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FARINELLA: Pushing loyalty a little too far - The Sun Chronicle : Patriots

FARINELLA: Pushing loyalty a little too far

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Posted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 11:06 pm

You know, I almost expected it. Patriots' fans don't take too kindly to anyone or anything going against their team.

Take, for instance, the female Patriots' fan that took a pop in the face from a Jets' fan in the bowels of MetLife Stadium not long after the conclusion of the 30-27 overtime loss in Sunday. I'm still the product of a chivalrous age in which men were taught never to hit a lady, but apparently, YouTube videos (and is there nothing hidden from the prying eyes of YouTube anymore?) apparently reveal that the delicate little flower of New England fandom was engaged in an argument with the Jets' galoot and may have actually taken a poke at him first before the big lug responded with a roundhouse right.

In fact, I had just rounded a corner in the below-stadium concourses, searching for Bill Belichick's post-game press conference, when I stumbled upon all the weeping and shouting just moments after it happened. Another reason why I'm glad that for at least 90 percent of each Sunday game, I am blissfully separated from the Great Unwashed.

And yes, I did take some grief from the most faithful of the In Bill We Trust crowd over my pick of the Jets over the Patriots in last week's Fearless Forecasts. In fact, I was within 16 seconds of play of having that pick come out exactly on the nose (Jets 27, Patriots 24). Some people, however, still can't seem to grasp the notion that my role is to be an impartial observer and reporter, and not a cheerleader. I suspect that will never change.

Anyway, I've heard more than my share of complaining over the "Pushgate" controversy that emerged from Sunday's game, and the conspiracy theories that sprouted from it.

Here's the deal: Chris Jones was lined up near Will Svitek on the field-goal-block unit as the Jets' Nick Folk attempted a 56-yard field goal to win the game. Jones shifted behind Svitek and gave the huge Czechoslovakian emigre a healthy shove into the Jets' long-snapper. It's a technique as old as the hills, a means of trying to get a huge body in the way of a field goal attempt - especially one that was bound to be a low-trajectory kick for the sake of long distance as Folk's was.

But during the past offseason, the NFL legislated against the push at the request of the NFL Players Association, citing a player-safety issue. It's not as if that there had been an upsurge in ACL injuries because of it, but the premise was that unexpected contact is dangerous and should be avoided.

The league always puts together an informational video and sends refereeing crews to training camps in August to update everyone on the changes in the rulebook, so it's not as if this rule should have caught anyone by surprise. In fact, it didn't. According to reports emerging all over the NFL, it seems that several teams have been reviewing films of what the other teams do on their field-goal units, and they've gone to the officials and told them to be on the lookout for violations of the new rule.

It's also been reported that the Jets went to the officials before Sunday's game and gave them the lowdown on what their own film review told them about the Patriots' strategies. This shouldn't surprise anyone. There are a lot of tattletales in the NFL. Anything for an edge.

That, too, probably applies to the Patriots' role in all of this. Let's face it, at every level of football, you play to the limits of the rules and then beyond them as long as you don't get caught. And once you get caught, that's where the bar is set and you go on to the next "gray area."

Does anybody really believe Bill Belichick didn't know exactly what the limits of the rule were? Yes, there was some confusion about where the pushing player could or couldn't line up thanks to the phrase "second level" in the NFL's wording of the rule, presumably indicating it only applied to players lined up as linebackers or defensive backs. But the NFL later said its wording was not consistent with what was actually accepted in the offseason, which was that all forms of pushing were outlawed. I'm certain Belichick knew this - and I'm certain that he and plenty of other coaches were determined to keep doing things the way they were doing them until they got caught.

So the Patriots were caught - in the most unfortunate position of having it happen when a game was on the line. And once again, we will have to hear the chorus from afar quoting chapter and verse from Spygate. In the meantime, 31 other coaches will be thankful it didn't happen to them and they will alter their approach accordingly.

Well, maybe the criticism of Belichick is deserved. There is a certain level of arrogance that runs through the local franchise's organization. It's embarrassing - but it was even more embarrassing that the Patriots couldn't convert more than one of their 12 third-down situations in the game. It never should have come down to a Hail Mary try or a 56-yard field goal in the first place.

So, Patriots' fans, my advice to you is to stop complaining about what happened Sunday. Your team was wrong and it got caught, and it certainly should be embarrassing to you that it's almost always the Patriots that get caught first. Maybe after 14 years of this coaching regime, and eight-plus years without a championship, it's time to stop enabling the Patriots and defending all they do, right or wrong. Maybe it's time for some accountability to be thrown into the mix.

And it's definitely, as Belichick might say, time to move on to the Miami Dolphins.

MARK FARINELLA may be reached at 508-236-0315 or via email at mfarinel@thesunchronicle.com. Read Farinella's blog, "Blogging Fearlessly," at thesunchronicle.com/blogs/markfarinella.

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