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Now that the Super Bowl's over, a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell

A veteran Monitor observer of the sports scene offers his two cents worth on the NFL's ultimate contest in a missive to the commissioner.

By Ross AtkinStaff / February 10, 2012

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell poses with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after a news conference Feb. 3 in Indianapolis.

David J. Phillip/AP

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Dear Commissioner Goodell,

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Congratulations on another entertaining season, capped by last Sunday’s Super Bowl. Surely you were pleased to learn the game had attracted the largest US television in history for a third consecutive year.  It’s hard to argue with that kind of success, but since fan feedback can be important to any league’s continuing popularity, here are two thoughts for the NFL’s consideration:

1. While the last minutes of Super Bowl XLVI were plenty exciting, the ending nearly backfired with potentially embarrassing consequences, or so it seems to this observer.

The circumstances surrounding the New York Giants’ winning touchdown run encouraged both the Giants and the New England Patriot defenders to basically quit playing.  Everything came out in the wash, partly because of Ahmad Bradshaw’s inability to stop completely enough to keep from falling into the end zone for the go-ahead TD.  But if he had stopped short of the goal line, an even stranger scenario could have played out in which the Patriots would have again invited the Giants into the end zone by standing aside or feigning any genuine defensive effort. Surely, that’s not how the league’s championship game should end.

Millions of fans, of course, understand how this strategic peculiarity occurred. The Patriots felt they needed to get the ball back with enough time left to mount a come-from-behind scoring drive.

The Giants trailed by two points but had driven to the Patriots 7-yard line, and were virtually assured of going ahead with a chip-shot field goal. They had the luxury of running down the clock, since New England had only one timeout left. A few running plays would set up the game-winning kick and leave virtually no time for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to work any last-minute magic.

So when Bradshaw was handed the ball and the Patriots offered no resistance. Giants quarterback Eli Manning yelled at Bradshaw to go down and not dash in for a touchdown that would stop the clock. Bradshaw tried to kneel before the goal line, but his momentum carried him in for the score.

This was a chess match, for sure, but one that went against the basic instincts of players on both sides. The defense was trying to let the offense score, and the offense was trying not to score (at least until the last seconds).

While this situation may seldom be repeated, there is a way, it seems, it could almost be totally avoided. The solution?  Stop the clock after every play after the two-minute warning if the offensive team is inside the “red zone” (within 20 yards of the end zone) and can either tie or win with a field goal or touchdown.

This could conceivably add to the last-minutes drama of many games, not just the Super Bowl, and wouldn’t eliminate the need for teams that are behind to have an effective “two-minute offense.”

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