Bengals ball. 3rd and 4, 5:38 to go. Bills up by 11. Bengals driving at the Bills' 25 yard line via 4th-down conversions and great catches. If the Bengals make points on this drive, they're still in the game. If not, they're one step closer to total locker room implosion, a coaching shakedown, and perhaps replacing Carson Palmer with an early pick in the 2011 draft.
Stakes high enough for you?
Rookie WR Jordan Shipley runs a note-perfect out-and-up, comes flying across the field, and Palmer nails him with a 20 yard pass - but Donte Whitner hammers him and forces the incompletion. Fourth down! Aaron Pettrey's field goal attempt takes a bizarre, slipped-on-a-banana peel curve across the face of the uprights. No good!
Behold my awesome lack of photoshop - shipwit.png:
It wasn't just a great hit, it was a safe hit. Gus Johnson - who, with Steve Tasker, was the game's real Batman and Robin - notes this. Whitner leads with his shoulder, not his helmet, and absolutely destroys Shipley below the neck, forcing the ball loose and incomplete. Whitner probably had every opportunity to make a spear tackle. If Shipley catches it and takes two steps, then Whitner needs to make a huge tackle AND try to force a fumble.
It seems like it was a spear-worthy situation. He could have gone all Ben-Hur on poor Shipley, but he didn't.
The New York Times ran an article about the recent rules change regarding helmet contact. Here's a quote. It concerns one of our favorite former Bills.
That change outlawed hits like the shockingly violent one delivered by the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Ryan Clark against the Baltimore Ravens’ Willis McGahee in the A.F.C. championship game two years ago, when Clark’s full-speed, helmet-to-helmet launch — which left McGahee unconscious and Clark all but — was perfectly legal because it came a split-second after McGahee caught the ball and stepped forward.
Clark acknowledged, "I probably could have stopped and waited and tried to tackle him, but it’s sad to say I think I closed my eyes and I was praying that I’d wake up when I hit the ground."
It's a complicated issue - or is it? What I can tell is that Whitner left us with a solid, meaningful hit, but did so without risking Jordan Shipley's future health and well-being. I think this is interesting because when the NFL
cracked down on helmet contact, there was a pretty big backlash from players, fans, and journalists. What do you think about it? In this situation, would a helmet-leading hit have been more exciting? Would it have been more useful?
The rule in question, then a poll:
Rule 12, section 2 G
"using any part of a player’s helmet (including the top/crown and forehead/"hairline" parts) or facemask to butt, spear, or ram an opponent violently or unnecessarily; although such violent or unnecessary use of the helmet and facemask is impermissible against any opponent, game officials will give special attention in administering this rule to protecting those players who are in virtually defenseless postures (e.g., a player in the act of or just after throwing a pass, a receiver catching or attempting to catch a pass, a runner already in the grasp of a tackler, a kickoff or punt returner attempting to field a kick in the air, or a player on the ground at the end of a play). All players in virtually defenseless postures are protected by the same prohibitions against use of the helmet and facemask that are described in the roughing-the-passer rules (see Article 11, subsection 3 below of this Rule 12, Section 2)