Illegal Bats: NFL Week 4 Recap

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A wild and crazy Week 4 has come to a close, so Will and Derek are back with their unsolicited opinions on the week’s action, including illegal bats, the circus in Miami, more Cleveland heartbreak, the impending return of Greg Hardy, the Gentlemen of the Week, and the Most Hungover Fan Bases.


Elaine Thompson/AP

Elaine Thompson/AP

Will: How BOUT that Seahawks-Lions finish? What was your reaction as it happened? Had you seen the results of the game beforehand? Did you only celebrate the Seahawks’ side of things, or were you able to sympathize with the Lions’? I could talk about that play all day.

Derek: Quite a firestorm, eh? Good times. My reaction was “Hey, sweet! Nice play, Kam!” followed by a few fist pumps. Though, admittedly, the game had made me so angry to that point that it was a bit of a struggle for me to show too much positive emotion. I didn’t watch the game live (it started early in the morning here) but I watched it as if it were live shortly after it ended. Once it was over, I checked to see what people were saying about the game, and the top story was the Seahawks benefiting from an “illegal bat.”

I had a number of questions. What the hell is an illegal bat? Is there a new baseball team called the Seahawks I don’t know about? Did Kam Chancellor hit someone with a bat? Was there a Batman sighting at the game? Did someone release a bat in the Lions’ locker room, which scared Calvin Johnson enough to fumble later in the game? I had no idea that what K.J. Wright did was illegal. Apparently not too many others did either, considering neither Jon Gruden or Mike Tirico mentioned it and the referee was staring right at it and said nothing. Pete Carroll didn’t know it and K.J. Wright didn’t know it. The Lions didn’t know it! No one protested from the sideline! Now everyone is pretending they knew it when no one knew it.

I sympathize with them a tiny bit, but not that much. I certainly sympathize with them much less than I sympathize with Packers fans for the 2012 game. But I’ll get to that in a minute. What did you think of it?

Will: I was half-watching the game while putzing about online when I saw a flurry of LOLions-type tweets hit the ol’ timeline. As I follow quite a few Cleveland sympathizers, the play was framed in “hey, that’s even worse than the Browns jumping offsides on a game-winning field goal!” terms. And yeah, it was pretty brutal; I’m not sure what’s to be said beyond that.

I certainly didn’t know about the batted ball rule either, so Wright’s move struck me as a heady play. Did Seattle benefit from a no-call? Was it the right no-call? Why is batting the ball out of bounds illegal? Don’t punters sometimes kick it out intentionally after a botched snap?

Derek: Let me try and answer all of that with a nice, long rant. The reason why I don’t sympathize much with Lions fans is because it was a stupid rule that only exists because of another stupid rule. I’m referring to the rule that says if the offensive team fumbles at the goal line and it goes out of the end zone, it’s a touchback and change of possession. I could maybe see them keeping that rule when the ball goes out the back of the end zone, but losing possession for a fumble out of the side of the end zone when they would keep the ball if it were simply out of bounds … that’s just silly. So this illegal bat rule only exists to keep players from taking advantage of this other rule.


In my opinion, the offensive team should retain possession if they fumble out the side of the end zone, and if it goes out the back of the end zone it should be a big penalty, like 15 yards from the original spot and replay the down. That way, the offense would still be penalized for their fumble, but the defense would be encouraged to actually recover the ball. The illegal bat penalty would no longer exist, since if a defensive player wants to let the opposing team keep the ball for whatever reason, that’s his prerogative.


