Despite Delivering an Incredible Week 18, the NFL Has One Mistake Left to Fix

Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) warms up before an NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021 in Pittsburgh, PA (AP Photo/Matt Durisko)

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The NFL's Week 18 was the greatest sports event I have witnessed in quite some time.  The few games that had significance really delivered on the excitement promised from an extra week of NFL football and two more playoff berths since last season.  The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Rams, and the Los Angeles Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders all played into overtime with playoff berths on the line.  It was a 12-hour thrill ride.

The NFL comes out of it looking like geniuses.  Whoever made the call to erase some preseason games in lieu of an extra regular season week deserves a promotion this morning.  However, despite all of the great decisions the NFL made that led to yesterday, they still have one mistake left to fix.

Review the Tape

After having brunch at the Central Diner in Robinson with a couple of close friends(we have no paid sponsors to this point so I’m happy to give one of our favorite local spots a free ad), my wife and I returned home and they joined us for the 1st half.  This is relevant because, despite being big football fans, it’s a little more difficult to pay attention to the minutiae of a broadcast when you’re chatting among the stoppages in play. 

When T.J. Watt accomplished a strip sack in the 1st quarter of the game against the Baltimore Ravens yesterday, I remember one of us stating, “there it is.  He tied the record.  A half sack and he has it.”  This was of course in reference to the all-time single season sack record that Watt was attempting to claim from former New York Giants defender, Michael Strahan.  We had assumed, from the eye ball test, that the play was ruled a sack and didn’t pay close enough attention to the broadcast to hear otherwise.

Later on, it was mentioned that based on whatever app my friend was scrolling, Watt was not credited with the sack.  This was unbelievable.  Sometimes apps are slower to update stats, especially defensive ones.  We still believed he was a half sack away from the record.

We later thought this was confirmed when Watt had a clear sack in the 2nd quarter.  We heard the broadcast this time proclaim, “T.J. Watt has just made history!”  This was an indication to us that he had broken the sack record.  Moments later, the graphic showed that Watt had indeed merely tied Strahan with the sack that ultimately led to the Steelers holding the Ravens to a crucial field goal. 

I was shocked.  Despite the strip sack occurring partly due to the Ravens center snapping the football off of his own backside, Ravens quarterback Tyler Huntley had picked the ball up and attempted to make a play out of it.  Had Huntley completed the pass for a completion, it would have indeed counted for a completion.  Therefore, Watt should be credited with a sack, thus giving him the all-time single season sack record. 

I, and many other Steeler fans are calling on the NFL to review the tape.  Do not put an asterisk on what was a hell of a week of football with this incorrect blemish.  Reverse the stat ruling and grant Watt what is appropriately his.

Also, those that are proclaiming (mostly Browns fans) that, “it took an extended season for Watt to break the record”, go jump in a cold lake somewhere.  Watt missed Weeks 3 and 11 completely, and only played in 24% of the defensive snaps in the Vegas game and 36% of snaps in the Minnesota game due to injury and illness.  He has earned the sack record, defensive player of the year, and is quickly becoming an all-time Steelers defender and potential Hall of Famer.

According to Darren Rovell of the Action Network, the Steelers have asked the league to take a look at the Ravens aborted play that didn’t result in the Watt sack.  A conclusion is expected mid week.  Make this right.