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In Defense of Nickell Robey-Coleman

John Rowland

Posted on January 21, 2019 15:10

2 users

Everyone and their mama is talking about the no-penalty call at the end of the Saints-Rams NFC title game on Sunday. Cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman is the so-called bad guy in all this drama. He needs a little defending here. A personal disclaimer: When this commentator played football on defense, it was also as a cornerback.

Yes, it was penalty. Everyone's up in arms, so outraged.

What some aren't discussing however, are a few of the circumstances associated with that moment -- that play.

There are always woulda-shoulda-coulda's in a game.

It's been said that (from the offensive perspective) every time you throw the ball, 2 out of 3 of the outcomes are bad (incomplete or interception).

With under 2 minutes left in the game, why didn't the Saints run the ball; run some clock and make the Rams burn a timeout. Instead, they threw the ball, stopping the clock.

Sean Peyton (Saints head coach) can be a hot-dog play-caller at times; this one got him.

What few are touching on is Coleman's quickness.

While Nickell did say he "was beat" on the play, it was mainly because he was lined up on the other side of the formation. Perhaps not reading his key in perfect time, his closing speed in coverage -- to the opposite sideline -- is what made the play even close; in fact, Coleman's speed is why he arrived a half-second before the ball (yes, penalty). Without Coleman's athleticism, Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis probably walks into the endzone.

Sure, Coleman's a cornerback and supposed to be one of the fastest guys on the field, but you still have to give credit. In a strained sense, he's a hero.

The Rams defense may have been out-schemed on the play; they weren't out-speeded.

But Saints quarterback Drew Brees (who hasn't been that great since New Orleans lost in Dallas) may not have seen Coleman, choosing to throw a pass on Lewis' inside shoulder.

Brees is lucky it wasn't a pick-6.

Should Brees have seen Coleman crossing in coverage, he could've thrown a back-shoulder pass to Lewis and things would have been quite different in terms of any interference and helmet contact.

More shoulda-coulda.

But so many are piling on, throwing around the NFL's term -- "targeting."

Coleman's helmet just touched Lewis' helmet -- not in violent, bobble-head fashion either. So yes, there was helmet-to-helmet contact which is technically a penalty. Moreover, Coleman used his arms to push Lewis down to the turf -- which is perfectly legal.

When a defensive back chooses to light up a receiver -- to truly target -- there's little doubt. The defender will drive his helmet and body fully through the receiver. This didn't occur on the play -- not even close.

Colorfully overstating things a bit, Coleman did say he "whacked his [Lewis'] ass." But it certainly was no Jack Tatum moment.

While this one play has received most of the attention, the Rams did things which directly contributed to the game's outcome: limiting the Saints to only 2 scores in 5 red zone chances; shutting down the Saints running game, thereby limiting play action; and taking away the (arguably) Saints' best player, Michael Thomas.

So congratulations Rams.

Everyone enjoy the Super Bowl.

John Rowland

Posted on January 21, 2019 15:10

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