08 February 2006

Whine And Haterade

Okay, so everybody and their dog and the monkeys and jackasses at CareerBuilder.com has been talking about the Super Bowl officiating "mistakes". Granted, I am a Steelers fan, so there's probably no way some of you will believe I'm trying to be objective here, but I'm going to do my best.

First, the game. It wasn't what either team's fanbase was hoping for, in terms of execution. It wasn't what we expected to see, based on what we'd seen in the Conference Championship games. Seattle was doing a good job for the most part of moving the ball early on, and the Steelers struggled. Defensively, I thought Pittsburgh did a pretty good job when it mattered most, but they weren't dominating the game like they'd done against Indy and Denver. Later in the game, Seattle didn't do much to help themselves out of the hole they'd dug for themselves. I'm actually kind of puzzled that they gave up on the run so early, especially when they were gaining about 5 yards a pop. Their clock-management was a little baffling also.

Now, the officiating. All this conspiracy talk is horseshit, and any reasonable person knows it. The referees were not paid off. The NFL set the site of the game to be Detroit so far in advance (4 years, in fact - last May, they announced that the 2009 Super Bowl would be in Tampa) that suggesting it was so close to Pittsburgh on purpose is ludicrous. Remember back in early December, the Steelers were a 7-5 team, staring at the very real possibility that they wouldn't even make the playoffs. And where was all this 'conspiracy' talk when the Patriots won in 2001? Additionally, the refs weren't the ones dropping passes, missing field goals, and mis-managing the clock.

The officials made some mistakes, let there be no doubt. However, the calls most people are whining about weren't among them, with one exception. Let's take a tour...

First stop: the Offensive Holding penalties. The rules basically say you can't encircle, hook, or hang onto an opponent when blocking, and you have to keep your hands from going "outside the framework" of the defender. Anyone who knows football understands that offensive holding pretty much happens on every play, and the real issue is whether or not you get caught. The two calls that went against Seattle for holding were legit. In both cases, the blockers had their hands outside the framework and had hooked their arm around the defender. The call against Locklear seems even more clear after watching it several times, and you can see he grabbed Haggans' shoulder pad and jersey. When I re-watched the game, the Steelers did a little holding here and there, but I didn't see any instance where they'd done what Seattle got flagged for. I also saw that the refs missed an even more obvious hold by Seattle against Aaron Smith, but I don't recall if it affected the play. Heck, there was one holding penalty against Locklear, again holding Haggans, that was called and declined because Haggans ended up beating the hold and getting the sack.

Second: the Offensive Pass Interference call. Pushing off the defender happens a lot in games, and a lot of times it's missed because the official nearest the play isn't in a good position to see it. The rules say that Offensive Pass Interference includes "Initiating contact with a defender by shoving or pushing off thus creating a separation in an attempt to catch a pass." A look at the replay clearly shows Darrell Jackson pushing off Chris Hope in the end zone. Granted, I don't think Hope had a shot at knocking the ball away, even if he wasn't shoved, and I don't think Jackson got all that much separation, but it was noticeable on the replays. Also - and perhaps most importantly - this happened right in front of an official. For anyone arguing that the zebra only threw the flag after Hope lobbied for it, the official was grabbing for his flag right after the play anyway. The reason it came out late was that the official missed the flag and grabbed something else first (look like maybe it was that blue change-of-posession beanie or something). Let's also keep in mind that the refs called Steelers TE Heath Miller for Offensive Pass Interference, but there was no replay of it on TV or any discussion of what happened, either on the field or afterward - so who knows for sure what happened there...

Third: Darrell Jackson's catch out-of-bounds near the pylon. Yes, he did clearly contact the pylon. The problem is, he only had one foot in-bounds, and contacting the pylon does not constitute being in-bounds. The rules regarding forward pass completion say "A forward pass is complete when a receiver clearly possesses the pass and touches the ground with both feet inbounds while in possession of the ball." The pylons are outside the field of play, and are also not used as indicators of whether or not a player established position in-bounds. Jackson got one foot in-bounds, but not the other.

Fourth: The Roethlisberger TD. I know Ben didn't think he got in - he stated as much when he was on Letterman the other night. However, the call on the field was 'touchdown', and after looking at the replays, nobody can conclusively argue either way without making some assumptions - you can't clearly see the ball. The ball must break the plane of the goal line, and the rules state that the goal line is in the end zone, therefore if the ball is over any portion of the line, it's a touchdown. On this play, the ball is in Ben's hand, with the point of the ball somewhere between his armband and his elbow. Roethlisberger's forearm, from his elbow to just past his armband broke the plane of the goal line (and therefore so did some portion of the ball, based on how he was holding it) before he landed and before the ball was pushed underneath him by the defender. Remember, the ball has to break the plane of the goal line (it did) while the player is in possession of it (he was), and in-bounds (he was). I'll admit my assessment of this is based on an assumption, but when I look at the replay and how Roethlisberger was holding the ball, I don't see how he didn't break the plane before he landed.

After looking at it yet again, one could argue that the Seattle defender actually knocked the ball out of Roethlisberger's hand before he landed - making it a fumble, which Ben recovered posession of (two hands) on the goal line (still a TD).

Fifth: The Personal Foul on Hasselbeck, as he was taclking Ike Taylor, who had intercepted his pass. The refs screwed this one up, IMO. Hasselbeck was tackling Taylor. He wasn't going low on Townsend, who was intending to block for Taylor, but wasn't in front of him. Therefore, Townsend didn't have a chance to block for Taylor, and Hasselbeck . Bad call, IMO.

Sixth: Here's an obvious one they missed, but nobody is talking about it, because the Steelers won anyway. On Kelly Herndon's interception of Ben Roethlisberger, the run-back was helped in part due to an illegal block in the back. Roethlisberger was pushed - clearly - in the back as he was trying to run down and tackle Herndon.

Somebody put together a video that goes into these and more. I believe the guy who put this together is a Steelers fan, so you non-believers should take it with a grain of salt. There are a couple mistakes in the video, but generally, it's spot-on. It's a huge file, though, and you'll need the DivX CODEC if you want to watch it. CLICKY


Anonymous said...

From a Seattle fan- I think the game was damn near unwatchable, and I disagree with some of your analysis on the calls. The officiating was crap, period. And, to be honest (though probably biased) I think the Seahawks outplayed Pitsburgh for about 80% of the game.

Having said this, I never expected Seattle to win, and even if the calls had gone their way I still think the Steelers would have won. They were better coached (especially when you look at Seattle's baffling plays and clock management at the end of each half), and although they didn't play as well as they should have, they never seemed to panic or get frustrated.

I love the Seahawks, but I gotta be honest: the Steelers are a better team and everyone knows it. However, neither team played as well as they should have, due at least in some part to the crap officiating which destroyed the rhythym of the game.

If the calls had been better, then I have to confess I think the Steelers would have stepped it up and still beaten Seattle.

Ghost Dog said...

Hey Anon - thanks for the response.
I'm interested in which of my points you disagree with. My guess is it's my take on the Roethlisberger TD, but can't imagine what else.