Did the refs hand the game to the Steelers?

Discussion in 'Politics & Religion' started by ZZZzzzzzzz, Feb 6, 2006.

  1. Game's third team upstaged Steelers, Hawks

    By Michael Smith

    DETROIT -- Three weeks ago, after the Steelers held on to upset Indianapolis, Joey Porter was unhappy about the overturning of Troy Polamalu's fourth-quarter interception that could have sealed the win much earlier. Believing that deep down the league preferred Peyton Manning and the Colts to win, Porter publicly criticized the game officials, asking them not to "take the game from us."

    Well, the Steelers can call it even now, as the officials who performed well enough throughout the season to earn the privilege of working Super Bowl XL performed Sunday as though they were trying to make it up to the Steelers by giving them the game -- not just any game, but the biggest game. And, yes, this time the other guys, the Seahawks, cried conspiracy, only not quite as loudly as Porter.

    "You know, that's what happens when the world is against you," one Seahawk said after the 21-10 loss at Ford/Heinz Field. "No one wanted us to win. They wanted Jerome Bettis to win and go out a hero, and they got it."

    Seattle had its share of goats: in particular, tight end Jerramy Stevens, who dropped four balls, and kicker Josh Brown, who missed two field-goal attempts. Almost to a man, the Seahawks pointed the blame finger at themselves for converting only one of three red zone attempts (when they had been the best in the league in that area, scoring a touchdown on 71.7 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line); for allowing Ben Roethlisberger to improvise and complete a 37-yard pass to game MVP Hines Ward to the 1; for giving up a 75-yard touchdown run to Willie Parker; and for getting beaten by a trick play on Antwaan Randle El's pass to fellow receiver Ward for a touchdown, a first in Super Bowl history. If you read between the lines, though, they pretty much spelled out in bold letters that they had plenty of help in handing Pittsburgh its fifth Lombardi Trophy.

    Namely, the boys in black and white.

    "Those things are out of our control," Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said of the three major penalties that helped change the game completely. Not saying the outcome of the game would have been any different, but for sure it would have been a different game. "That's the way [the officials] called them," Hasselbeck continued. "The Steelers played well enough to win tonight, and we didn't. They should get credit. It's disappointing, it's hard, but what are you going to do?"

    Here's what referee Bill Leavy's crew did, point blank: It robbed Seattle. The Seahawks could have played better, sure. They could have done more to overcome the poor officiating. We understand that those things happen and all, but even with all the points Seattle left on the field, there's a good chance the Seahawks would have scored more than the Steelers if the officials had let the players play.

    In the biggest game of the year, the biggest game in sports, even, the officials were just a little too visible. In that regard, the Super Bowl provided a fitting conclusion to a postseason packed with pitiful performances by the game's third team. There were incorrect down-by-contact rulings in both NFC wild-card games; a touchdown that could have gone either way and should have gone the other way -- in favor of Tampa Bay -- in the Bucs' loss to the Redskins; the Patriots got no love in Denver in being hit with a bogus pass interference penalty and not catching a break on Champ Bailey's fumble at the goal line that looked as though it could have been a touchback; and, of course, the Polamalu play.

    Still, what happened to the Seahawks wasn't the same as, say, New England going into Denver and playing badly (five turnovers) on top of the bad calls. Seattle gained almost 400 yards and turned it over just once.

    You see, you can spend weeks -- and we did; two, in fact -- analyzing and dissecting matchups and giving each team the edge in certain areas and trying to figure out how the game is going to play out, but the two things you can't account for are turnovers and officials. The latter were the X-factor Sunday. Edge: Steelers.

    It actually was a fairly clean game from a penalty standpoint, without a whole lot of yellow on the field -- 10 accepted penalties between the teams. Seven were against the Seahawks, though, a team that tied with Indianapolis for the second-fewest penalties (94) in the regular season. But those calls against the Seahawks stuck out like the Space Needle on the Seattle skyline.

