When Gary Kubiak called a timeout a split-second before Redskins kicker Graham Gano booted what would have been a winning field goal, the Texans coach ignited one of the most passionate issues in the league -- icing the kicker. It worked because when Gano went back for a second try, his kick sailed wide right.
It's a tactical rule that's available to both teams -- Washington coach Mike Shanahan opted not to use it before Houston's Neil Rackers kicked the 35-yard winner moments later -- but it's also a rule that seems to stir emotions, especially those on the losing end.
Each season, something about the rule is brought to the attention of the NFL's Competition Committee, according to a league source. There never is enough momentum to push the issue very far because there is no acceptable change to putting parameters on when a team can use a timeout, the source said.
Here's the biggest rub to players, fans at stadiums and fans watching on TV: The kick oftentimes occurs before anyone realizes the timeout has been called. Coaches, like Kubiak did, stand right by an official on the sideline and call the timeout just as the ball is snapped. It's hard to see from any angle.
"The timeout used to be called on the field by a middle linebacker," the league official said. "This stuff happened before but you could see when the timeout was called. You could see the guy calling the timeout."
One of the odd twists to having a player call the timeout was kickers often took the field expecting a timeout to be called because he could see a player saddle up and get in the ear of an official, the source said. Now, with coaches being allowed to call timeout as well as players on the field, kickers have to be on guard at all times because they have less of a notion if a coach is going to ice him, pretend he will or simply let things go.
The one change that has been made regarding the rule is teams can't use consecutive timeouts to rattle the kicker. When research was done by the NFL's Competition Committee last season, it was found that more times than not, kickers made the field goal or extra point after being iced with a timeout.
I'm sure the Redskins wish they could have added to that favorable data.
Teams continue to call Buffalo about trading running back Marshawn Lynch and the Bills continue to give them a stiff arm, a source with knowledge of the situation said. Seattle has been the most interested but it is hardly the only team trying to pry Lynch away. The Bills haven't parted with Lynch (17 carriers, 64 yards in 34-7 loss to Green Bay), because the best offer they've received is a third-round pick, the source said.
That's pretty decent compensation for a player not believed to be in the team's long-term future and for a Buffalo team that needs as many draft picks as possible since it still has plenty of holes to fill. By waiting, though, the Bills might be able to generate more interest should an injury occur.
Thing is, teams in those situations seem to be pursuing free agents (the Saints are looking at veteran Ledell Betts) or signing players off other teams' practice squads (the Eagles just poached Joique Bell off, ahem, Buffalo's practice squad).
As far as Chargers holdout wide receiver Vincent Jackson, general manger A.J. Smith is holding firm for high compensation, believed to be a second-round pick or more, a source said. Though Minnesota certainly could use Jackson, he'd most likely have to be brought in as a one-year ringer.
I've been told that several Vikings whose deals are set to expire -- DE Ray Edwards, LBs Chad Greenway and Ben Leber, WR Sidney Rice, among several others -- are watching to see if Minnesota moves on Jackson and if so, sign him to a lucrative long-term deal. That would upset a lot of players hoping for extensions and signal that there won't be enough money left for everyone to return. Edwards already said he doesn't expect to be back because of the number of players whose contracts are up.
First, in light of the Ines Sainz situation, the Jets can't afford anymore tolerance for bad judgment by players, hence management's immediate rebuke of Edwards. Secondly, the negative player reaction, spilled by several New York-based media outlets, toward Edwards seems to reveal some in-house hostility toward the flamboyant receiver.
Rarely do teammates, even anonymously, kneecap a teammate after such an indiscretion, even if they want to. He might walk into the locker room Wednesday feeling about as welcome as Albert Haynesworth is with the Redskins.
Falcons cleared for liftoff
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and the offense felt the heat from the locals after a sluggish preseason and a season-opening loss in which they produced just nine points (no touchdowns). The 41 points they hung on Arizona in a victory Sunday is more of what this team is, Ryan said. That, in turn, could produce some high-stakes offense this weekend when the Falcons play the Saints in an NFC South showdown in New Orleans.
"I've always been a believer that the biggest jump is from Week 1 to Week 2," Ryan said. "You get back to playing the full duration and speed that is the regular season. It's certainly different from the preseason. We improved from Week 1 to Week 2."
Ryan will never say it, but his gains were the most significant (Week 1: 27-44 252, 0 TDs, 1 INT; Week 2: 21-32-225 yards, 3 TDs).
For some of last season and against the Steelers, he wasn't as comfortable playing behind a line that has not held up under pressure as well as it did during his fine rookie season and he tended to throw with less precision and fearlessness. He was criticized for it after the loss to the Steelers and that's something he's been pretty immune from since taking the Falcons to the playoffs two seasons ago.
Ryan said he was too locked into preparing for the Cardinals to feel any exterior pressure but coaches and athletes always say that. They always hear and feel it and they either buckle or respond. Ryan responded. He told me that his goal against the Saints, besides winning, is to play better than Drew Brees. The always diplomatic quarterback said that's his goal each week, but I know Ryan pretty well and he's hyper-competitive.
His improvement from Week 1 to Week 2 might have been sizeable, and to Ryan, notable. That will mean nothing to him if he doesn't play even better against the Saints.
"Our focus has to be to make more plays," Ryan said. "I feel we can make more plays."