The Falcons got through the Rams game without any major injuries. This was shocking not only because Atlanta was facing a physical team on its home turf, but because the field was in horrendous shape.
You can search basically anywhere and find jokes, memes, and concerned questions about the state of the turf in Los Angeles, but you probably saw Falcons and Rams slipping and sliding all over the place with your own two eyes. Below, I’ve included just one example.
the rams field was awful last night. how can this be the case for a playoff game? pic.twitter.com/sdgtFuYoxR— charles mcdonald (@FourVerts) January 7, 2018
The next day, the NFL appeared to have botched an intentional grounding call on Cam Newton. This one will be debated fiercely for a couple of days, I expect, but as an admittedly biased observer (I wanted the Panthers to win), it sure looked like Newton didn’t commit the penalty. The mere fact that there’s so much ambivalence isn’t shocking, given the NFL’s recent history with calls.
3 costly mistakes ultimately undermined the Panthers' comeback hopes -- including a controversial intentional grounding callhttps://t.co/9tJVW3WkDA— SB Nation NFL (@SBNationNFL) January 8, 2018
I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that the NFL’s players and teams keep rescuing the league from embarrassment, because there have been some genuinely great games this year, and almost all the playoff games over the weekend were entertaining (I’m looking at you, Jaguars-Bills). This league has been a magnet for officiating controversies, including some putrid calls against NFC South teams I’ve gotten to watch this year, and then they have a marquee matchup nearly derailed by turf quality. You’d be hard-pressed to argue that this is a league doing anything well, besides occasionally getting out of the way and letting the football being played speak for itself.
Now that my gripe is out of the way, I’m hopeful the Falcons will not meet with any more lousy fields or even worse calls the rest of the way. I’m hopeful, but sadly I have my doubts.