    Consider: The Seahawks lost 161 yards to penalties when you combine the penalty yards (70) and the plays the flags wiped out (91). By halftime alone, when it trailed 7-3, Seattle had had 73 hard-earned yards and a touchdown eliminated.

    Hasselbeck hit Darrell Jackson with an apparent 16-yard scoring pass in the first quarter, but the play came back when Jackson was called for offensive pass interference. It was a touch foul. Jackson extended his arm, yes, but both players were fighting for position, and he didn't create any separation by doing so. It was like a referee calling a hand-check in a key moment of Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

    The Seahawks had to settle for three instead of seven.

    Still, that was early, and that one didn't change the game as much as did a holding call against Sean Locklear early in the fourth quarter with Pittsburgh leading 14-10. That one wiped out an 18-yard catch by Stevens that would have taken the ball to the 1. Locklear supposedly held Clark Haggans, so instead of first-and-goal at the 1 and the chance to complete a 98-yard touchdown drive and take a three-point lead, Seattle faced first-and-20 at the 29.

    Three plays later, Ike Taylor picked off a Hasselbeck pass, and Hasselbeck went low to make the tackle on Taylor's return and was called for a 15-yard personal foul for a low block. The Steelers set up shop at their 44. That one right there made no sense.

    Pittsburgh likes to run its trick plays in the middle of the field. Boom! Four plays later, from Seattle's 43, Randle El took a reverse and threw a sweet strike on the run to Ward. It was 21-10, and that was all she wrote. Everyone knows how important it is to play Pittsburgh with a lead or with the score tied. The Steelers don't lose when they're up by 11.

    Eleven just so happens to be the total points taken away by bogus calls. Some penalties meant points; others meant field position. A holding call in the second quarter negated Peter Warrick's 34-yard punt return that would have started Seattle in Pittsburgh territory.

    By contrast, the Steelers might have gotten a break on Roethlisberger's 1-yard touchdown plunge on third-and-goal in the second quarter. Leavy reviewed the play under the booth's orders, since it occurred inside the two-minute mark, and while still photos of an airborne Roethlisberger showed that the ball might have broken the plane of the goal line, he landed short of it and reached the ball over. It was close. Head linesman Mark Hittner didn't seem so sure of it, hesitating before signaling touchdown.

    "I don't think he scored," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said.

    It was that kind of evening for the Seahawks, who represent a town where residents know all too well that when it rains, it pours. If having what seemed like 90 percent of the 68,200 in attendance waving Terrible Towels wasn't enough to make Seattle feel as though it was playing on the road, the officials called it as though the Seahawks actually were.

    Pittsburgh capitalized on its opportunities. And guys like Bill Cowher, Ward, Dan Rooney and The Bus are all very deserving of a championship -- and it's nice to see them win one -- but it would have been better had it not happened like this. It's like the Seahawks said: Not taking anything away from the Steelers, but keep it real.

    "We had a touchdown taken away from us, the first one we scored," said Hasselbeck, who was measured in his words but clear in his frustration, "and then we had the ball at the 1-yard line, they called a penalty on us. That was unfortunate."

    "I thought they were offside [on the play Locklear was called for holding]," center Robbie Tobeck said. "I thought we had a free play on because they had two guys come across. You know, that's the game. In a game, there's situations you have to overcome, and all night long we didn't do a good job of overcoming those things, and that's something we've done all year."

    In the offseason, 31 teams will be back at the drawing board, evaluating what they need to do to knock off the Steelers in the fall. After the postseason they just had, Mike Pereira and the NFL's crew of officials would be wise to take a long, hard look at themselves. It's a real shame when, on the game's biggest stage, the major players aren't players at all. We saw too much of the third team in Super Bowl XL and not enough Seahawks and Steelers.

    Michael Smith is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
  2. I think the officials did a poor job. I feel sorry for the Seahawks. On the other hand The Bus got a ring, and I think that is the only positive outcome.
  3. TGregg


    NFL officiating has been abysmal this past year, and everybody admits it. Part of the problem is all these guys are "Weekend Warriors" - they have real jobs besides being a ref. They pay these players millions and millions of dollars, surely we can have full time referees that spend the week studying, practicing and working for free at college games.

