By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
EVERYONE knows that’s it’s hard to win a football game in New England. One reason is quarterback Tom Brady.
And now apparently after the Patriots late-game rally over the Cleveland Browns last Sunday, there’s another major reason — the referees!
While I rarely like to blame refs — because I’ve always believed that you should never put yourself in a position where the zebras can determine the outcome of a game — there were two calls that greatly assisted the Pats.
One came on a touchdown play when a Browns defender was incorrectly called for a hit to the head in the end zone on a touchdown that allowed New England to kick off from the 50, rather than the 35. So when they recovered an onside kick, it made the drive for a winning score much easier.
Then late in the game, defensive back Leon McFadden was called for pass interference in the end zone to set up the winning TD. The call was as ticky-tacky as any I’ve seen before.
Browns coach Rob Chudzinski wouldn’t publicly blame the referees. Of course, if he had it would have cost him a lot of money. The “secret society” known as the NFL doesn’t allow coaches or players to criticize the officials and when they do they are fined, sometimes huge amounts of coin.
There were two big pluses for the Browns, despite the loss. One, they played a terrific game and Jason Campbell looks good at quarterback. It’s something to build on for the rest of the season. And two, they get a higher draft pick.
That game will carry over to today when the Browns beat Chicago, 23-13. The Bears have a quarterback controversy, never a good thing.
Meanwhile, what goes around, comes around for the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Thanksgiving, coach Mike Tomlin had his foot out on the field and helped stop a touchdown by the Ravens. This past week, Antonio’s foot was out of bounds by a toenail on a sure touchdown at the end of the game and the Steelers lost again.
I guess that’s why they call it ‘foot’ ball.
Tonight Pittsburgh takes on rival Cincinnati. The Steelers are just playing for pride the rest of the season, while the Bengals are battling for playoff position. Go with the Bengals with the win, 27-20, and the Steelers with a higher draft pick.
Last week my picks went 13-1 (I didn’t count the one pick where a typo had San Diego (-3) over San Diego) for a season record of 113-77. Following are the rest of this week’s predictions (betting line in parentheses just for fun):
Jacksonville (plus 2) over Buffalo
Baltimore (plus 6) over Detroit
NY Giants (plus 7) over Seattle
San Fran (-51⁄2) over Tampa
Arizona (-2) over Tennessee
New Orleans (-51⁄2) over St. Louis
Philly (-41⁄2) over Minnesota
Indy (-6) over Houston
Carolina (-11) over NY Jets
Oakland (plus 4) over Kansas City
Atlanta (-6) over Washington
Dallas (no line) over Green Bay
Lynn Saternow is sports editor of The Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.