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Holding on intentional safety exposes loophole in rules

Koch Getty Images

In Super Bowl XLVI, the unintended use of an extra man on defense exposed a loophole that the NFL promptly closed.  In Super Bowl XLVII, another loophole has been exposed.

But this one will be harder to remedy.

Facing fourth and seven from their own eight and clinging to a five-point lead, the Ravens opted to take an intentional safety.  The clock showed 12 seconds at the snap, and the Ravens were able to milk eight of those ticks as punter Sam Koch moved to the back corner of the end zone.

Helping Koch delay as long as possible his exit from the field of play were multiple Ravens players who held 49ers defenders who were trying to get to Koch more quickly.  And while a flag for holding inexplicably wasn’t thrown, the outcome would have been no different.  Holding in the end zone by the offensive team triggers a safety, and that’s exactly what the Ravens were willing to concede.

Under the circumstances, avoiding the safety was irrelevant.  Using as much time as possible was the goal.

The challenge comes from finding an acceptable way to address the situation.  For a play that ends in a safety with a holding penalty committed in the end zone, the most obvious solution would be to enforce the penalty on the free kick, moving the ball from the 20 to the 10.  But that won’t remedy the fact that a deliberate penalty created a strategic advantage by taking time off the clock.

So perhaps the fairest outcome would be to award the safety, and to restore the clock to the time remaining before the play in question began.

Regardless, it’s a situation that cries out for further study by the Competition Committee.

Until then, here’s NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos talking about that and two other questionable calls from Super Bowl XLVII.

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Eagles get Ryan Mathews back after two games out

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 20:  Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles rushes against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on November 20, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles’ leading rusher is back on the field.

Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson said today that Ryan Mathews, who missed the last two games with a knee injury, is good to go and will practice today.

Mathews leads the Eagles with 102 carries for 427 yards and seven touchdowns this season, and with Mathews out the last two games Philadelphia’s offense has struggled in losses to the Packers and Bengals. The Eagles will hope that the return of Mathews gets the offense back on track on Sunday against Washington.

Unfortunately, the Eagles’ offense is down two other starters: wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (rib) and right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) are both out of practice today.

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Joe Thomas wants to be in Cleveland for the turnaround

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 10: Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs #55 of the Baltimore Ravens works against tackle Joe Thomas #73 of the Cleveland Browns in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 10, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

From time to time (or, basically, every year), Browns tackle Joe Thomas finds his name mentioned in trade talks. Ten years in to his NFL career, he seems to have no interest in leaving Cleveland.

I’m a Clevelander,” the Wisconsin native told Elizabeth Merrill of ESPN The Magazine in a new profile. “I’ve spent the majority of my adult life here. Every day when I come to work, it’s ‘Let’s turn this team into a consistent winner.’ Because it would be such a special story. It would be like when the Cubs won the World Series. Everybody in the country has probably been cheering for them for so long because they’ve been suffering for so long. And you want to cheer for teams like the Browns.”

Well, Steelers, Bengals, and Ravens fans don’t want to cheer for the Browns — but it’s not unusual to believe that fans of other teams whose favorite teams are out of the running will latch onto a feel-good story, if/when good feelings ever happen for the Browns. And if/when they ever happen for the Browns, Thomas wants to be there.

“It’s so important for me to be here for the turnaround,” Thomas said. “I don’t want to just get a Super Bowl ring [by] being traded to a dream team. It would feel unsatisfying. Unfulfilling.”

As Merrill notes, Thomas was almost traded to the Broncos in 2015; agent Peter Schaffer told Merrill that, he and the Broncos simply “ran out of time.” In 2016, there was no serious run made at Thomas, and the Browns insisted that he wasn’t available.

Signed through 2018, it’s unclear how long the 32-year-old Thomas will continue to play. It’s even less clear whether the Browns turnaround will happen before he calls it quits and/or the team decides to go in a different direction.

Last month, it seemed as if Thomas was inclined to go in a different direction after saying that, when it come to a lack of talented players, the Browns have to “lie in the bed that you’ve made.” Thomas dismissed the reaction to his words.

“I think [the media] made a big deal out of it because they could, not because it actually was a big deal,” Thomas said. “If you say in life that you have consequences for your actions, that’s the most no-duh statement of all time.”

Thomas has endured the consequences of the actions of others for 10 years, because he has done everything he can to help the Browns win. If they can turn some of those many draft picks into more players like Thomas, the turnaround will happen. Finally.

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Stephen Gostkowski is the AFC special teamer of the week

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Stephen Gostkowski #3 of the New England Patriots reacts after making a field goal during the second quarter against the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The 2016 season has not seen the best of Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski.

