Don't Be Afraid to Admit It: Refs Helped Ravens Beat Broncos in AFC Playoffs
"There's a lot to say about the dramatic, emotional Baltimore Ravens' 38-35 double overtime win over the Denver Broncos in the AFC Playoffs on Saturday.
Did it rank among the best playoff games in NFL history? One cannot say the game lacked drama as both teams punched back and forth into double overtime. But it also was one of the ugliest postseason games ever, and referee Bill Vinovich and his officiating crew decidedly influenced the game in Baltimore's favor.
Mike Pereira, the Rules Analyst at FOX Sports and former Vice President of Officiating in the National Football League, defended the officials in his piece for Fox Sports.
"You could say the officiating crew got a frigid review from my Twitter followers, many indicating that the game was not called very well," Pereira notes. "I disagree."
He begins his apologia by reminding us:
"Baltimore-Denver was a tough game to officiate. There were a lot of points scored (73), a lot of passes thrown (77) and as I mentioned, it was cold."
Apparently, games in cold weather featuring lots of points and passes are more difficult to officiate. Perhaps the NFL should institute rules to encourage more use of the ground game and move postseason games to neutral sites in Florida and Arizona.
Well, okay, the game was cold -- the coldest postseason game in Denver Broncos history. I'm glad I wasn't out there on the field as the sun set behind the Rockies and the temperature dropped into single digits. As the game went into double overtime, it also became the longest playoff game in Denver history.
Nevertheless, in a game that had followers lighting up Twitter with comments on the officiating throughout the game, Mike Pereira choses to zero in on just two plays as a basis for his defense. And I don't think either helps him make his case.
The first is Peyton Manning's third quarter fumble (or as it was so ruled) that invoked interpretations of the so-called "tuck rule." Pereira:
The tuck rule states that if a player loses possession after he tucks the ball back into his body, it is a fumble. And that was the key. Manning did get the ball all the way back to his body before it was knocked out. If the ball would have come loose when Manning was tucking it back towards his body, then it would have been an incomplete pass. But since he had tucked it back to his body, it then became a fumble.
But as the replay showed, Manning seemed to lose control of the ball as his throwing hand came down. CBS announcer Dan Dierdorf broke it down as he watched the replay together with the viewers at home: "I think Peyton Manning starts to lose control of this football... Right there, it's coming out of his [hand] and he's not able to ever regain control of the football... he's attempting to tuck it and he loses control of the football."
Attempting is the key word here; he tried to tuck it back to his body but he lost control of it in the process. By rule, that's an incomplete pass, not a fumble. Instead, it was ruled a turnover, and on a shortened field, the Ravens tied the game with a Ray Rice touchdown five plays later. More on this in a bit.
The second play Pereira cherry picks is the disputed completion to Baltimore Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin with 12:30 left in overtime. If the catch had been ruled incomplete, the Ravens would have been forced to punt to Denver from their own 22-yard line in what had become a battle for field position.
The officials ruled that Boldin had made the catch. He did bobble the ball, but he regained possession with his right hand on his way to the ground. The ball hit the ground, but in order for the pass to be ruled incomplete, Boldin would have literally had to lose possession of the ball. Boldin's right hand stayed on the ball at all times. The ground was deemed not to have aided Boldin in completing the catch, since he had possession first before he hit the ground. If the ball touches the ground simultaneously with possession being gained, then the ground is deemed to have aided in the completion of the catch and the pass is incomplete. Again, Vinovich made the correct ruling.
Pereira's statement "in order for the pass to be ruled incomplete, Boldin would have literally had to lose possession of the ball" has me stumped, as it appeared in a replay close-up this is just what happened: Boldin hit the ground in the process of completing the catch, and he momentarily trapped the ball against the ground before regaining control of it. (It should be noted: You can lose possession of the ball even though you have your hand on it.) Another bad call, it seems to me, and one which aided the Ravens in an overtime period ultimately decided by field position and won by a field goal.
But let's move on from these two plays; it's at least possible to have different interpretations of the replays. But Pereira makes a blanket statement that the game was officiated well. In doing so, he seems to ignore some of his own in-game statements on Twitter.
The tone for a poorly officiated game was set in the first quarter when Peyton Manning threw to receiver Eric Decker. Ravens cornerback Chykie Brown (who would rightly be flagged for launching himself at a defenseless receiver later in the game) prevented Decker from making the catch by wrapping up Decker's left arm before the ball arrived--a clear example of pass interference. The ball was tipped, and Ravens' Corey Graham made the interception and returned it for a touchdown.
Watching the replay, Dierdorf noted: "Now there was some contact early. There's no question that the Ravens got away with a little something there."
In Pereira's own words on Twitter at the time: "In my opinion he made contact as he was turning around and was not making a legitimate play on the ball when the contact first occurred."
But interference was not called, and so instead of a first down for the Broncos near midfield with the score tied, the Ravens now led 14-7.
As they old adage goes, "As long as you call that both ways..." But in this game, it wasn't...
(and please refrain from having a political feak-out because is is on huffingon) at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rob-ki...b_2492147.html