Looking for a playoff advantage? Hold on every play. Seriously.
- ESPN.com national NFL writer
- ESPN.com NFC North reporter, 2008-2013
- Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008
For the first time in my professional life, I’m offering free strategic advice to NFL coaches and offensive players: Hold.
Hold the defensive player in front of you like there’s no tomorrow. Go ahead and grab, tackle, hook and jerk. Twist him. Turn him. Pull him to the ground. Use all the “material restrictions” the NFL rulebook claims to outlaw. Do it for the competitive edge and with a clear conscience because, trust me, they ain’t calling it.
I hollered from the rooftops earlier this season, warning everyone that the NFL had suddenly — and without any of the usual warning — reinterpreted the definition of offensive holding in a way that could impact the outcome of games and perhaps even the configuration of the postseason. And then, quietly but with no shame, I abandoned my crusade. Why? No one cared.
I’ll admit it was tough to get people fired up in support of overturning big plays, scoring fewer points and producing more punts, just because of something silly like the integrity of the game. So now I’m just here to tell you that the trend has accelerated in these final weeks of the season, and teams heading into the postseason would be fools to ignore the opening it provides.
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