Gostkowski went into last Sunday’s game against the Rams with four missed field goals in 20 tries and three missed extra points after making every regular season conversion attempt he’d tried since missing one during his rookie season. Gostkowski missed an extra point in last year’s AFC title game loss to the Broncos as well, which had some wondering if he’d lost some of his touch.

All was well last Sunday, however. Gostkowski bailed out a Patriots offense that struggled on third downs by making all four of his field goal attempts and hit both his extra point tries in a 26-10 victory. That made him the choice as the AFC special teams player of the week.

“Every week is a different challenge,” Gostkowski said, via “You just gotta battle. Keep your head down, stay humble, show up and control your attitude and your effort, make sure both of those are good, and have faith in the process that what you’ve been doing is going to continue to work.”

It’s the fifth time Gostkowski has earned the weekly honor, leaving him three back of his immediate predecessor Adam Vinatieri for the most in franchise history.

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Lions’ Matt Prater wins another player of the week award

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 11: Matt Prater #5 of the Detroit Lions celebrates with teammates after kicking the game winning field goal in the fourth quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Ho, hum, another NFL award for Lions kicker Matt Prater.

Prater was named NFC special teams player of the week for his 5-for-5 effort on field goals in Sunday’s win over the Saints. Prater has now been special teams player of the week after three of the Lions’ last four games.

Prater and Barry Sanders are the only Lions ever to win a player of the week award three times in one season.

Add in Prater’s special teams player of the month award for November, and he’s picked up as many NFL awards as he has played in games over the last month. He’s a big part of the reason the Lions are in first place in the NFC North.

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Akiem Hicks named NFC defensive player of the week

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 04:   Akiem Hicks #96 of the Chicago Bears warms up prior to the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Soldier Field on December 4, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Not too many things have gone right for the Bears this season, but the emergence of defensive end Akiem Hicks is one of them.

Hicks was named NFC defensive player of the week after his two-sack performance against the 49ers last week.

It was his second multi-sack game of the season, after getting a pair against the Vikings earlier this year.

The free-agent pickup has played solidly, and if he were surrounded by more or healthy players, might be making a bigger difference.

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Big Monday lands Andrew Luck AFC offensive player of the week

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 05:  Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts celebrates a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 5, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck missed the team’s Week 12 loss to the Steelers because of a concussion and he made the Jets wish he remained out of commission when the two teams met on Monday night of Week 13.

Luck threw three touchdown passes to tight end Dwayne Allen in the first half of the game and added another to Donte Moncrief in the third quarter as the Colts rolled over the Jets 41-10 at MetLife Stadium. Luck was 22-of-28 for 278 yards overall and the Colts increased the logjam at the top of the AFC South by joining the Texans and Titans with a 6-6 record through 12 games.

On Tuesday, the NFL announced that Luck has been named the AFC offensive player of the week in recognition of those efforts. It’s the fourth time Luck has been so honored, leaving him behind Peyton Manning and Edgerrin James for the most weekly offensive awards in franchise history.

The game continued a bounce-back season for Luck, who threw 12 interceptions in seven games during an injury-ravaged 2015 season. This year’s results have been more in line with his previous efforts, all of which ended with a trip to the postseason. That outcome remains in play for the Colts and it will look likelier if they can topple the Texans in Week 14.

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David Johnson named NFC offensive player of the week

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 04:  David Johnson #31 of the Arizona Cardinals shakes hands with Pierre Garcon #88 of the Washington Redskins following a game at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Cardinals defeated the Redskins 31-23.  (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cardinals are barely on the fringes of the playoff chase, but they have a guy who ought to be on the fringes of the MVP race.

Running back David Johnson was named NFC offensive player of the week after totaling 175 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns as the Cardinals beat Washington last week.

Johnson leads the league in yards from scrimmage (1,709), with 228 rushes for 1,005 yards and another 704 receiving yards on 64 catches.

He’s already emerged as one of the top backs in the league, and one of the reasons the 5-6-1 Cardinals are clinging to any hope at all. And with a pair of player of the week awards already, he’s the first Cardinals player to repeat in a season since Kurt Warner in 2009.

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Mets manager wants Tebow to play in spring training games

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - SEPTEMBER 20: Jerseys for sale as Tim Tebow #15 of the New York Mets works out at an instructional league day at Tradition Field on September 20, 2016 in Port St. Lucie, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images) Getty Images

Don Draper will soon be drinking even more.

Manager Terry Collins said during the baseball winter meetings that he wants converted quarterback Tim Tebow to play some spring training games with the Mets.