I think this whole thing is overblown because Wright was completely by himself standing next to the ball. Look:

wright fumble

He could have easily just picked it up and walked out of the back of the end zone, or fallen on it, or accidentally kicked it, or pretty much anything else short of turning around and stupidly trying a return and getting stripped. All of those scenarios, according to the rules, end with the same result: Seahawks ball at the 20. BUT DON’T YOU DARE SLIGHTLY TAP THE BALL OUT OF BOUNDS BECAUSE THAT’S TOTALLY DIFFERENT AND IF YOU DO THAT THEN THE TEAM THAT JUST FUMBLED GETS FIRST AND GOAL FROM INSIDE THE ONE YARD LINE. So, that would have been the fair outcome, eh? Taking away a great play from Chancellor and Wright (who was just trying to take advantage of another stupid rule that shouldn’t exist) on a technicality and massively rewarding the team that just fumbled is the just way to handle this? Come on.

This all strikes me as a case of Cecil the Lion Syndrome. People just want something to bitch about, even if they didn’t care that much before a story got shared with them on Facebook, and stop caring after a week or two. I think there would be an equal amount of outrage had the play been called correctly, since surely many people would be talking about how unfair it was that the Lions were rewarded for a fumble and the Seahawks (probably) lose on a technicality. But though everyone is all riled up, it will subside. These things always do.

I just hope both of those rules are eliminated in the offseason. If the rules were changed as I’ve suggested, either Wright knows and simply falls on the ball, or he knocks it out as he did and the Lions get the ball back facing 3rd and 16 from the Seahawks 26-yard line. The Seahawks have been punished, because they’ve squandered an opportunity to end the game. The Lions have been punished because it will be difficult to get back in the end zone, but they’re alive and they could still kick a field goal and send it to overtime. Is that not fair?

Will: Sure, that seems fair. I mean, I don’t expect such a play to happen again all season long and I don’t have a dog in the fight, so it’s tough for me to get too riled up about it, but what you outlined works for me. Frankly, I’d be fine with it if they just got rid of the batted ball rule and any fumble out of the end zone was a touchback for the defense. It’s plenty arbitrary, but it makes sense to me that the offense would be majorly punished for dropping the pigskin.

And yes, people love getting mad about things. It’s stupid as hell. Did anyone know Cecil the Lion was a thing until he became Cecil the Dead Lion? I say no.

Speaking of endangered mammals, how fucked are the Dolphins? They got blown out in London, they fired their coach, Ryan Tannehill might be a dick, and it seems like no one on the team actually enjoys playing football together. On the other side, Bengals and Falcons: Making believers out of you yet?

AP Photo/Matt Dunham

AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Derek: The stories leaking about the Dolphins are absolutely delightful. Don’t we all love a good trainwreck when no one we love is on board? I thoroughly enjoyed reading an article entitled “Ndamukong Suh reportedly wore sneakers in practice to protest a defense the players all hate.” You show ’em, Suh!

Joe Philbin has looked overwhelmed ever since the Martin/Incognito bullying scandal. It was just a matter of time. Interim head coach Dan Campbell has no experience as a head coach or a coordinator, but he did kick off his first practice with Oklahoma drills. Hey, why not?

Regarding the Bengals and Falcons, I suppose neither has won me over yet, but the Bengals have a chance to over the next few weeks. They host Seattle on Sunday, followed by trips to Buffalo and Pittsburgh in what may be Ben Roethlisberger’s return. If they win two or three of those games without the appearance of the dreaded Dalton Game, then I’ll start thinking of them as a team that could win in the playoffs.

The Falcons, as I mentioned last week, are tougher to peg. An average to above average team could start 9-0 with their schedule. In fact, barring injuries, the Falcons are probably going to be favored in each of their remaining games with the possible exception of Week 11 at home versus the Colts. They could be the number one seed in the NFC, but they also might get blown out by a Wild Card team in their first playoff game. It may be along time before we know if they’re for real or not.

I can’t believe we’ve gone this far without discussing the Browns! Take us through your emotions as the game ended.

Will: Laughter. That’s it. Deep, pure, belly laughs. It was so goddamn bad that the only thing to do was laugh. Here, take a look:

Derek: Are you pleased with the Browns’ offensive performance? They finally threw the ball to Duke Johnson, Travis Benjamin looks like more than just Devery Henderson 2.0, and even Gary Barnidge is getting in on the action! Also, despite the offensive success, do Cleveland faithful still pine for Johnny?

AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi

Will: The offense has been downright competent! Josh McCown has a way of looking way worse than his numbers, but how about this for the last two weeks: 60 of 90, 697 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, 2 fumbles (1 lost). I’d still like to see Johnny because, you know, McCown is 36 and this team is going nowhere, but folks aren’t yearning for him as much as they were a couple weeks ago.

The biggest problems the Browns have aren’t on offense. Sure, they could use an actual No. 1 receiver and the running game has been underwhelming, but they’ve scored at least 20 points in each of the past three weeks. If the defense were half as good as its paid — the Browns are the only team in the league spending more than half of its salary cap on D — then the Browns would have at least two wins. It seems like no matter who they add to the front seven, they can never keep the edge on rushing plays or rush off the edge on passing plays. Lotsa sighing going on in Cleveland these days.

Anyway. What division looks the toughest?

Derek: Hmmm. Tough call. The AFC North would have consideration, but Big Ben’s injury puts that notion on hold for now. I’d say it’s between the AFC East and the NFC West. We all know the Patriots will win the AFC East because they always do, but they’ve got some decent challengers in the Bills and Jets. And maybe the coaching change will give the Dolphins a spark. It wouldn’t be the first time a team showed marked improvement with an interim coach.

The NFC West is weaker than usual, mostly due to the swift, violent fall of the 49ers. But the Seahawks and Cardinals, despite less than ideal showings in Week 4, are contenders in the NFC. The Rams are scary because they can beat anybody, but they’ll screw it up somehow. I’m sure they’ll beat Green Bay this weekend and then lose four in a row.

Which team that’s currently under .500 do you think has the best shot at making the playoffs?

Will: Oooh that’s a good question. Not the Browns, sadly. Certainly not the Dolphins. Not the Lions, Bucs, Niners, Saints, Bears, Jags, Titans, or Texans. I’m tempted to pick the Ravens, but I’ll go with one-time offensive genius Chip Kelly and the Eagles. Pure gut call here; Kelly could be on his way to Spurrier status. I just think the NFC East is mediocre enough for Philly to be in the conversation by the end of the year; the other three teams are all 2-2. Between Dallas’ injuries and Washington’s Kirk Cousins dependency issues, I think the Eagles can get up there.

Speaking of Dallas, Greg Hardy continues to be a model citizen. Discuss.

Derek: Wow. You’d think the guy would just shut up and try to do his job, not crack jokes about other players’ wives. And I know “guns blazing” is just an expression, but maybe in his case we should make sure he’s frisked before taking the field.

Alright, let’s wrap this up, starting with our Gentlemen of the Week. I’m going with Todd Gurley. The Eddie George comparisons are uncanny, and I’m not pleased about him being in the Seahawks’ division. But it’s his awareness, not his powerful running style, that get him this award. Gurley passed up what looked to be his first career rushing touchdown by falling on the ground so the Rams could milk more of the clock and secure the upset over the Cardinals. His unselfish gesture is the mark of a true Gentleman.

To whom do you bestow this prestigious honor?

Will: Matt Hasselbeck, come on down! What can I say, I’m a sucker for 4o-year-old sixth-round picks from Boston College.

Derek: Let’s close with our Most Hungover Fan Bases. It has to be Detroit, right? They’re the only winless team in the league and, despite my belief to the contrary, many of them feel they got screwed. The people of Detroit just can’t catch a break. But what they can do is chug vodka and motor oil until emotions are a thing of the past.

Who’s your group?

Will: Detroit definitely had the worst moment, but I think Miami may have had the worse day. That’s primarily because their game started at 9:30 a.m. Eastern, which means Dolphin fans had an entire Sunday to stew in the juices of defeat. That’s plenty of drinking time — maybe even enough to pass out and start over again. That’s two hangovers’ worth of fun, and that gives the good people of Dolphin Nation the title for me.

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