The Buffalo Bills’ long-awaited playoff appearance might not have been so short-lived had their coaching staff played the percentages and not a hunch in their 10-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
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, coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison elected to call a run-pass option instead of asking quarterback Tyrod Taylor to either run it in himself or hand it off to running back LeSean McCoy against one of the most vulnerable run defenses in the playoffs.
”I want a running play,” McCoy said. ”It was a play I was lobbying for the whole time and it didn’t work out …”
Instead, Taylor lofted a fade pass toward the left corner of the end zone where Kelvin Benjamin was whistled for offensive pass interference on All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey, pushing the Bills back 10 yards.
The drive stalled from there and Stephen Haushka’s 31-yard field goal was all the Bills had to show for their 18-play, 71-yard drive that took 8:06, their only decent drive all game.
McDermott also botched the end of the first half by calling pass plays on second-and-6 at his 14 (incomplete) and the next down (5-yard completion to Zay Jones in which he was pushed out of bounds).
Instead of taking a knee and heading to the locker room with a 3-0 lead, the Bills gave the Jaguars the ball back with enough time to get into field goal range and score and gain some momentum heading into the locker room.
The Bills’ curious play call, however, paled in contrast to the series of odd calls by referee Jeff Triplette’s playoff crew in Kansas City, where the Tennessee Titans overcame an 18-point halftime deficit to shock the Chiefs 22-21.
”Horrible way to start the playoffs,” tweeted Mike Pereira , the former NFL officiating chief turned Fox sports analyst. ”I hate to say it, but this was not a good performance by the crew. Teams and fans deserve better.”
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, Pereira praised both Tony Corrente’s crew in New Orleans and John Hussey’s crew in Jacksonville, adding, ”Yesterday is a memory. I feel bad for Jeff Triplette. He is a great man who was part of a crew that did not have a good game. I feel bad that he is retiring under this cloud.”
After Marcus Mariota caught his own deflected pass for a touchdown Saturday, Triplette explained that the Titans quarterback was an eligible receiver because he had lined up in the shotgun formation rather than under center.
There is no such rule in the NFL.
Whenever a defensive player deflects a pass, every offensive player is allowed to catch the ricochet, including the quarterback and it matters not where he lined up when the play began.
Then, there was the very quick whistle that negated a fumble recovery by Justin Houston after fellow linebacker Derrick Johnson sacked Mariota in the second quarter.
Mariota fumbled a split-second after contact, but Triplette said the QB’s forward progress had been stopped before the fumble.
Forward progress is usually called when a running back is stopped and defenders are piling on him or several defenders drape a quarterback.
Hardly ever is it applied when a QB is going to the ground on initial contact by a single defender.
As a judgment call, Chiefs coach Andy Reid was helpless to throw his red challenge flag, and Ryan Succop kicked a field goal on the next play.
”The defender hit him and he was driving him back,” Triplette said after the game.
The officials had one more gaffe in them, one that was corrected on replay review.
The crew initially called a fumble on Titans running back Derrick Henry late in the fourth quarter, signaling touchdown when Johnson scooped up the ball and rumbled into the end zone as fireworks lit up the sky.
The replays showed he was down before the ball came loose.
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, there were several notable calls concerning the Cincinnati Bengals.
Bills fans giddy over Buffalo ending the longest playoff drought in North American pro sports made a surge in donations to Andy Dalton’s foundation , their way of thanking the Bengals QB for his role in the Bills’ first invitation to the postseason party in 17 years.
Dalton’s foundation received more than $300,000 in donations after the Bengals beat the Ravens 31-27 in the regular-season finale when Dalton threw a 49-yard TD pass with 44 seconds left to eliminate Baltimore and open a spot for Buffalo.
”I think I’m the hottest guy in Buffalo right now,” Dalton said.
While the Bills’ long streak of playoff futility is over, the Bengals’ streak continues. They haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest streak of postseason futility in NFL history. They’ve lost all seven of their playoff games since that season, including an NFL-record five straight first-round defeats from 2011-15.