“I certainly hope we’ll see Tim Tebow in some of our games,” Collins said Tuesday, via USA Today. “If he’s not in our camp, I’ll get him over.”

While Collins didn’t go full Thom Brennaman about Tebow, Collins is a believer.

“He’s not into himself,” Collins said. “He’s into being a teammate. A tremendous teammate. He’s won wherever he’s been.”

So winning as a football player is apparently transferable to baseball, a sport in which Tebow batted .194 in 19 games with the Arizona Fall League. Well, it’s transferable if by “winning” Collins means “selling more tickets and jerseys and other things to people who want to see Tebow play baseball.”

If by “winning” Collins means winning baseball games, he’ll surely have better options than Tim Tebow.

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Eric Berry named AFC defensive player of the week

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 04:  Eric Berry #29 of the Kansas City Chiefs returns an interception on a failed two-point converstion for two points against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chiefs safety Eric Berry had a pretty nice trip back to his home state last Sunday.

Berry grew up outside of Atlanta and was in the city to face the Falcons in a game that the Chiefs needed to win to stay close to the Raiders in the AFC West. Berry did everything he could to help them do that.

Berry intercepted a Matt Ryan pass in the first half and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown that gave the Chiefs a 20-13 lead on their hosts. That lead would grow to 11 points in the second half before a pair of touchdowns put Atlanta up 28-27 with 4:32 left to play in the game. They went for two after the second touchdown in hopes of extending their lead to three points, but Berry struck again.

He intercepted Ryan and returned the ball the length of the field for two points that gave the Chiefs a 29-28 victory. It was the first time that a player has returned an interception for two points since the NFL began allowing such plays last year and the finishing touch on an afternoon that made Berry the choice as the AFC’s defensive player of the week.

It’s the second time that Berry has won weekly honors this season and the Chiefs will be looking for more of the same against the Raiders on Thursday night.

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Bowles told media of QB change before he told Fitzpatrick

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When Jets coach Todd Bowles decided that Ryan Fitzpatrick was finished as the team’s starting quarterback, he didn’t tell Fitzpatrick first.

Instead, Bowles made the announcement to the media after Monday night’s loss to the Colts. Only after that did Bowles talk to Fitzpatrick about it.

“I’d been meaning to talk to him and I got tied up with a few things,” Bowles said of the failure to inform Fitzpatrick.

Some players might have responded to that by blasting their coach, but Fitzpatrick was measured in his comments to the media, which Bowles seemed to appreciate.

“I probably could’ve and he tried to cover for me,” Bowles said on Tuesday. “Like I said, I had a lot on my mind and got some things off my chest, and it kind of went over the wrong way. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”

On the long list of things that have gone wrong for the Jets this year, a miscommunication on a quarterback change is not near the top. But it’s still not a good look: Bowles should have let Fitzpatrick know he was benched.

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Les Snead: Extensions mean Rams have “unfinished business”

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 29:  General Manager Les Snead of the Los Angeles Rams speaks onstage during the press conference to introduce Jared Goff, the Los Angeles Rams' first pick and first overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft, on April 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images) Getty Images

Confirmation about contract extensions for Rams coach Jeff Fisher and General Manager Les Snead came last weekend after months of speculation about whether they had been signed or not, which means two men who started in the organization together in 2012 continue to be tied together.

Fisher has discussed his extension with the media several times since news broke, but Snead hasn’t held a press conference in the last few days. He did make an appearance on KSPN in Los Angeles on Tuesday and shared his view about the message the team sent by extending the architects of teams that have gone 31-44-1 since they arrived.

“First of all, what it means is, we’re not satisfied with where we’re at. We’ve got unfinished business,” Snead said, via the Los Angeles Daily News. “We think we can get this thing tipped, and that’s our goal. That’s where all the energy is spent. You’re not going to sleep until it gets done. We have great fans and we’ve been supported. It’s unbelievable. Any time you’re having a disappointing season, you feel for the fans first, because they come and they spend their energy and passion, and we’ve got to do a better job.”

It’s clear that the Rams have unfinished business when it comes to building a winning team. With almost five years under their belts, it’s much less clear that Fisher and Snead are the right people to finish it.

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Falcons add depth on both sides of the line

FLOWERY BRANCH, GA - MAY 04: Defensive End Malliciah Goodman #93 of the Atlanta Falcons speaks with the media during the Atlanta Falcons rookie mini camp on May 04, 2013 in Flowery Branch, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons needed to fill in on both lines, and brought back a familiar face to do that this week.

Via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons brought back former fourth-round defensive end Malliciah Goodman and signed offensive lineman Kevin Graf.

