West Coast defense is all the rage

Weasel Coach Watch No. 3: Christian Skordos of Indianapolis was among many readers to note that Bishop Sullivan Catholic high of Virginia Beach let go of a football coach who had just produced an undefeated season. Why? Because he was running up the score, and the school was embarrassed -- as it should have been -- to be projecting an image of bad sportsmanship. Bishop Sullivan won games this season 62-6 and 51-10, neither victory coming over an opponent that finished with a winning record. The dismissed coach, Cal Turner, told the Virginia Pilot, "I got fired because I run the score up on opposing teams. They told me not to and I defied them and did it anyway."

Wow -- the coach's defense is that he is, as accused, a jerk. The school did well to disassociate itself from such poor sportsmanship. Winning is fun, but schools are supposed to teach character; running up the score doesn't teach that. All high schools, public and private, say that character means more than points scored. Bishop Sullivan actually believes it!

Last Week's Horse Collar Item: I wondered whether the horse collar tackle should be a foul. Reader Sean Austin of Bozeman, Mont., asked, "What about the voluminous Roy Williams compendium of horse-collar induced injuries from recent years? They were detailed by The Dallas Morning News.

When Scoring Is the Wrong Move: Seattle leading 16-8, Marshawn Lynch broke into the clear, running uncontested toward the end zone with 2:40 remaining and New Orleans out of time outs. Ideally he would have dropped to the turf at the Saints' 1. The Bluish Men Group would have knelt three times, then kicked a field goal for an 11-point lead with around 30 seconds showing. At game speed, though, it's hard to resist the urge to score. Ahmad Bradshaw couldn't resist in the Super Bowl; Brian Westbrook and Maurice Jones-Drew did resist in regular-season contests.

Adventures in Officiating: Defensive backs for New Orleans and Carolina were called for unnecessary roughness for hitting receivers after the pass was incomplete. In both cases it was just a second after, but in both cases it was the correct call -- the receivers were defenseless players under the rule change that took effect in 2011, and is well known to defensive backs. In both cases, what would have been an incompletion on third-and-long became a first down, followed by a field goal on the drive.

At Carolina, zebras called roughing the passer on San Francisco, converting third-and-long into a first down. San Francisco linebacker Dan Skuta hit Cam Newton helmet-to-helmet, but it happened as Newton spun low toward Skuta, and Newton was not in a passing stance, rather, attempting to roll out. The impression was that the foul wasn't fair to the defender.

But new rules intended to protect the quarterback say that while a quarterback who leaves the pocket loses protection of the "one-step" restriction on defenders, other special protections, including prohibition of helmet-to-helmet contact, remain. See the lengthy rule beginning at article 9 (a). Perhaps the new rule needs to be amended. Newton hit the defender as much as the defender hit him, but the rule was correctly enforced as written. Because Newton threw an interception a few snaps later, the flag did not impact the outcome.

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