Friday, December 9, 2011

Mon, er, Friday leftovers

The National Football League had better crack down – and hard – on Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison before he kills someone.

The vicious hit he laid on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy in Thursday night’s 14-3 loss to the Steelers looked just like another pelt on Harrison’s Cleveland Browns bounty belt.

Last season, it was Mo Massaquoi and Joshua Cribbs. And now McCoy joins the club after suffering a neck-snapping blow to the head. At least it wasn’t ignored, but referee Ed Hochuli made a ridiculously bad penalty call.

He labeled it a personal foul for roughing the passer when it was plainly obvious McCoy had left the pocket and was more of a runner even though he was able to dump a pass off to Montario Hardesty.

Harrison, who has become a serial offender when it comes to cheap shots, had a clear shot at McCoy, who was defenseless in the open field after delivering the ball. The linebacker had time to either lower his pad level or dip his helmet and strike McCoy in the chest area.

Instead, he lowered his helmet and struck McCoy just above the facemask with the crown of his helmet. If that wasn’t a deliberate attempt to injure, then I don’t know what is.

Hochuli should have called it what it was. It should have been personal foul, unnecessary roughness, blow to the head. It happened right in front of him. How could he not see it?

Of course, that’s not going to make McCoy feel any better, but at least it would send a message to the NFL that a helmet was involved in the play.

It has taken the NFL several years, but it has finally become skittish when it comes to plays that either do -- or could -- result in concussions. And this was clearly one of them. Hopefully, the league sees that on the videotape of the game and acts.

Harrison has been fined as much as $75,000 in the past for illegal and damaging hits. It would appear the only way to get his attention would be to suspend him. And not for just one game.

Then bring him in, show him the proper and legal technique of tackling and warn him that the next time this happens, an even stiffer suspension will be meted out. If necessary, use him as an example of how not to play the game.

Humiliating him might be the only way to get through to him. Before he kills someone.

* * *

What in the world has Chris Ogbonnaya done to warrant bench duty? When the Browns desperately needed a running back due to injuries earlier this season, the young man from the University of Texas stepped in and did a commendable job. Even threw a 100-yard game in there.

So why is he picking up splinters on the bench? Is it because Peyton Hillis is reasonably healthy and Montario Hardesty can stand upright, carry a football and not fall down injured again? Is that why?

Here’s another question. Why bother using him like Pat Shurmur did early in the second quarter of the Steelers game when he ripped off a 28-yard run on a third-and-20 from the Cleveland 17 and then sit him back down?

He didn’t reappear until late in the fourth quarter when he contributed a three-yard run in the Browns’ final drive of the game. In between those runs, Hillis and Hardesty flailed unsuccessfully for 49 total yards.

So . . . what in the world does Chris Ogbonnaya have to do to get some PT? Correct answer: Be patient until Hillis and Hardesty once again find themselves unable to play because they got hurt again.

* * *

Poor Chris Gocong. He plays his best game of the season against the Steelers, especially in the great goal-line stand in the fourth quarter when Pittsburgh threatened to blow the game wide open, and has nothing to show for it but another L.

“We thought we were going to win it,” he told reporters after the game. “It’s one of those things. "If four or five plays had turned out differently, we could have won this game.”

Joe Haden joined Gocong in the frustration. “It really hurts for us to play so well all game and have it end like this,” said the cornerback, who played well, but was victimized by a well-executed back-shoulder throw by Ben Roethlisberger to Antonio Brown late in the game with the Steelers clinging to a 7-3 lead. It wound up a 79-yard scoring hookup.

* * *

Roethlisberger thought he had a broken leg when Scott Paxson and Brian Schaefering sandwiched him in the second quarter. “It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever felt,” he said. “I felt like my foot was outside my leg.”

That’s saying something considering the unusually high number of injuries he has suffered in his career. So why did he reenter the game in the third quarter, limping all the way to the end of the game? “I just didn’t want to let the guys down,” said Roethlisberger, who is like the Energizer Bunny. He just keeps on going and going and going.

* * *

Stream of thought: Shurmur, on going for a field goal instead of a touchdown on the first drive of the game: The first drive of the game . . . you want to get points.” The idea, though, is to come away with six, not three, points when you have a first and goal at the 5, second and goal at the 2 and third and goal at the six-inch line. . . . More Shurmur: "We kept them out of the end zone until that last big pass. There are some things we can build on.” Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of them. . . . Is it too early to call Massaquoi a bust? It’s year three for the wide receiver and his progress chart has flattened out. Maybe the Browns should trade him to Detroit, where he can hook up again with his buddy Matthew Stafford, his college quarterback. . . . McCoy is 6-15 as a starter in the NFL, but 0-8 against the AFC North. Simple math says he is a much better 6-7 against everyone else.

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