An awful finish to a great game

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (19) runs on a 69-yard pass play during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Don Wright)

Have you ever watched a great movie and then the ending leaves you feeling like you wasted your time?

Of course you have, we all have and I most recently did so last night.

The movie was Steelers-Patriots and it had everything you could ever want – great lead and supporting acting, drama and yes, it even managed to nail the ending. But at the last minute the screenwriter decided to change it and no one could understand why. It completely ruined the movie.

Of course you know what I’m referring to – the Jesse James touchdown that wasn’t.

James caught the ball, extended the ball over the goal line and then the ball appeared as if it may have touched the ground while James had it secure with 34 seconds left.

The officials reviewed it and ruled it to be incomplete, which was the right call. And that’s the problem.

Tony Romo, who played quarterback at a high level for a long time and has been lauded for his seamless transition to color commentary for CBS, needed about 90 seconds to figure out that’s what was being reviewed.

And he wasn’t the only one.

Of course, the Steelers could have still tied the game and sent it to overtime or taken the lead and won in regulation, but that’s not what happened.

Ben Roethlisberger’s pass off a fake spike attempt was batted up in the air and intercpeted, securing the win for the Patriots and giving them the inside track to home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

Two plays earlier, Roethlisberger connected with JuJu Smith-Schuster for a spectacular 69-yard pass play to set up the first-and-goal from the 10. No one is going to remember that, however. Nor will anyone remember Tom Brady’s spectacular drive, which ended with a touchdown run by Dion Lewis with 56 seconds left.

It was a fantastic ending that wasn’t, and you know what? That’s bad business.

Oh no, this isn’t some diatribe about how the NFL ratings are going down and this is the reason why. NFL ratings fluctuate, and the fact of the matter is that the NFL is by far the most popular television program in America, and it’s not close.

The problem is the average NFL fan doesn’t know what a catch is anymore. Hell, even the smartest NFL fan doesn’t know for sure. And you know who else doesn’t? Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant, players who have had similar calls go against them.

ESPN analyst Jeff Saturday, a longtime NFL offensive lineman and former center for Peyton Manning, seemed cool with both the ruling and the rule itself afterwards, saying ‘controversy sells, and we’re all going to be talking about this for a while.’

But that’s the problem, we’re not going to be talking about what a great finish it was between two great teams and two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.

We’re going to be talking about an unnecessarily complicated rule and it’s impact on the season.

Look, anyone with common sense knows that these catch rules should be for plays where you actually have to wonder whether it’s a catch or not. A guy is bobbling the ball and goes to the ground and didn’t secure it – those types of things.

It shouldn’t be for a player who makes a catch and the ball may have touched the ground as he extended it over the goal line without being touched.

That’s just common sense, and the NFL needs to realize this. It also needs to listen to its consumers in this instance, because even the ones with no vested interested in the game were outraged.

They were outraged because a terrible ending ruined a great movie and unfortunately, that’s all everyone is going to be talking about.

We can only hope that if the two teams meet again this season, the ending won’t be tainted.

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