Sunday, February 05, 2006

Steal City: Officiating The Pitts, Gives Steelers Super Edge

Okay, I was wrong. Make it 21-10 Steelers. I was never good with math. But these numbers tell the sad story of the game: Seattle had 86 yards of offense and a touchdown nullified by referees' whistles in its Super Bowl XL loss to Pittsburgh. An Xtra Large number when you consider that in addition to the 86 positive yards taken away, the penalties moved the Seahawks backward another 70. More than 150 yards difference in the biggest game of the year.

The men in Black and Gold weren't nearly as formidable as the ones in black and white.

It wasn't just that Seattle was whistled 7 times to Pittsburgh's 3 (or 70 yards to 20). It was when the flags flew. A couple of 18-yard completions deep into Steeler territory (one at the 1 and the other at the 23) were wiped out, as was a 34-yard punt return across midfield. Throw in the highly questionable ruling on Ben Roethlisberger's (pronounced "'s") end zone dive - which from no camera angle showed the ball ever crossing the goal line - and the ridiculous 15-yard penalty on Matt Hasselbeck for the unconscionable act of tackling Ike Taylor following Taylor's 4th quarter interception, and you have all the makings of a Let's-Don't-Ruin-This-Jerome-Bettis-Homecoming/Retirement-Love-Fest-By-Letting-The-Other-Team-Up-And-Win-This-Thing conspiracy theory that'll have Seahawk fans sleepless in Seattle all summer.

I can't remember a meaningful game decided by 11 points that seemed like it could have gone the other way by at least that many.

I'm happy for Bill Cowher. He's won me over through the years with his passion, his system, and his love for his wife and three daughters. He deserved a championship. Ditto for Bettis. The Steelers certainly made some big plays, none more so than Antwaan Randle El's reverse heave to Hines Ward with 9 minutes left to provide the final margin of victory.

Seattle kicker Josh Brown didn't help by Vanderjagting two long, but makeable field goals. And Seahawks' coach Mike Holmgren - while getting big ups for his taste in spouses (his wife, Kathy, and their oldest daughter missed the game because they were on a medical mission trip to the Congo) - is anything but a sympathetic figure in the aftermath thanks to a shockingly uninspired coaching performance. Seattle ran its hurry-up offense at the end of each half with all the efficiency of an Edsel, blowing precious opportunities to score in each case. And if you're a Seahawks fan, can you really spend the offseason satisfied with Holmgren's decision to punt from his own 48 on 4th and 13 with 6:28 to play and Seattle down 11? At that point, your hopes are hanging by the last thin thread on the Go Daddy girl's spaghetti strap. If you make it, you've got plenty of time to score, kick off, force a punt, and get the ball back with a chance to tie or win the game. Even if you don't get a first, you either force a field goal or a punt, and you're still within two scores. Punting in that situation seemed so...decaf. And 'Hawks fans will have a latte time to wonder "What if?" If that's Seattle's Best, I'll pass.

Still, the Seahawks weren't their own worst enemy in their maiden Super Bowl voyage. The refs played that role. Even if a couple of the calls were technically correct, the infractions were nothing worse than you see on nearly every play of every NFL game. Worse yet, this crew breached the fraternal order of referees' one and only rule:

Call Such A Good Game That No One Notices You're There. Instead, head ref Bill Leavy is now to Seahawks fans persona non grata. And make that a Venti with extra foam at the mouth.

Actually, Pittsburgh probably had some good fortune coming after nearly having its checkered flag at Indianapolis taken by one of the worst rulings in NFL history. Kind of like trebled damages. You get the win plus two more. And it was in Detroit that another official used a single coin to take the Bus for a ride. On Thanksgiving Day 1998, Bettis called tails at the overtime coin flip, only to have referee Phil Luckett rule that he said heads. It was tails, the Lions got the ball to begin OT and promptly went downfield for the game-winning score.

An official can sleep off a Turkey Day blunder. (That particular fowl, after all, is known for its natural sedative.) But blowing the biggest game of the year by constantly interrupting the flow of the game and sucking the life out of one of the contestants by overofficiating is an entirely different animal: a goat. One that will no doubt be roasted over the open spit of Seahawks fans forever.

13 comments:

DJG said...

I agree with your assessment of the game.

I had read your score prediction earlier and as the Seahawks were going in for what would surely make the game 17-14, I thought No way Boone.....then I begin to wonder if the games were fixed, if there WAS some grand conspiracy to make the score stay within a certain range....that was the ugliest game I have watched in a long time.

Stephen Bailey said...

I saw the game, but if I hadn't I would want to read your description of it. Nice.

Matt McBryde said...

I couldn't figure out why we thought the game out why the game was so boring. I think you said it right when you mentioned how over-officiating the game messed with the flow. One of the most disappointing games I've ever seen. Great post!
M@

Randy & Kelly Vaughn said...

