The NFL figured that everyone watching its product wanted more taunting penalties.
Never mind that nobody really was upset about them. Or that a 15-yard taunting call could significantly affect a game. That’s what the NFL thought we all wanted, so it put an emphasis on calling more taunting penalties this season.
Nobody wanted that. The Philadelphia Eagles surely didn’t on Thursday night either.
A controversial taunting call, right as the Eagles were getting back in the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, overshadowed an exciting fourth quarter. The Buccaneers held on to win 28-22, and the key play was an unnecessary penalty.
In the fourth quarter, after the Eagles cut the Buccaneers’ lead to six points, Eagles defensive end Genard Avery tackled Leeonard Fournette, then got up and said something to him. It was fairly innocuous. Football is a passionate sport. Nobody at home was offended. Fournette likely wasn’t either.
Flag. Fifteen yards. All momentum gone. The game changed. Football fans wondering why they didn’t instead tune into the MLB playoff game.
Good work, NFL.
Eagles rallied after slow start
Right before that taunting call, the Eagles were turning a blowout into an interesting game.
The Buccaneers led 28-7 as their defense stifled the Eagles. The Eagles scored on their first possession. After that, they had drives of 7, 5, 15, 5, 6 and 4 yards. It really was that ugly.
Then the Eagles offense made a game of it. A drive and a touchdown with 5:54 left cut the Buccaneers’ lead to 28-20. Then Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni did the analytical thing and went for the two-point conversion. The Eagles got it and it was 28-22.
At that point, the Eagles had all the momentum. The Eagles stopped Fournette for a 2-yard gain on first down. Then came the flag on Avery, and the Buccaneers started moving it again.
One call doesn’t win or lose a 60-minute game. The Eagles could have played better offense, especially in the first 40 minutes when they handed off two times and the Buccaneers teed off on their predictable offense. They could have stopped the Bucs after the penalty.
But what a bad call it was.
Buccaneers win again
The Buccaneers keep rolling. Tom Brady was mostly sharp. Fournette had a big game. The defense was great until the Eagles made their run starting late in the third quarter.
And after the controversial taunting call, the Buccaneers drove downfield, inside the Eagles 10 and then took a knee three times to kill the clock. It was a clutch drive with the game on the line, penalty or not.
It would have been a lot better if the game had played out without the taunting call. That gave the Buccaneers 15 free yards and instantly changed the tone of the final minutes. Instead of talking about Brady making clutch plays or what happened when Hurts got the ball back late, we’re talking about a taunting penalty.
That’s what the NFL knew it was in for when it decided it wanted more taunting penalties.