Here's the most baffling stat of the first half of the season:
How to explain this futility?
1. It's a coincidence.
2. A new rule, which puts the ball, after missed kick, at the spot of the placemen rather than at the line of scrimmage, has resulted in teams' trying fewer long field goals and thus practicing fewer long field goals.
3. The ball is slipperier.
We buy number 1. We don't buy number 2. Number 3 is intriguing. Just before this season the league ordered that the 24 new balls issued for each game must be untouched until they're given to the officials just before kickoff.
A new ball has a slippery sheen on it, and players—quarterbacks and kickers mainly—had been doing strange things to make the balls easier to grip and to kick. "We'd put the balls in the sauna the day before the game," says Arizona Cardinal special teams coach Al Roberts. "Then we'd put them on the floor and scrub all of that wax off them. They won't let us do that anymore."
But tour for 30? Theory number 3 is tough to get a grip on.
They Said It
"They told me I'd be committing suicide if I played football again."—Chicago running back Merril Hoge, who retired on Oct. 17 after suffering two concussions in six weeks.