger problem came when Johnson capped his celebration by falling and rolling on the turf, since two things can draw a penalty after a touchdown: (1) going to the ground; and (2) using a prop.
That’s the point NBC’s Bob Costas made during halftime of the Sunday night game between the Steelers and Chiefs. Celebrating is one thing; celebrating in a manner that harms the team’s interest is quite another.
Redskins receiver Santana Moss, whose touchdown celebrations routinely remain within the bounds of the rules, agrees.
“Some guys, that’s a part of their game,” Moss said of Johnson on Thursday’s PFT Live. “They look forward to those moments where they can really shine after they make a big play or score a big touchdown. You can’t really knock them for it. The only thing you can knock them for is losing those yards for your team. You’ve got to be smart at all given times when it comes to trying to win a game. You can’t hurt your team in that situation, and I think that’s something that he’ll look back on and wish he hadn’t done.”
It’s not unreasonable to expect a player to understand and respect the rules that apply to touchdowns. First, don’t go to the ground. Second, don’t use a prop.
In Johnson’s case, it possibly cost his team a victory, which in turn may have extended the team’s streak of non-playoff appearances to 12 years and counting. If players don’t heed these two simple rules, it could eventually cost a team a championship.
Indeed, that nearly happened in Super Bowl XLIII. After his game-winning touchdown reception for the ages, former Steelers receiver Santonio Holmes (the players whose “soar like a Jet” routine Johnson was mocking when falling to the ground) used the ball as a prop for a celebration that paid homage to LeBron James’ pregame talcum powder shower. Former NFL V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira acknowledged that a penalty should have been called, which would have pushed the kickoff from the 30 to the 15, putting Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and receiver Larry Fitzgerald 15 yards closer to the end zone when they regained possession with 35 seconds to play.
When a penalty is called for a celebration that goes too far, the primary blame falls on the man who commits the violation of the rules. But it’s ultimately a failure of coaching. Of all the complex concepts and play calls and other information given to players, it’s critical to make certain that those who will be scoring touchdowns always remember two things.
First, don’t go to the ground. Second, don’t use a prop.