This had to be the NFL's game of the year

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This had to be the NFL's game of the year

From Comcast SportsNetNASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Call this one Music City Mayhem.The Tennessee Titans are winless no more after an unforgettable overtime victory over Detroit featuring an endless stream of big plays, some suspect officiating and a huge mistake by the Lions on the final play.Rob Bironas kicked a 26-yard field goal in overtime, and the Titans stopped backup quarterback Shaun Hill on fourth-and-1 at the Tennessee 7 to finally pull out a 44-41 win Sunday where the Lions messed up trying to draw the defense offside."Obviously, there was a miscommunication, or I don't know what you call it, from an enforcement standpoint," coach Jim Schwartz said.The Titans (1-2) blew a 20-9 halftime lead in a game featuring wild scoring swings. They became the first NFL team to score five touchdowns of 60 yards or longer in a single game."Piece of cake," Titans quarterback Jake Locker said with a smile.Detroit scored 18 straight points, then Tennessee answered with 21 points before the Lions scored the final 14 of regulation in a span of 18 seconds-- the first team to do that and force overtime in league history.The touchdown that forced overtime came on a tipped desperation pass after Detroit recovered an onside kick and got an assist from the replacement officials who did not review a possible turnover."Both of us looked at each other and said, We've never been through something like this in our lives,' " Titans coach Mike Munchak said of Detroit coach Jim Schwartz, a former colleague in Nashville. "It's hard to put in words what to say about that. We both could've won in so many ways."Schwartz's Lions picked up the nickname Comeback Cats last season with four rallies for victory from 13 points or more down."I've never been around one like that," Schwartz said.A total of 46 points came in the fourth period. Then in overtime, Bironas' third field goal put Tennessee ahead to stay after a drive that got its own boost from the officials.They announced a replay review had overturned their ruling of a catch by Tennessee tight end Craig Stevens, with the ball hitting the ground as he rolled after being hit helmet to helmet by Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch.After spending several minutes discussing where to place the ball, they put it at the Lions 29, giving the Titans 27 yards. The penalty apparently was marched off from the Detroit 44 instead of the Tennessee 44, where the play started.The Lions (1-2) lost their second straight when Schwartz decided not to let Jason Hanson kick his fifth field goal. Hill, in for injured Matthew Stafford, was stopped by defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and Sen'Derrick Marks on his sneak, and Tennessee escaped, celebrating wildly even as an official stood over the ball before a replay review was announced."I'm very exhausted right now," Casey said.The Titans had stopped Mikel Leshoure for a 7-yard reception about a foot short on third down. Schwartz said he was preparing to call a timeout to kick the field goal and wanted first to try getting the Titans to jump offside."The crowd was loud," Schwartz said. "If they didn't jump, we were just going to take the timeout. The ball ended up getting snapped. We needed that, obviously, to make sure all 11 guys get the calls right there and be able to play it."Hill took the blame."It's up to the quarterback to get all 11 on the same page, for sure," Hill said. "I'll just leave it at that. It was on me."Players from both teams met in the middle of the field talking and shaking hands before an official finally announced the game that lasted 3 hours, 51 minutes was over.The game featured six plays of 46 yards or longer, with the Titans having five of those -- all 61 or longer. The Titans even had three of those 71 yards or longer.Hill's 46-yard TD pass to Titus Young off a ball Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers tried to knock down at the end of regulation tied the game only after some more confusing officiating."The guy came out of nowhere and caught the ball," Ayers said.After Hill tossed a 3-yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson with 18 seconds left, Amari Spievey recovered Detroit's onside kick. Hill threw a short pass to the sideline to Nate Burleson who took at least a step before losing the ball when hit by Titans cornerback Jason McCourty.An official threw down his bean bag, indicating a change of possession. Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner picked up the ball and started to run to the end zone before another official ran up and called it incomplete.Because it was in the final 2 minutes, a review is left up to the officials and coaches cannot challenge. No replay review was done.Officials had other issues in this game, including twice announcing the offense would replay third down when it was obvious the defense wanted to decline a penalty to force fourth down."I may not agree with some of the things but ultimately, I thought they had control," Munchak said.Early on came shades of the most famous play in Titans history, the Music City Miracle to lift them past Buffalo in a January 2000 playoff game. Tommie Campbell caught a lateral from Darius Reynaud on a punt return and ran it 65 yards for a TD in the first quarter for Tennessee.Reynaud had never thrown a pass in a game going back to high school."D-Rey had to make sure that he didn't throw it over my head," Campbell said. "Then after that, everything else worked out."Jared Cook caught a 61-yard TD pass from Locker in the second period as the Titans went up 20-9 at halftime.Reynaud also set a Tennessee record returning a kickoff 105 yards to tie it at 27. Ayers then sacked Stafford, forcing the Lions to punt, and Locker found Nate Washington, who plucked the ball from behind cornerback Jacob Lacey's back and ran 71 yards for the go-ahead TD with 3:11 left.Verner grabbed the ball from Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew and ran it 72 yards on the play Stafford pulled up limping as he chased the cornerback. That seemed like the clinching TD with 1:16 left in regulation and only wound up setting the scene for more chaos.Locker finished 29 for 42 for 378 yards and two TDs. Stafford went 33 of 42 for 278 yards and a touchdown.Notes: Leshoure ran for 100 yards in his NFL debut. The Lions running back missed his rookie season with an Achilles' tendon injury and was suspended for the first two games of this season. ... Campbell got his second career TD off a kick or punt return he did not field. He scored on a reverse off a kickoff last season as a rookie. ... With his third field goal, Hanson passed Matt Stover for fourth all-time with 472s. ... Bironas kicked a 38-yard field goal at the end of the first half to tie the franchise record with his 20th straight kick. He missed a chance to have the record alone when a 41-yarder was wide left in the third quarter. Bironas missed another field goal in the third, the first time he's missed two in a game since Sept. 10, 2009.

Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

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Despite discord, Goodell's reign may not be nearing end

Monday may have marked a low point in the relationship between the NFL and its on-field employees.

The fight between the league and its best player of the past two decades was in the headlines again. Tom Brady, tied to the NFL’s bumper and dragged around for almost 500 days, had his NFLPA legal team baring its teeth again in the Deflategate mess. The eye-gouging and hair-pulling in that imbroglio over a puff of air allegedly being removed from footballs has cost the league and the PA about $25M so far.

Meanwhile, NFLPA President Eric Winston was saying the league "cannot be trusted to do the right thing when it involves players.” That comment flowed from a Congressional report alleging the NFL tried to exert influence over who would conduct studies regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the condition that’s been blamed for a myriad of former players winding up addled, incapacitated or dead.

I say “may have marked” because the relationship between the two sides has cratered so frequently over the past two years, it’s hard to know exactly what the low point has been. Or how much lower it can go.

And, with the 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement only half done, there is ample opportunity for things to get worse. Because, really, why would they get better?

With the NFL’s owners safe knowing that their emperor/puppet/human shield is still in place to take the hits and do their dirty work, there’s seemingly no groundswell among that group to relieve Roger Goodell of his duties. Despite reports of growing owner discontent over Deflategate, the Ray Rice investigation, and an appeal of a case in which the league was found to have withheld $100M from players, there is no Sword of Damocles dangling over the league to cut ties with Goodell.

He was able to oversee the league’s re-entry in Los Angeles (though that “triumph” was fraught with owner acrimony), is going to get a game played in China, keeps edging closer to getting a franchise based in Europe and may even land one in Las Vegas, has enhanced the league’s reach on social media (the announcement of some games being aired on Twitter) and keeps making billions hand over fist.

Goodell’s presence won’t be an impediment to a new labor deal getting done for another five years. By then, when the issues of Goodell’s role in player discipline, drug testing and his relationship with the union come to the fore, the owners might feel compelled to cut him loose after 15 seasons in charge.

But even then, the league’s owners will be in the business of pointing out to the players how good they’ve had it under the current CBA. The league’s salary cap structure – decried as a disaster in the first years of the deal – has seen the cap grow from $120M in 2011 to $155M this year. Players’ practice time and the wear and tear on their bodies has been reduced thanks to the new limits on contact enacted. Benefits are better. Retired players are getting better care. Players have more off-field marketing opportunities with companies that want to affix themselves to the most popular sport in the United States.

As bad as the headlines have been for Goodell, in five years (or probably fewer since negotiations on a new CBA will begin in 2020) who will remember the disaster that’s been Deflategate? How inspired will players be to miss games and paychecks for the satisfaction of knowing Goodell can’t be his own arbitrator anymore?

To sum it up, Goodell’s dark disciplinary reign may well continue unabated for a few more seasons. But as long as the league rains money on its players through the end of this decade, the clock isn’t ticking on Goodell and the owners in the form of labor strife.

Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

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Smith: Brady made an 'incredibly generous offer' to settle Deflategate

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith joined the Dan Patrick Show -- hosted by Ross Tucker on Monday -- to discuss the petition that was eventually filed to the Second Circuit requesting a rehearing for Tom Brady's case. 

During the discussion, Smith insisted that Brady made a settlement offer long ago that might've resolved things. But because the NFL wanted more, a deal was never struck. Now here we are, almost 500 days since the AFC Championship Game in January of 2015, and Deflategate is still a living, breathing thing. 

"Tom's a standup guy," Smith said. "And I think he made a settlement offer to resolve this. The league chose not to take it, and that's where we are . . . I don't want to go into details, but it was an incredibly generous offer to resolve this. The league asked for something that no man should agree to do."

Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran explained on Monday's episode of Quick Slants that Brady was willing to accept a one-game suspension for a lack of cooperation at the outset of the investigation. But the league was looking for a face to take the blame, Curran explained. 

Both Jim McNally and John Jastremski were willing to take the heat off of Brady, but Brady insisted that he would not throw anyone else under the bus because he believed that there was no wrongdoing on his part or anyone else's when it came to the preparation of game footballs. 

With no one offered up to shoulder the blame, the NFL declined to agree to any proposal from Brady's camp. At that point, it would have been almost impossible to predict that this case would one day be only a step or two from getting the US Supreme Court involved. 

Yet here we are.