The Bengals missed out on the playoffs for a second straight season, going 7-9. They won their last two games, knocking the Lions and Ravens out of the playoff race.
That was enough for owner Mike Brown to give coach Marvin Lewis a two-year extension and two more chances to try to get the Bengals that playoff victory that has eluded him for 15 seasons.
Lewis has the second-longest active coaching tenure in the NFL, behind only Bill Belichick’s 18 seasons with New England.
Unlike Belichick, who has won five Super Bowls and made two other appearances in the title game, Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs, the worst such coaching record in NFL history.
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, John Elway thought long and
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Boston Red Sox and the Kansas City Royals, two diametrically opposite clubs, meet in a three-game series beginning Friday night at Kauffman Stadium.
To say they are polar extremes would not be an exaggeration.
The Red Sox own the best record in the majors at 59-29. They have won eight of their past 10 and 10 of their past 13. They are 30 games over .500 for the first since they ended the 2013 season 32 games above.
Boston leads the American League with 463 runs and has outscored its opponents by 130 runs.
On the flip side, the Royals have lost six straight, 18 of 21 and 25 of 30. They are 25-61 and are 36 games below .500 for the first time since ending the 2006 season 62-100.
Kansas City ranks last in the American League with 297 runs and has been outscored by 167 runs.
“We didn’t have opportunities to manufacture runs,” manager Ned Yost told reporters after Wednesday’s 3-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians. “We had opportunities with runners in scoring position that we couldn’t capitalize on. And that’s been a major problem for us all year long.”
The Red Sox are 31-17 on the road. The Royals have lost 12 of their last 13 games at Kauffman Stadium and their 11-32 home record is the worst in the majors.
The Royals have not scored more than four runs in 25 of their last 26 games. They have failed to collect double-figure hits in 25 of their last 26 games and are batting .191 with 55 runs in that stretch.
And who do the Royals face in the opener of this series?
None other than dominant left-hander Chris Sale, who leads the American League with 164 strikeouts and is averaging 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings. Opponents own a .179 batting average versus Sale (8-4, 2.41 ERA).
“He looks like the best pitcher in the big leagues right now,” Boston manager Alex Cora said.
Sale, who ranks among the league leaders in overall ERA, owns a 2.32 road ERA and a 2.45 night ERA. He enters the game having not allowed a run in his past 15 innings. Sale is 3-1 with a 1.03 ERA in his past five starts after striking out and allowing a first-inning single to Giancarlo Stanton in seven dominant innings in an 11-0 win at Yankee Stadium over the New York Yankees on Saturday.
“He was outstanding again,” Cora said. “Fastball command and off-speed pitches Authentic Ryan Johansen Jersey
, it was a great performance.”
Sale is 10-10 with a 2.92 ERA in 33 career appearances, 22 starts, against Kansas City. He held the Royals to two runs and five hits while walking two and striking out six over seven innings in a no-decision on May 1 at Fenway Park. Sale is 2-0 with a 2.87 ERA in his last four starts in Kansas City, striking out 34 and walking five.
The Royals will counter with right-hander Jason Hammel, who is 2-10 with a 5.56 ERA. He is tied for the AL lead in losses and has yielded 15 runs in his last two starts. He is 0-5 with a 4.33 ERA in seven home starts this season.
Against the Red Sox, Hammel is 3-4 with a 5.13 ERA in 16 career appearances, nine of them starts. He dropped a 10-6 decision on April 30 to Boston, allowing eight runs on eight hits, including a pair of home runs, and three walks over 4 2/3 innings.
While Sale was the AL Pitcher of the Month for June, Hammel went 0-5 with a 6.43 ERA in six starts last month after ending May with back-to-back victories.
Hammel’s biggest challenge will be Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. They rank 1-2 in the majors in slugging percentage with Betts at .669 and Martinez .642.
Betts has 21 home runs and a .338 batting average. Martinez is hitting .327 with a major league-best 26 home runs, which is more than any Boston player hit in 2017.
Betts also hit three homers at Fenway Park on May 2 and went 4-for-4 in that game.