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Inside the NFL: Take the tie game right out of the equation

The fact an NFL regular-season game might not always provide a winner is absurd.

It is reflective of backward thinking that the league can’t afford at a time when it needs to find progressive ways to stem the tide of diminishing television ratings.

You want a game capable of driving away viewers? How about last Sunday night’s dinosaur-era, stuck-in-neutral, start-to-finish yawner between the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks? It wasn’t bad enough that the teams traded field goals to reach a 6-6 tie at the end of regulation. It wasn’t bad enough that they traded missed field goals in overtime.

No, the ultimate insult to the 65,000 paying customers at University of Phoenix Stadium and the prime-time TV audience was that the game ended with the deadlock still in place. After three hours and 41 minutes, there was no winner, no loser, nothing remotely capable of providing satisfaction.

Never mind how infrequently it happens. The mere fact it’s a possibility after each kickoff for 17 weeks, not to mention the preseason, is utterly ridiculous.

Games do not need to end in a tie. Ever. They don’t in the postseason, because the NFL has rules  to assure that teams will advance and a champion is crowned. The primary reason those rules don’t apply in the regular season is to avoid potential overlap with late-afternoon games or the Sunday night game that might splinter TV audiences.

But what about when there are no later games, as is the case with those played in prime time? What’s the hurry in bringing them to a close? To make sure late local newscasts start on time?

And who cares if the occasional game that begins at 1 o’clock runs beyond the kickoff of a 4 o’clock contest? As rare as ties are, it shouldn’t matter. Besides, with the Red Zone Channel’s major appeal for fantasy football players, and other forms of digital delivery of scoring-opportunity look-ins available, viewing is already fragmented.

There simply is no compelling reason, business or otherwise, to maintain the potential for ties. Fans don’t like it. Players don’t like it.

Coaches? They’ll live with it because at least it doesn’t show up on their record as a loss. But deep down, they don’t like it, either. They have put in countless hours of studying videotape and meeting and preparing game plans and getting players ready to perform. That isn’t being done for a tie.

Fans invest, emotionally and financially, to watch their team play. When the game is over, they expect to know where it stands.Players invest, physically and emotionally, with the intention of achieving victory. A tie doesn’t feel like much of an achievement.

“I really don’t know how to feel,” Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner, who had never been in a tie during his NFL career, told reporters. “It’s certainly not something we’re happy about.”

Added Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, “You should find a way to win. I don’t like ending in a tie.” Cardinals players expressed the same sentiments, with quarterback Carson Palmer saying “it just stinks” for both teams to walk away feeling as empty as they did.

I understand there are safety concerns with the additional time players could be made to stay on the field until there's a victor. But the league generally views that risk as being less of an issue in the playoffs.

“Most guys don’t like ties because you put in a hard week of work and you don’t want to walk away with a tie,” Bills outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “But at the same time, since this game is so physical, it’s not like you can play on and on and on and on like a baseball game because it’s a different impact on your body. And then it becomes a health issue at that point.

“I would rather you be able to win the game, but you don’t want to be in that situation where the game is going on forever in the regular season, because postseason, somebody’s got to win.”

Although Bills center Eric Wood said he wouldn’t mind an extended overtime, he was quick to add that he “would be upset getting injured in a sixth period.”

Wilson came up with an unconventional if not convoluted idea of determining a fast and safe way to produce an overtime winner.

“Let’s say we’re the away team, we win the coin toss, we get the ball on the 35-yard line going in, you kick one field goal,” Wilson said. “You can’t do anything else but a field goal. You make the field goal, the game’s over. If you miss the field goal, the game’s over, and the other team wins.”

The idea is far-fetched but it does show the extremes that some players would be willing to see the league go to assure a winner.

There could be a solution involving field-goal attempts or two-point conversion tries or just about anything else that would allow there to always be a winner and a loser.

Always.

Don’t be surprised if …

… Chicago Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who has 32 receptions for 520 yards this season, becomes more productive now that quarterback Jay Cutler is back from his injury. Jeffery rightfully is expected to see more targets from Cutler, and a good number of them will be in the end zone. Unlike his replacement, Brian Hoyer, Cutler, in what likely is his final season in Chicago, is going to throw caution to the wind and just throw. He’ll have no hesitation heaving jump balls toward Jeffery, who has yet to catch a touchdown pass this year. “We want to try to find a way to get him the ball a little bit more the second half and try to get him in the end zone,” Cutler told reporters.

… Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry lays out another defensive player with a massive crackback block. Despite drawing a 15-yard penalty and reportedly receiving a $24,309 fine for his hit on Bills safety Aaron Williams last Sunday, Landry insists he will remain true to his approach as a player. “I’ve always been a physical player,” he told SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I’ve always thrived off of my physicality skill on the field. … It’s something that gets guys on my team going as well, it’s just how I play, it’s just how I’ve always played. You can look back on my high school career, even my college career.”

… The Detroit Lions, after three wins in a row, hit a tailspin soon. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is having an impressive season. He ranks third in the NFL with a passer rating of 105.7 and fourth with a completion percentage of 68.1. He is on the short list of players deserving of league MVP consideration. But here’s a disturbing stat for the Lions: they lead the NFL with receivers dropping 6.4 percent of Stafford’s pass attempts. They have a total of 16 drops. Given that the trend has lasted nearly half the season, it’s reasonable to project it isn’t likely to change any time soon.

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