Raise your hand if you've ever been watching a game with the crew, everyone's into it, everyone's locked into the drive, nobody wants to get up to get another piece of pizza or else they'll miss a Top-10 play, and...
"BRRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEET (that's the best onomatopoeia I've got for a whistle) ILLEGAL CONTACT, DEFENSE. Five yard penalty, automatic first down."
If it seems like NFL refs are calling pass interference and illegal contact like they're handing out foul calls on LeBron James, you'd be right - and, according to Bill Belichick, the man to thank is former Patriots star cornerback Ty Law, who's a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year.
We'll let Bill explain.
From ESPN Boston, here's what Belichick had to say when he was asked about whether Law was the best cornerback in the league back in his day (and you could make a pretty convincing argument that he was):
"He's pretty good."
(He had more to say, of course, just thought it should be pointed out that Bill's assessment of a Hall of Fame nominated, two-time All-Pro, five-time Pro Bowl cornerback with 53 career interceptions and three Super Bowl rings, is "pretty good".)
"When they start...I don't want to say changing the rules, but changing the rules because of the way he plays, there's probably something to be said for that."
"I know they didn't 'change them' change them, but we all know what happened."
"Great player. Really no weaknesses in Ty's game. Strong, physical tackler. Could jam receivers. Good coverage player. Great hands. Interceptor. I really enjoyed coaching him in '96 as a position coach, and just spending a lot of individual time with him as his coach. We had a good group that year - Lawyer (Milloy), Otis (Smith), Tebucky (Jones), Scooter (McGruder) and those guys."
As far as what went down with the rule change Bill's referencing, allow us to explain.
In the early 2000s, the Patriots were already busy making enemies out of precision passing attacks like the Greatest Show on Turf St. Louis Rams and Peyton Manning's Colts teams because New England's defensive backs, especially Ty Law and Rodney Harrison, ruined wide receivers' lives by knocking them off their routes all over the field. Deep routes, breaking routes, whatever, Law and friends were pushing, pulling, knocking, swiping, and everything else to make sure guys like Marvin Harrison, Isaac Bruce, Torrey Holt, and Ricky Proehl didn't get their hands on a pass, period, end of story. Depending on who you were rooting for, it was either right at the edge of the rules, or blatantly disregarding a penalty that was barely, if ever, called at the time.
(For you young guns out there, imagine a world where receivers didn't look back after every pass begging for a flag. It was pretty good, I'll tell you.)
There was also the famous switch-a-roo that Ty Law and Rodney Harrison pulled to shut down Marvin Harrison in the 2003 playoffs - specifically, the AFC Championship, where Law and Harrison would trade off playing corner and safety - one would jam and bump Harrison off the line, and the other would play over the top or run with the route to prevent Marvin from burning them long. Marvin Harrison ended up with a stat line in that game that most rookies playing hung over would be ashamed of - 3 catches for 19 yards.
The year after that, Colts president Bill Polian realized that his team's strategy wouldn't work against a physical pass defense like New England's, and informed head coach Tony Dungy to adjust his game plans accordingly.
Just kidding! Polian whined to the NFL about his poor receivers getting manhandled, and the following year, the NFL issued a "point of emphasis edict", which, as the New York Times put it, "...the league issued a point of emphasis edict from the competition committee about how illegal contact would be officiated. Since then, defenders have had to be more careful about touching receivers beyond that first 5 yards of play."
That's what Belichick was referring to, and aside from being Peyton Manning's worst nightmare, it just may be another big part of Ty Law's lasting legacy on the NFL.