Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Remembering That Play By Marty Cheatham

Want to know what TigerBlog was thinking about as he watched the final seconds of the Vikings-Saints game the other day?

Well, a few things. Included in that list was the fact that the ends of football movies or TV shows where the team gets the 60- or 70- or 80-yard touchdowns on the final play are so absurd and it never, ever, ever happens in real life.

Every time he sees a fictional football ending with that spectacular big play, TB always thinks the same thing. No way. Never happens.

And then there was the game Sunday.

The last few minutes of that game were pretty dramatic. First the Saints came back from being down 17-0 to take a 21-20 lead, 3:01 to go. Then the Vikings came back with a 53-yard field goal, 23-21 Vikings, 1:49 to go. Then it was the Saints, with a drive that included a perfect pass from Drew Brees on a fourth-and-10 and then a 43-yard field goal, 24-23 Saints, 25 seconds to go.

At this point, TB figured the game was done. The Saints had it in the bag. Yes, the Vikings only needed a field goal to win. No, it didn't figure that they had any chance to get close enough.

Nothing changed on the first three plays of the drive to make TB think any different. Minnesota had 10 seconds left. The Vikings were on their own 39. They needed to get 25 yards or so to get in field goal range, but then if any of this happened in the field of play, time would run out on them, since they were out of timeouts.

By now you know what happened next.

Case Keenum threw a deep out to Stefon Diggs. Marcus Williams completely whiffed on the tackle, or the attempt at the tackle, or whatever that was. Worse, he took out his teammate when he landed.

This is what tackling has become, by the way. Lower a shoulder and try to hit the offensive player hard enough to knock him down. It's no longer about wrapping him up and taking him to the ground. And if you want to say that Williams was just hoping to avoid a pass interference call, TB isn't buying that. 

Anyway, once he had the ball, there was nothing but open space in front of Diggs, who sprinted into the end zone, probably as shocked as anyone as to where he ended up.

It was as shocking an end of a football game as TigerBlog has ever seen. It's up there with the pass that Doug Flutie threw to Gerard Phelan as Boston College beat Miami back in 1983. Actually it exceeds that, since teams win games on a "Hail Mary" every now and then.

But a 61-yard TD pass on a play that was only hoping to get a receiver down the field enough to set up a field goal but also out of of bounds to stop the clock that ended up as a fairly uncontested TD? When have you seen that before? TB can't think of one.

He does remember a Princeton-Yale football game where there was something similar.

Princeton trailed Yale 14-13 late in the 2000 game at the Yale Bowl and was 68 yards from the goal line in the final minute, also out of timeouts. Jon Blevins, one of four Princeton quarterbacks to start a game that year, threw a pass to Marty Cheatham hoping to get the ball down the field and then out of bounds.

Cheatham made a move to the sideline and then was cut off by two Yale players, who didn't want him to get out of bounds. When he realized they had the sideline blocked - they would later say they thought he was out of bounds - he turned and sprinted toward the end zone, getting 32 yards downfield before being knocked out.

Blevins then threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Chisom Opara on the next play. Final score - Princeton 19, Yale 14.

Anyway, another thing about the NFL playoffs is that there has been a huge Princeton connection on the broadcasting side of things.

Tom McCarthy, who was Princeton's football and basketball play-by-play man in the 1990s, was on the Jaguars-Steelers game on Westwood One national radio. His color commentator was Ross Tucker, the former Princeton offensive lineman who had a long NFL career.

John Sadak, who did Princeton basketball after Tom, was on the Eagles-Falcons game on Westwood One. Tucker was the sideline reporter for that game.

TB saw a tweet yesterday that said that Tucker should be Jon Gruden's replacement on Monday Night Football. That's not a bad idea at all.

This weekend are the conference finals. Everyone is rooting against New England, TB assumes.

Oh, and the local New Orleans newspaper, the Times-Picayune? Its headline yesterday was one word, in giant letters, listed three times.

Go look it up. It'll make you laugh.

You do that, and TB will remind the rest of the staff here at the Office of Athletic Communications never to do that on goprincetontigers.com.

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