Gibbs pays for trickery

KEN FIDLIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:00 AM ET

One of the scummy little wrinkles that has been introduced to the NFL this season is the last-second timeout that is being used to ice placekickers as they are about to boot an important field goal.

Coaches have been trying to freeze kickers for years but they've now taken it to excess, waiting until just before the snap for maximum psychological effect.

But what goes around comes around and yesterday Washington and coach Joe Gibbs paid a big price for pushing the issue beyond the limit.

As Buffalo's Rian Lindell prepared to kick a 51-yard game-winner in the dying seconds yesterday, Gibbs stood next to the referee and called timeout at that last split-second. Lindell followed through anyway and split the uprights. Then, after the Washington timeout, Lindell lined up again and Hall of Famer Gibbs called a second timeout which, by rule on a field goal attempt, is a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Lindell aced the 36-yard game-winner to give Buffalo a 17-16 win. Not to kick Gibbs when he's down but it looked good on him. It's a sleazy little schoolyard trick and should be legislated out of the game.

COLT COMFORT

The Indianapolis Colts haven't been their old, dominating selves, but they have managed to weather the storm of injuries that has ravaged their lineup this year.

By holding off the Jacksonville Jaguars yesterday for a three-point win, the Colts essentially have wrapped up the AFC South. Had the Jags won yesterday, they would have tied Indianapolis for first place and the pressure would have been on the Colts. Now they can wait for Marvin Harrison's much-anticipated return and finish out the schedule leisurely.

EVERYBODY'S WILD

The Jaguars aren't the only team that now, essentially, has turned its attention to the wild-card race. In the AFC, Denver and Cleveland both lost and while the Browns and Jacksonville would be the AFC wild-card teams right now, the Bills have now insinuated themselves into the mix, just a game back.

In the NFC, the Cowboys, Packers, Buccaneers and Seahawks are all firmly entrenched at the top of the four divisions. The New York Giants, with their come-from-behind victory in Chicago have a strong grip on one of the wild-card spots. There are as many as eight other teams who still maintain hope for the second wild card.

GUTSY CALL

It was refreshing to see Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden pass up a game-tying field goal attempt and go for the first down on a fourth-and-two situation on the New Orleans 28-yard line late in their game.

Running back Earnest Graham picked up the first down and the Buccaneers eventually rumbled into the end zone for the go-ahead score, leaving only 17 seconds for the Saints to respond.

Those are the kind of coaching decisions that can get a coach fired if it turns out badly, but when a coach shows that kind of confidence, it can be a season-changing moment for a team.

Tampa Bay already was secure atop the NFC South but now their position is almost unassailable.

BEARLY ALIVE

Whatever happened to a Bears team that looked as if it had a chance to be among the elite teams for years to come?

Yesterday, Eli Manning looked like Joe Montana on his best day when he and his Giants teammates sifted down the field against the Bears defence for the game-winning score. This is the same Manning who, at crunch time three weeks ago, looked like a lamb brought to the slaughter against the Cowboys.

Yesterday he marched the Giants 77 yards for the go-ahead score with 93 ticks left on the clock. We think that says so much more about the Bears' defence than it does about the Giants' offence under Manning.


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