    Having said all that, I think that the Steelers did score on that questionable play. It looked to me as if the ball did break the outer edge of the white goal line.

    As for the touching pass interference call, I've seen that called many times this past season. Just a touch, no push, no change in direction or momo of the "offended" player, no nothing. The league should clarify pass interference rules so everybody can understand and apply them - then train the full time refs to enforce them correctly.

    I didn't see the holding that was called. Maybe the ref made a bad call, or maybe he mis-ided the culprit. I've seen refs call the wrong number on penalties more than once.

    Unfortunately, bad calls are part of the game. Still hard to believe that anybody argued against the challenge rule.
  4. Steeling one: Hawks get robbed
    By Skip Bayless
    Page 2

    DETROIT -- Dear Seahawks fans:

    I've been tough on your team the last few weeks. I've called your club the Sea Frauds and said they didn't belong in a Super Bowl. After watching Sunday night's game, I believe that more than ever.

    But, as I've also written, your team was blessed all the way to Detroit. This was the first Super Bowl that found itself with two Cinderella stories. These Steelers, the AFC's bottom seed, weren't exactly Terry Bradshaw's Steelers of the late '70s.

    But although these Steelers were favored by 4 -- and although I picked them 24-14 -- I'm not sure they deserved to win this game.

    And after spending a week in Detroit, I thought the city had cleaned up most of its crime.

    The first-quarter offensive pass interference called on Darrell Jackson that turned a touchdown into a field goal was robbery enough. But the fourth-quarter holding call on Sean Locklear made you wonder whether the refs had even less of Aretha's r-e-s-p-E-c-t for your Seahawks than I do.

    At that point, your guys had overcome enough mistakes to get blown out in most Super Bowls. In fact, this one had nearly gotten out of hand midway through the third quarter, when the Steelers drove to a first-and-10 at your 11-yard line with a 14-3 lead. But on third-and-6 from the 7, Ben Roethlisberger tossed a throw into the flat that cost him the MVP award and nearly caused coach Bill Cowher's head to explode.

    It was, of course, picked off by backup cornerback Kelly Herndon and returned 76 yards. Matt Hasselbeck's 16-yard touchdown fling to Jerramy Stevens rather shockingly turned what looked like a 21-3 game into a 14-10 margin.

    And suddenly your Seahawks were going to Motown.

    Momentum Town.

    The Seahawks forced another Pittsburgh punt, and here they came again. Hasselbeck still makes me nervous because he always looks as if he's running a frantic two-minute offense. But the biggest surprise of this game was how much time Walter Jones and Co. were giving him to throw. Blitzburg, schmitzburg. Your guys had continually knocked the bullies back on their heels and turned down the volume of a Ford Field crowd that looked and sounded more like a Heinz Field crowd.

    Joey Porter, the loudest Steeler, was having the quietest game.

    And on first-and-10 at the Steelers' 19, Hasselbeck had enough time to listen to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles' "Second that Emotion" before firing another strike to Porter's favorite pregame target -- Stevens. Eighteen-yard completion! First-and-goal at the 2! Seattle about to take a 17-14 lead!

    I could almost hear Mount Rainier erupting.

    But on this night, the Steelers had their own version of your 12th Man. He wore a striped shirt and a whistle. He threw a flag.

    And Locklear went down in Seahawks history.

    Way down.

    Until the week before the NFC Championship Game, I barely knew who Locklear was. But he made national news by being charged with domestic violence after an incident with his girlfriend outside a Seattle nightclub. He did a couple of nights in jail, but coach Mike Holmgren allowed him to play pending his Feb. 13 hearing.

    Now Locklear will be forever remembered in your fair city for an entirely different reason.

    Holding, No. 75!

    On the replay, I couldn't see Locklear do anything different from what most linemen do on every play. These days, you have to tackle to hold, and Locklear didn't tackle.

