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Was call missed on winning play?

There were several controversial calls by officials during the weekend's first-round playoff games, including a possible facemask penalty that was not called on the winning play in overtime of the Arizona Cardinals' triumph over the Green Bay Packers.

The Cardinals beat the Packers, 51-45, in the highest-scoring postseason game in NFL history. The Cardinals won when cornerback Michael Adams knocked the ball from the hand of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on a sack. The ball hit Rodgers's foot and, before touching the ground, was grabbed by Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby, who made the catch and ran to the end zone for the game-ending touchdown.

Replays showed that Adams grabbed Rodgers's facemask on the play. However, referee Scott Green did not call a penalty that would have nullified the Cardinals' touchdown.

According to the league, which issued a "rule explanation" Monday, a facemask penalty is a judgment call that is not reviewable by instant replay.

The NFL rulebook says "no player shall twist, turn, or pull the facemask of an opponent in any direction."

That is a 15-yard personal foul.

The NFL eliminated its five-yard version of the facemask penalty prior to the 2008 season, meaning that minor infractions were not to be called and leaving officials to decide if an incident in which a player grabs an opponent's facemask is worthy of a 15-yard personal foul.

The rulebook says that a play on which a player "incidentally grasps" an opponent's facemask in a manner that "is not a twist, turn or pull" is not a penalty.

There also was a possible helmet-to-helmet hit on Rodgers on a play earlier during the Packers' possession in overtime that went uncalled, replays showed.

In Sunday's earlier game, the Baltimore Ravens failed to issue an instant replay challenge on a play on which the officials awarded a fumble recovery to the New England Patriots on a muffed punt.

A punt by the Patriots struck a Ravens player and the ball was bouncing toward the sideline when it was grabbed by New England's Kyle Arrington.

Arrington might have been juggling the ball, replays showed, and then he lost the ball entirely after he landed on the ground out of bounds.

Ravens Coach John Harbaugh didn't challenge the call, however.

"We didn't have enough, we didn't think," Harbaugh said after the game.

By Mark Maske  |  January 11, 2010; 12:24 PM ET  | Category:  Cardinals , League , Officiating , Packers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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The truly egregious no-call was the previous play, when there was a clear helmet-to-helmet hit well after Rogers had released the ball on his pass. There can be no interpretative referee discretion on that call. It was simply missed. As the officials increasingly insert their influence in the NFL games, it is disheartening to see them lack either the attention to see the play correctly, or the integrity to call it accurately. In a very exciting, intriguing, and entertaining game, it is a shame that the officiating marred what should be considered an otherwise unquestionably outstanding win for the Cardinals, and an incredible comeback for the Packers.

Posted by: pkoeppl1 | January 12, 2010 10:40 AM

On the last play Adams was reaching for the football and in fact did make contact with it. After the ball came lose, the forward motion of his hand came to rest against Rodgers lower mask. Pretty incidental contact that didn't deserve a call. There was no twisting or pulling on Adams part but rather both players falling to the ground wraped up.

You can pick away with non-calls or even with calls made in most games but life goes on.

Posted by: JASinAZ | January 11, 2010 3:01 PM

So, if I understand this article correctly, the NFL supplied a "rule explanation" without saying whether or not a face mask penalty should have been called? That's an "explnation"?

The NFL should actually look to US Soccer to see how to handle referee questions. Every week during the MLS season, US Soccer will highlight some key calls and show how the refs did or did not do the right thing. This is not intended to blame or credit referees, but to help educate all the people out there refereeing youth games. I suspect something like this would also benefit youth football refs.

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | January 11, 2010 2:47 PM

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