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(January 16, 2012)

Being a lifetime CFL fan, it hurts me a little to admit I was sitting on the edge of my seat watching the to and fro of the San Francisco 49ers 36-32 win over the New Orleans Saints on Saturday.

It was terrific entertainment.

The thing that eased my conscience was the fact the NFL offences are becoming more CFL-like what with passing on first down and only having one running back and using the other back spot as an extra receiver.

In fact, all four of the NFL playoff games had their moments. I must confess I don't follow the American league very closely so I'm not certain when the philosophy changed and they let some imagination into the offensive game.

It used to be they almost never passed on first down and seldom on second. With some coaching staffs, passing seemed to be regarded as a necessary evil to be used in third-and-long situations only.

Things have changed. They even allow quarterbacks to roll out and employ the option of running once in a while. There are a lot more athletic, multi dimensional quarterbacks these days and that might partly explain the change in thinking and encouraged more imagination from the suddenly brave offensive coordinators.

Whatever the reasons, it has made the NFL a wide-open, more exciting game. And more like the CFL.

Here's something B.C. Lions fans should consider; if quarterback Travis Lulay repeats his most outstanding player 2011 season he culminated by winning the Grey Cup, some NFL teams might be more than a little interested in taking another look at him. He'll be a free agent at the end of the 2012 season and still only 29.

But the CFL brains should be looking at how few penalty flags the referees throw in the NFL compared to the CFL. Of course all the motion and the size of the field up here make things tougher for the officials, but the CFL guys call at least three times the number of penalties on the line of scrimmage than their NFL counterparts. Saturday and Sunday, there were no penalties called on either Baltimore Ravens or New Orleans Saints. New England was only penalized twice and Houston three times.

I didn't watch every minute of all four NFL games on the weekend, but in what I did see, I only noticed one offensive holding call. Four CFL games would produce at least 15 holding calls and a summit meeting after every one of them.

The constant conferencing by the officials is something the CFL could and most definitely should get rid of. Or don't call so many pointless penalties.

The NFL is certainly superior in both of those parts of the game and is quickly gaining in the others.

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Kent Gilchrist, originally from Souris, Man., was a former Vancouver Province Sports Editor and Columnist who covered Olympic Games, Stanley Cup finals, the Kentucky Derby, The Masters, U.S. and Canadian Opens, PGA Championships and many Grey Cups. For more than a decade Gilchrist was the Province beat reporter with the BC Lions. In 2005 he was inducted into the CFL's Football Reporters of Canada Hall of Fame. Now semi-retired, Cookie is a freelance journalist for a variety of major publications and a globe trotting commentator for BC Golf News.

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