    Phantom, killer penalty.

    Your guys wound up in a third-and-18, and Hasselbeck cut loose one of his mystery balls that Ike Taylor intercepted, as he should have in the first quarter. Worse, Hasselbeck was wrongly flagged for a below-the-waist block when he was trying to make the tackle. Hasselbeck was punished 15 more yards.

    At that point, your guys seemed to be hanging their heads as if they had decided the NFL just couldn't live with them winning its showcase game.

    Moments later, it took another Pittsburgh trick play -- a reverse pass by Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward for a 43-yard touchdown -- to basically ice the game on a snowy night. That made it 21-10, and that's the way it stayed.

    Too bad your Seahawks didn't have Porter in their postgame locker room. Had he been a Seahawk, he surely would have filled tapes and notebooks telling the media how the refs stole the game.

    Jackson definitely gave Steelers safety Chris Hope a little push. But it didn't give Jackson enough of an advantage to prompt a penalty. The ref called it only after Hope turned and begged for it.

    That cost your team four points, a little momentum and a little more psychological edge. The Pittsburgh offense isn't built to come from behind or to win a shootout. A 7-0 Seattle lead would have tightened the Steelers' throats more than 3-0 would have.

    The holding call on Locklear clearly cost your Seahawks seven more points. Four plus seven equals 11 -- Pittsburgh's margin of victory. And who knows how the Steelers would have responded if they had suddenly found themselves behind early in the fourth quarter?

    No, I haven't yet mentioned Roethlisberger's dive for the goal line that was ruled a touchdown late in the first half -- and upheld after a replay review. To me, it looked as if the nose of the ball barely crossed the white line while Roethlisberger was airborne. Either way, it was so close that it was inconclusive and didn't warrant a touchdown reversal.

    Besides, the odds were that Pittsburgh could have scored on fourth-and-inches. Then again, Cowher can be so conservative that he might have opted for the field goal that would have only tied the score 3-3.

    The Jackson play, the Roethlisberger play, the Locklear play -- as the Rolling Stones sang in their halftime finale, you couldn't get no satisfaction, Seahawks fans.

    Your team had only one turnover to Pittsburgh's two … and your team lost.

    Your team held Roethlisberger to a 9-for-21 night for only 123 yards, with two interceptions … and your team lost.

    Your Shaun Alexander surprised me by running for almost 100 yards (95 on 25 carries) … and your team lost.

    Your offense had almost 400 yards (396) against that vaunted Steelers defense … and your team lost.

    In the end, it lost because of two bad calls and because Pittsburgh simply made three or four more good plays. The Steelers converted 8 of 15 third downs to your 5 of 17. Too many drops and near-TD catches, too many off-target flings by Hasselbeck at crucial times, too much high-schoolish clock management by the quarterback and coach at the end of the half and game.

    I'm sorry, I still don't think he's a top-echelon quarterback. Then again, I'm not convinced Roethlisberger is the next Elway.

    The play he made that salvaged a first-half lead for the Steelers -- the scramble left and deep heave from barely behind the line of scrimmage -- should have been batted down or even intercepted by your safety Michael Boulware. Instead, Boulware made a poor play on the ball and Ward caught it.

    On Randle El's trick touchdown pass -- Pittsburgh's best pass of the night -- your cornerback Marcus Trufant took a bad angle and ran underneath it.

    So two bad plays by your defensive backs helped Ward -- who had dropped two passes, including one that should have been a touchdown -- win the MVP award. Oh, well, it was the kind of game that should have been played in Week 9. The Steelers didn't have one player on offense or defense who was clearly the difference maker.

    Your Seahawks lost this game a little more than Pittsburgh won it.

    Your defense battled its guts out and mostly stuffed Pittsburgh's run. But one breakdown allowed Willie Parker to escape untouched for a 75-yard TD. You can't overcome mistakes like that in a game like this.

    But, no, you can't overcome 11 lost points worth of penalties, either. On this night, you belonged in the Super Bowl as much as Pittsburgh did, for what that's worth.

