I was thrown a bit by how scrappy the Pats were at first, before it
became outright nasty out there.
It's not just Aqib Talib's sideshow, either. It's not the one Marcus
Cannon whip that wasn't called - and it's not his fault, I guess, that
they didn't call it. Dan Connolly's dirtiness was called, and Talib's
was (some of the time).
Carolina's not that team, with some Steve Smith baiting aside. They're
protective - watch how quickly Travelle Wharton gets there to back Steve
Smith against Talib - but they're not dirty.
But the Pats are. Multiple times I saw the Pats being kinda despicable
- and it wasn't just me. Logan Mankins was spotted on News14 Carolina
film head-butting Luke Kuechly. Pretty sure you don't do that playing
by the rules. Mankins, Connolly, and Cannon were all in my
(frantically written) first-half game notes for that nonsense, along
with the obvious Talib issues.
And past that, I got exceptionally tired of Pats' offensive linemen
constantly pushing the pile. This is a pet peeve of mine - it's rule #1
in the rule book, I believe - seeing a couple defenders get on a ball
carrier that won't go down, and then here come some OL to push the pile
or come in late and get a knock on a defender. The play is over, in all
real respects, but here comes the beef to push the ball carrier ahead
2-3 yards. I see it consistently not called, so maybe I'm
misunderstanding the concept, but that doesn't seem like it's a good
thing for the sport to have a bunch of guys' legs extended trying to
hold ground at the end of a play, and here comes someone else who isn't
actually blocking, but is still throwing his weight around.
Honestly, while I get what Bill Belichick gets done, and I've always
respected Dante Scarnecchia's coaching as an assistant, this is just
uncharacteristic. That they get away with it is only making it worse.
I'll give Cannon some respect, to a point, for apologizing for the leg
whip. Bucs' DT Gerald McCoy, probably their best defensive player at
this point, called Cannon out this week after seeing it, and after the
apology, before retracting it. He's been there.
The truth is, holding happens all the time. And plenty of linemen are
dirty. I don't want to see every single play flagged, I don't want to
see a constantly stopping game. But they have to protect defenders,
too. They have to protect them all.