NFL Football and the Phenomenon of Ties

By Bryan Knowles

Donovan McNabb is still waiting for the teams to retake the field.

On Sunday, the Rams came within spitting distance of knocking off the San Francisco 49ers, but couldn’t quite get it done. On Sunday, the 49ers nearly overcame the loss of their starting quarterback to hold on against the St. Louis Rams, but fell a little bit short. End result? A tie, 24-24 – the first NFL tie since 2008. The most common reaction? Befuddlement.

Patrick Willis, all-pro linebacker? “I don’t know what to make of this,” he said, after the game. “It just feels like it’s unfinished business,” Tarell Brown added.

Unfinished business it is. Here’s some notes and thoughts coming out of the rarest of all NFL outcomes.

  • First and foremost, the calls for Colin Kaepernick to take over as the 49ers starting quarterback? Probably over and done with. Kaepernick didn’t make any huge mistakes, going 11-17 for over a hundred yards in just over a half of action and leading the 49ers from behind twice, but the 49ers offense seemed out of synch all day, with their one notable drive being an Alex Smith led one, just before he came out. Kaepernick put the ball on the ground several times, and it was fortunate that the ball bounced to teammates each time.
  • Alex Smith’s availability for next week will be in question. Because he had a concussion, he has to go through all of the new tests by third party doctors before being cleared to return to practice. If you want a silver lining there, Smith has an extra day to rest because their next game is on Monday night against the Chicago Bears.
  • Speaking of which, both teams will come into that Monday night game with concussed starters, as the Texans brutally battered the Bears on a brisk night in the windy city. Jay Cutler had to leave the game with a concussion, replaced by Jason Campbell. Each quarterback’s availability will be key storylines going into the game.
  • The 49ers can spin this as surviving without their quarterback. The Rams need to dig a little harder. They had two chances to put the 49ers away and put the game in the win column in overtime, but came up short both times. At the beginning over overtime, Sam Bradford hit Danny Amendola with a beauty 80 yard pass that would have had the ball inside to the five, but a mental error – an illegal formation – nullified it. Later, iron-legged rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein booted the game winning field goal, only for it to be called back due to a delay of game penalty.
  • That being said, the Rams were 2-14 last year, and to hold the 49ers to a draw has to be a positive. Sam Bradford and Danny Amendola lit up the 49ers all day long, even without the 80 yard overtime bomb. Bradford was 11 for 12 targeting Amendola for over 100 yards. The third quarter was especially impressive, as they kept the ball away from the 49ers for nearly the entire quarter as they were trying to build a come from behind victory.
  • NFL Football and the Phenomenon of Ties
    November 11, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) argues with umpire Garth DeFelice (53, left) after the Rams were called with illegal formation during the overtime against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park. The 49ers and the Rams tied 24-24. Photo Courtesy By Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE.
  • The Rams are not realistically going to make any playoff noise this year, but this result could end up springing them towards bigger and better things. It breaks a painful three game losing stream, and they get the suddenly inept Jets at home next week, with a winnable game against the Cardinals after that. They could well be over .500 by the time Week 13 rolls around.
  • Why week 13? Why, it’s the rematch, of course. Just three weeks after this, the two teams will go back at it in St. Louis. The two teams are nearly tied in the all-time standings – the 49ers lead the all-time series 62-61-3 -- and you know both teams will be eager to take care of unfinished business. Could that be flexed to Sunday Night Football? Well, probably not – Pittsburgh/Baltimore, Seattle/Chicago, and New England/Miami all look like more important matchups. Don’t be too stunned if the NFL moves it back to the afternoon slot, though, in an attempt to get the suddenly intriguing rematch into more homes.
  • A tie isn’t as good as a win, but maybe it feels like it for the 49ers. Their top rivals in the NFC all lost – the Falcons fell to the Saints for their first loss of the season, the Giants got embarrassed by the Bengals, and the Bears got beaten up by the Texans. It’s quite possible that, say, the 49ers and Giants will both end up with 11 wins at the end of the year, with the tie ending up sliding the 49ers into a higher slot.
  • Well, maybe they didn’t all lose – the Seahawks probably had the best day of any NFL team Sunday. Not because they looked spectacular, although their 28-7 win over the Jets was more dominant than the score line indicates, but because all of a sudden, they’re breathing down the 49ers necks again in the NFC West. Already owning key wildcard tiebreakers against the Packers and Vikings due to head to head wins, they now have their eyes set on a bigger prize. After their bye next week, they’ve got a schedule lined up for them – but they might have to sweep it in order to take the West. They get home games against each of their NFC West rivals, including a huge week 16 game against the 49ers, and road games against the Dolphins, Bills, and Bears. It’s a tough row to hoe, certainly, but it’s not undoable.
  • What does a tie mean for a team, anyway? Well, since overtime entered the NFL rulebook in 1974, there have been 18 ties – 17 before today. Of the 34 teams that played to a tie, 15 entered with a winning record, and 14 of them ended up making the playoffs – most recently the 2008 Philadelphia Eagles. That game is most remembered now, of course, for Eagles QB Donovan McNabb not knowing that an NFL game could end in a tie, and giving sportswriters like myself something to bring up every time a tie happens from now on. The Eagles made it all the way to the conference championship game that year, before the Arizona Cardinals sent them packing.

"It's a weird feeling. I've never been a part of a game like that before,” said Rams QB Sam Bradford. And he’ll likely never be there again. Ties. Ties are weird. Let’s just make that Week 13 game count double and pretend this never happened.



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