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Getting It Wrong, Playoff Edition


The NFL playoffs are supposed to showcase the best in professional football, and that includes not only the games, players and coaches but also officiating. That certainly wasn't the case this past weekend, when two clearly blown calls unfolded before tens of thousands of spectators at LP Field and Giants Stadium as well as millions more watching on television.

The first gaffe came late in Baltimore's 13-10 victory over Tennessee in Nashville on Saturday. After Ravens running back Willis McGahee ran for two yards, Baltimore faced third and two with just under three minutes to play. Then as Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was calling the signals before the snap, the play clock expired.

Officials, however, did not call delay of game, and Flacco completed a 23-yard pass to tight end Todd Heap. Six plays later, the Ravens got a 43-yard field goal from Matt Stover for the final margin.

"The back judge is responsible for that," referee Terry McAulay said about the play clock. "He has the clock. When it hits zero . . . he goes to the ball. So there is going to be a natural delay from zero to getting to the ball. And when he gets to the ball, if it is being snapped, we don't call it."

You could call that missed penalty redemptive karma for Baltimore, which lost to the Titans in the regular season on a highly questionable personal foul against Terrell Suggs. Officials flagged the Ravens linebacker for roughing quarterback Kerry Collins even though replays appeared to show no such contact. Tennessee went on to score the winning touchdown in a 13-10 triumph.

The other egregious officiating error took place in Philadephia's 23-11 win against the New York Giants yesterday.

With 2:56 to play in the third quarter, Giants cornerback Corey Webster was called for pass interference against wide receiver Kevin Curtis. Replays showed Webster had a hold of Curtis's left shoulder, preventing him from catching the pass.

The play happened in front of Giants Coach Tom Coughlin, who vigorously protested the call. After huddling, officials retracted the penalty, leaving Eagles Coach
Andy Reid incredulous.

Pass interference penalties absolutely should be reviewable. How many times have there been iffy pass intereference calls that significantly have affected the outcome of a game? Too many to count probably.

Coaches also should be permitted to challenge play clock violations. After all, how difficult would it be for an official to determine a delay of game if he were able to watch the play clock and the snap on video replay?

It would be madness to allow all penalties to be reviewable. For starters, games would take hours longer to complete. Imagine how insufferable games would be if coaches were allowed to challenge holding penalties, for example.

But allowing coaches to challenge certain other infractions would go a long way toward preserving the competitive integrity of the game.

By Gene Wang  |  January 12, 2009; 8:46 AM ET  | Category:  Refs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Pass interference calls should absolutely NOT be reviewable. Unlike ball spot, fumbles , incomplete passes, 12 men, and other reviewable calls, pass interference is a judgement call based on a refs interpretation of the rule combined with his interpretation of the events. If you make pass interference reviewable, you have to make penalties like holding reviewable too, and that would be ridiculous. You can't make something reviewable just because the call makes a big difference. It has to be something that can, conceivably, be objectively overturned by film review, and not something open to interpreation even on film.

Posted by: grimesman | January 12, 2009 3:57 PM

So if the "back judge" takes too long to "get to the ball", delay of game is not called?!? What's wrong with the back judge blowing his whistle?

By all means, delay of game should be reviewable. Other than 12 players on the field (something else that should be reviewable if not already), it may be the easiest call to review! And yes, PI should also be reviewable.

There was another play this weekend where someone was called for holding because they had were grabbing the jersey just above the belly. The annoucer said that since the run was outside, it was called; if the run was up the middle, it wouldn't be. I always thought as long as you had your hands on the inside it wasn't holding. Why does it matter where the runner goes as to whether or not it is holding?

Posted by: Dougmacintyre | January 12, 2009 4:12 PM

grimesman, while I agree that the game would take too long, something has to be done about the pass interference calls...the calls are never consistent and the result is far too severe. Rather than make them reviewable, why don't they change it to a 10-15 yard penalty + first down, or the spot of the foul depending on which is farther? it'll give peoplw a lot less to complain about.


Concering the holding call, what he meant was that if the run had gone inside, you wouldn't have seen the hold because the defender wouldn't have gone to the outside. No matter where your hands are you can't grab jersey and hold onto it if the defender tried to go a different way. The stretch in the jersey is a dead giveaway for a hold.

Posted by: remain | January 12, 2009 5:31 PM

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