In the exciting (or so I hear) game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks, Aaron Rodgers through a pivotal interception on what he thought was a free play:

What does it say for the game even though you had two INTs: “The defense played great. Felt like we might have had an offsides on the first interception. Corey snapped it early — I figured it was a free play — and Davante’s was the only route that was going in the end zone. Sherm made a good play. The second one, just miscommunication between Cobb and I.”

Why think it was a free play?: “I saw the end jump; he must not have been in the zone.”

I can’t remember when, but there was a bowl game where a supposedly free play turned out to be costly when the flag was flown for something other than defensive off-sides and an interception occurred.

I remember several seasons back when Southern Tech was playing against the Atlantic State Panthers in a game that was going to determine the conference championship. ASU had thirteen players on the field, and so our quarterback thought he had a free play. For those that don’t know, a “free play” is when the defense commits a penalty and so if things turn out badly you can take the penalty and the yards, but if it goes well you can decline the penalty and take more yards. Free plays lead quarterbacks to just kind of throw the ball up there and if your guy catches it then great but if their guy catches it then no harm.

Which is all fine and good, if the flag is what you think it’s for. In the case of Sotech, it wasn’t. There wasn’t irrefutable evidence that the two State players had not gotten off the field (though it was pretty obvious). The Panthers intercepted the ball in the endzone. The entire tide of the game shifted, and we lost a game we were favored to win by a touchdown.

Ever since then I’ve taken note of when “free plays” backfire and it seems to happen quite a bit. Sometimes, as in this case with Rodgers, it works out. But I wonder what the ratio is between great plays and backfires. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the latter outnumbered the former.

Category: Theater

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7 Responses to When Free Plays Backfire

  1. Burt Likko says:

    I’m not going to grouse here about the meltdown in the last five minutes of the NFC championship, tempting though that is. Rather, I’ll point out that any NFL quarterback ought to be expected to know what’s going on. A flag goes down but no whistle to stop play occurs; the QB ought to interpret this as an opportunity to take a shot. That’s how they get coached, because there is a tremendous amount of information to take in very, very quickly before deciding what to do with the ball.

  2. Burt Likko says:

    Also, have you switched your background to an image of {where you presently live -ed}? One of the most gorgeous spots in Appalachia.

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