NFL Playoff Preview
Cowboys-Lions playoff matchup has far more compelling storylines than silly grudge
Grudges are meant to be avenged. They’re also meant to be remembered. So is it really a grudge if you have to be reminded it’s a grudge? Perhaps we’ll find out on Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys host the Detroit Lions in an NFC Wild Card playoff game, the Cowboys’ first playoff game in five years.
So what’s this grudge you ask? Why it’s Cowboys safety Barry Church vs. Lions wide receiver Golden Tate. But you knew that before Church brought it up on the radio on Wednesday, right?
No? Well you’re not alone if you needed prompting. Follow along.
The Lions’ Golden Tate said that this grudge could serve as a distraction for the Cowboys. Please. This is a speed bump.
In October 2012, the Cowboys played the Seahawks in Seattle. During that game, Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee was pursuing a ball carrier when Tate blocked Lee from his blind side. In football parlance it’s called a crackback block, and it’s illegal in certain places on the field.
Tate wasn’t flagged and flexed a bicep as he stood over Lee. Fortunately Lee wasn’t hurt. The NFL did fine Tate $21,000. But except for Lee’s bringing up the block the following week to local reporters, the incident was largely forgotten by locals.
That is, until Wednesday. Tate is now a Lions receiver, and Church brought up the play during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan. He said that he and Lee had talked about the play while the pair was flying back with the team after beating Washington last weekend.
Lee told Church that he really wished he could play on Sunday so he could get some measure of payback for the hit. Lee, of course, can’t play, as he’s still recovering from a knee injury that ended his season in May. So Church told Lee he would be more than happy to be his proxy.
“We’re definitely going to keep our radar out for [Tate] because that was a dirty shot,” Church said. “We’re looking forward to seeing him. We’ll definitely get him back after that, but it will be within the rules, within the rules.”
That naturally led Detroit beat reporters, anticipating a hot quote, to beat a path to Tate’s locker shortly after Church’s comments hit the Internet. They told Tate what Church said, and Tate’s reaction was one of bemused bewilderment.
“Man, I don’t know this guy,” Tate said to reporters.
In fact, Tate seemed more interested in letting everyone know that he appealed that fine, but lost, and that he was fined for a similar hit the following year and won that appeal.
Essentially Tate met the grudge with a shoulder shrug.
If this all seems a little eighth grade, you’re not far off. I’m amazed these days at how tepid some of these “grudges” can be. Growing up, we had the “Bounty Bowl,” the infamous 1989 Eagles-Cowboys game where Eagles coach Buddy Ryan supposedly put a bounty on Cowboys kicker Luis Zendejas, igniting a hatred between those two teams that hasn’t really gone away. Not that’s a grudge.
Tate said that this could serve as a distraction for the Cowboys. Please. This is a speed bump toward a playoff matchup with far more compelling storylines.
In Dallas there’s the revitalization of Tony Romo, the greatness of DeMarco Murray and the emergence of a competent Cowboys defense. In Detroit there’s the miracle that is Ndamukong Suh’s dodging a suspension for stepping on Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Lions’ dominant defensive line and the first meeting with wide receiver Calvin Johnson since he scalded the Cowboys’ secondary for 324 receiving yards last year.
Those storylines will have far more bearing on the outcome of Sunday’s playoff game than a 2-year-old grudge that most of us need prompting to remember — including the antagonist.