To make room for them on the roster, the team released defensive end Cliff Matthews and center Trevor Robinson.

Goodman, a defensive end from Clemson, was cut by the Falcons in September and played in one game for the Seahawks before being relased there.

The Falcons were short on the defensive line because of Adrian Clayborn’s knee injury. And with left tackle Jake Matthews not expected to practice today with his knee injury, they needed depth on that side as well.

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Frank Reich on Carson Wentz: Losing wears on you

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 4:  Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles throws a pass during the first quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz’s rookie season got off to a fast start as he played very well in three wins to open the year and raise expectations for what the Eagles might be able to do during the 2016 season.

The last nine games haven’t gone nearly as well. The Eagles have lost seven of those games, knocking them out of the playoff picture, and Wentz’s play has tailed off along with it. He’s thrown eight interceptions in the last five games after throwing three in the first seven contests, his completion percentage has dropped and the Eagles haven’t scored more than 15 points in any of their last three games.

On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Frank Reich said he believes the downturn has gotten to Wentz. Reich said that the “most confident quarterbacks in the world lose their confidence and get battered” at times, something he suggested has happened to Wentz while adding that he thinks Wentz will rebound.

“Well, for a while I thought he seemed totally unflappable,” Reich said at his press conference. “Now, in some of the more recent losses, do you sense that this is, ‘Okay, he’s feeling this one, he’s feeling this one?’ Yeah, we’re all feeling it. I think he was that young, naïve — in a good sense — but still very mature guy who came in and it was like, ‘Nothing is going to get this guy down.’ But it wears on you. It wears on you. Losing wears on you in this league. That’s why you’ve got to have the mental toughness. You’ve got to have the mental toughness because it’s a grind, and it’s especially a grind when you’re not winning the games that you want to win and you lose close games. You have to have the tenacity to fight out of it and not get too down. He has that.”

The experience of a full year as a starter, win or lose, should benefit Wentz as he heads into 2017 and it would certainly help his chances of future success if the team can surround him with more talent on offense. Even if they do, there will be adversity for Wentz to overcome and the Eagles can only hope that this year helps provide him with those tools.

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Jason Pierre-Paul has sports hernia surgery

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 20:  Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants in action against  Mike Remmers #74 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Any optimism the Giants had about Jason Pierre-Paul’s condition is gone now.

According to Jordan Raanan of, the Giants defensive end had surgery this morning to repair a sports hernia, which should end his season.

The recovery time is pegged at six weeks, and with four weeks of regular season left, it’s effectively a year-ender unless the Giants make a deep playoff run.

Pierre-Paul left Sunday’s loss to the Steelers with a groin injury, and spent yesterday visiting noted surgeon Dr. William Meyers in Philadelphia. The Giants were hoping surgery could be avoided and that he might just miss a few games, but that apparently wasn’t the case.

It also puts a dent in Pierre-Paul’s pending free agency, as he was having a strong recent run (5.5 sacks in the two games before the Steelers game), and once again will enter the market coming off surgical repairs, after losing fingers in a fireworks accident last year.

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Victor Cruz, Ben McAdoo have conversation that “needed to be had”

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 01: Victor Cruz #80 of the New York Giants stands on the sidelines against the New England Patriots during their preseason game at MetLife Stadium on September 1, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wide receiver Victor Cruz wanted answers from coach Ben McAdoo about why he didn’t have any balls thrown his way during last Sunday’s loss to the Steelers and he got them during a conversation on Tuesday.

It sounds like things unfolded in a friendlier manner for Cruz and McAdoo than they did when Lt. Daniel Kaffee demanded answers from Col. Nathan Jessup. Cruz said he left the chat feeling that the team would make “some concerted efforts” to get everyone involved on offense and that he thinks he’ll “be getting at least one target” against the Cowboys.

“We had an honest conversation between both of us,” Cruz said, via the New York Post. “He laid it to me straight, and I gave him my thoughts as well, and I think it was productive and it ended well. It was a conversation that I guess needed to be had, and we had it and we can turn the page and move on. It was just two guys trying to problem-solve. There was no anger, there was nothing back and forth. It was just two guys trying to figure it out and try and continue how to make this team and this receiving corps as productive as possible.”

Cruz caught the winning touchdown on a three-yard pass from Eli Manning the first time the Giants and Cowboys faced off this season. He also played on 89 percent of the team’s snaps in that game, which is a stark difference from last week when he played 43 percent of the time. That was less time than undrafted rookie Roger Lewis got, which hasn’t been the case every week but would seem to be as telling about where Cruz stands on the offense right now as the fact that Eli Manning never found him against the Steelers.

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