Came over from Stephen's and then saw we both predicted a 24-10 game. Strange. We didn't get to watch the game over here in Africa...the pre-game didn't even start until 11p our time! Sounds like I didn't miss much. Anybody see any decent commercials this year?
-Randy

Kevin Hammond said...

Whaa...whaaa...whaaaaa. Like a little cheese with that WHINE?

Wide right - give it to 'em.

Wide left - give it to 'em.

TD called back and get FG and 4 points less instead - give it to 'em.

They STILL lose by a point.

BUT the officials, they WERE bad. Doesn't overcome that all the Seahawk yardage gains were wasted on wide-kicks (THAT's where the yards do NOT equal points!) - but combine the snake-bit-ness of Seattle with the near-sighted-ness of the officials, and it became a lack-luster game.

Gimme back the Steeler/Cowboy films.

Kevin Hammond said...

...and btw - the Steal City moniker is reminiscent of Al Gore and John Kerry, isn't it?

Gimmeaneverlovinbreak...

Grant said...

Yo, Kev. I didn't pour the whine, but it smells like you've cut the cheese.

For commentary to be considered whining, in my opinion, there has to be a vested interest by the alleged whiner in what he/she is whining about.

It's not humanly possible for me to care less about Seattle. I was rooting for Cowher to go ahead and win a ring. I just couldn't believe how many ticky-tack calls went against Seattle.

And your math may actually be worse than mine.

SEA lost the TD on the holding call but kicked a FG.

That's +4.

PIT would've had 4th & inches. Cowher and Big Ben this week said they would've gone for the TD. They might've scored again or they might've been stuffed.

Leave that 7 hanging for a moment.

The first quarter holding penalty negated a first down completion to the PIT 23, which could've easily resulted in a TD or at least a FG.

That has to be at least a +3 for SEA.

There was a 34-yard punt return to the PIT 46 negated by penalty. Could've been points for SEA, but I'll let you have those points right now.

The most debilitating call was the 4th quarter holding flag that wiped out 1st and G at the PIT 1. That drive ended with a bad Hasselbeck INT, though his hand was forced a bit because the penalty led to the long 3rd down. Shaun Alexander was stopped ONE time all season and playoffs on 3rd or 4th and 1 plays.

Gotta concede the +7 there.

That puts SEA at 24 points. Even with Big Ben's disputed TD, that's at least 24-21, SEA.

That doesn't figure in things like the ridiculous low block call on Hasselbeck following the pick he threw, which gave PIT an extra 15 yards en route to their final TD. Or most important the way those points would've affected the way the game was played, i.e. confidence for SEA, lack of for PIT.

As I said, I'm glad Cowher has a championship. Class guy, really good coach, great organization.

And SEA does need get over it. There's no crying in football. They could've and should've risen above the bad calls. But in games like that in which everything is magnified, to consistently have to fight the pressure, the flags and the resulting 3rd and longs wears a team down.

Those are the facts, Kev. Next thing you're gonna try to tell me is that the Supreme Court didn't fix the 2000 election for W.

Beverly said...

Oh well, nice way for Bettis to go out..

Darren Duvall said...

I thought Seattle's offense looked pretty good for a pre-season game. Unfortunately this was the Superbowl.

The big difference in the game is that Pittsburgh failed to execute its game plan to a slightly lesser degree than Seattle. I'd almost have rather watched a tape of the last Grey Cup than that game, or if possible flipped channels to watch Indy play Carolina. Either option would have been better than the game we saw.

And what's with the 'Brown and Bubbly' thing? Pepsi apparently abandoned that stupid ad tagline before the Lombardi trophy changed hands.

Darren Duvall said...

PS: The guy on the field blew the call on the non-touchdown. The video evidence was inconclusive and insufficient to overturn, the ref made the right call on that much.

That's the nice thing about golf, I guess -- either the ball is in the bottom of the cup or it isn't.

Grant said...

...except for the time I was broadcasting Q school, the tournament that determines the final group of players who will play the PGA TOUR the following year, and poor Joe Daley rolled in a putt...only to watch it pop back out again. Over the course of the day and people pulling the flag out of the hole, the actual cup in the ground had inched its way a fraction of an inch higher. When Daley's putt rolled right in the middle of the hole, it hit the very top edge of the cup and popped back out. It was during the 4th of 6 rounds, so it wasn't like the last hole of the tournament. But sure enough, he finished Q school one stroke short of getting to play on the PGA TOUR the next year. A bitter cup to drink indeed...

Darren Duvall said...

Man, that hurts. Hadn't heard about that one.

Is it legal to push the plastic cup back into the ground? I realize it's not one of the things we think about when putting, but I bet Joe Daley won't ever putt without checking the location of the flag-holder relative to the rim.

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