    On this night, the only frauds wore stripes.
  5. And your point is...?
  6. Since when does ZZZzzz have a point?
  7. ktm


    The Steelers had their share of bad calls in prior games, not that there were any egregious errors here. Most notable was the Colts game when Polamalu intercepted Manning late in the game and they overturned it, despite him hitting the ground, rolling over then getting up and taking a step before fumbling the ball. There was no dispute he had control the entire time, just that it wasn't long enough. The NFL actually came out later that week and admitted it was a blown call.

    I'm a huge Steelers fan and I think the ref may have been fooled on the first TD. Maybe he saw something the cameras didn't, but Ben looked to be down, then pushed the ball forward over the line just after the knee was down. On the replay it was very very close but not enough to overturn it either way. I think if the ref had not called a TD, that it would have stood as well. The Steelers got lucky on many calls...getting good Seahawks plays called back for penalties, Jackson couldn't stay in bounds on several catches, etc...

    I figured Seattle was in deep shit after clearly outplaying Pittsburgh in the first half and still being down 7 - 3. The refs did a fine job. They have an extremely difficult task.
  8. I think it was unfortunate that the calls came on so many crucial plays, but looking at them objectively, I think they were all correct.

    The most critical call and the one that has gotten the most attention was the offensive pass interfernce call that cost a touchdown. the receiver clearly extended his arm against the DB. To me it appeared he got separation by doing it. Yes, Michael Irvin made a Hall of Fame career out of doing far worse, but they call that closer these days. If the DB had done the same thing, I'm sure they would have flagged that as well. You just cannot extend your arm against a guy right in front of the official and not get a flag.

    The Roethlesberger touchdown dive was close, but the ball clearly penetrated the goal line plane, if only by an inch and for only a moment. sorry, but that's all it takes. Holmgren looked foolish arguing it.

    The holding call that took away a completion to the goal line was tough to see from the replay. The tackle had his arm extended and was engaged with the linebacker who was blowing by him. Do you see worse every game that is not called? Yes. Do you see this situation flagged? Yes. Call it a toss up.

    The low tackle by Hasselbeck looked like a great play.l I don't like that rule that defenders can't go low on a change in possession play. What is the QB supposed to do? Let him go or get injured like Marc Bulger did when an Indy lineman cheapshotted him? That rule needs to be looked at in my opinion. Probably a bad call.

    Seattle got a close one back that no one is mentioning. Jeremy Stevens caught a pass took two steps and turned, then got blasted and coughed up the ball. The officials called it an incompletion. To me, it was close but looked like a catch and fumble. In fairness, the officials seem to give the offense the benefit of the doubt on these types of fumble or incompletion plays.

    Pittsburg was very lucky to win. That goal line interception was horrible. A field goal would have given them a 14 point lead, instead they have a 10 point swing. Seattle dominated them in the first half, and but for the penalties would have had a big lead.

    As parity gets ever more apparent, more and more games are being decided by officials. The only solution is to loosen up the rules and allow more contact with receivers and more near holding by linemen. Perhaps that would be a good trade-off. It would protect QB's from injury and still provide plenty of offense, while eliminating the touchy pass interference calls that so frequently are game turners.

    I don't think fulltime professional ref's are the answer. Look at baseball. Unionized ump's who have their own personalized interpretations of the rules and are basically immune to league discipline have ruined baseball.
  9. Arnie


    Even with the bad calls, the Steelers were ones making the big plays. I was pulling for Seattle, btw.
  10. ktm


    I was surprised they didn't ask them to look at the Stevens reception as well. He clearly caught it initially and lost it as he turned. The issue was whether he held it long enough...looked very close to me.

    I didn't see the ball break the plane on Ben's run. It was clearly headed for it, but the defenders helmet came in and pushed it back. At the point where it would have broken the plane, I think the ball was hidden, so I couldn't see exactly where the ball was when the defenders helmet made contact.
    #10     Feb 7, 2006