Keeping Score

Is The NFL A Bunch Of Fakes?

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We always thought flopping was a problem in futbol.

Not football.

Yes, soccer critics have long lambasted the sport because its players often crumble to the ground, barely touched, when trying to draw a foul. Football, meanwhile, is played by the tough guys – gladiators – who have no reason to feign injury. They’ll get hurt the hard way.

Unless you’re a New York Giant. During the first quarter of  New York’s Monday night game against the St. Louis Rams, which the Giants won, 28-16, the Rams had a second-and-2 from New York’s 7-yard-line. The play before, Rams running back Cadillac Williams gained 8 yards. Before the ball was snapped, Giants safety Deon Grant and linebacker Jacquian Williams dropped to the turf, as if stadium snipers hit their targets.

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The refs stopped play: Rams quarterback Sam Bradford threw a fist in anger. He believed that the Giants players faked injuries to slow down the St. Louis no-huddle offense. “They couldn’t get subbed, they couldn’t line up,” Bradford said after the game. “Someone said, ‘Someone go down, someone go down,’ so someone just went down and grabbed a cramp.”

Neither Giants player admitted to flopping, so the NFL did not hand down fines or suspensions. In a violent game like football, it’s almost impossible to say – with certainty – that a downed man wasn’t injured. Still, on Wednesday the NFL sent a memo to its teams, which basically said, “Hey, guys, we know it’s impossible to police this, but please obey the honor code, and don’t fake it. If we think you’re faking, you’ll be called to the principal’s office ” – aka Roger Goodell’s disciplinary lair in New York City.

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A few things on this. First, in the NFL, it seems like some controversy emerges every week to fill the void between games. Last week, Tom Brady urged New England fans to drink before the Pats’ home opener. As if they weren’t going to do so anyway. This week, the fake injures are the big issue. Guess it beats run-ins with the law.

Second, these aren’t the first trickery allegations in the NFL. As a piece on NFL.com points out, in 1995 Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy accused the Cleveland Browns of faking injuries in order to slow down Buffalo’s no-huddle offense. The coach of the Browns took particular exception. “I think that’s a bunch of garbage,” said Bill Belichick, who was apparently much feistier, at least in public, back in the day. “It’s hard for me to have respect for Levy for saying that . . . Unfortunately, he (Levy) didn’t call more plays against us, like he did against Carolina. There’s a guy, Jim Kelly, who can run an offense and move an offense.  I think it’s a disgrace for him to make comments like that.” We’d love to see Belichick talk smack to his modern-day nemesis, motormouth Jets coach Rex Ryan, like that.

Third, this is very bad news for Giants fans.  If you need to go gimp to stop these St. Louis Rams – they’re far from the Greatest Show On Turf –  your defense has problems.

And lastly, those Giants players are horrible actors. We watched the replay a few times, and it’s obvious that something was up.  They could use some acting lessons. Hey, soccer guys, can you help?

Sean Gregory is a staff writer at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @seanmgregory. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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