Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

09 Feb 2006

EPC: Sean Locklear and the 22 Uncalled Holds

By Michael David Smith

Hand(s) or arm(s) that encircle a defender -- i.e., hook an opponent -- are to be considered illegal and officials are to call a foul for holding. Blocker cannot use his hands or arms to push from behind, hang onto, or encircle an opponent in a manner that restricts his movement as the play develops.

-- Digest of rules, 2005 NFL Record & Fact Book, Page 770

By the above definition of holding, Seattle Seahawks right tackle Sean Locklear committed holding on the controversial fifth play of the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XL. He hooked his right arm around the right shoulder of Pittsburgh linebacker Clark Haggans and restricted Haggans' movement. The call negated a pass that would have given Seattle first-and-goal at the 1-yard line. By the letter of the rules, it was the right call.

But if something is a penalty on one play, it should be a penalty on every play. And during the rest of the game, the officials didn't enforce holding by the letter of the rules. To determine whether the holding call was justified, I studied the tape of Super Bowl XL, watching both offensive tackles on every passing play to see how often they committed the type of infraction for which Locklear was penalized. The results are bad news for the NFL: Using the standard that was applied to Locklear on the infamous play, the four offensive tackles committed 22 uncalled holding penalties on passing plays.

By the letter of the rules, Locklear committed holding 10 times (he was flagged twice). Seattle left tackle Walter Jones should have been called six times. Pittsburgh tackles Marvel Smith and Max Starks should have been called four times each.

Here we present each of the four tackles and the plays on which they should have been flagged for holding:

Sean Locklear

Third-and-9, 12:40, first quarter: As Haggans rushed to the inside, Locklear reached his left arm out and hooked Haggans' left shoulder. Locklear was called for holding, and Haggans sacked Hasselbeck anyway.
Third-and-16, 5:53, first quarter: As Haggans rushed to the outside, Locklear used his arm to hang onto Haggans.
Third-and-23, 0:35, first quarter: At first Locklear engaged Haggans and seemed to get the better of the matchup, but as Haggans broke free and tried to rush to the outside, Locklear hooked him.
Third-and-5, 14:11, second quarter: Locklear got an arm around Haggans as Hasselbeck completed a pass to Joe Jurevicius.
Third-and-3, 8:47, second quarter: Haggans rushed to the inside and Locklear stuck his left arm out to restrict his rush.
Third-and-4, 13:45, third quarter: Locklear hooked defensive end Brett Keisel.
Third-and-15, 4:30, third quarter: Locklear wrapped his right arm around Haggans.
Third-and-5, 14:17, fourth quarter: Locklear hooked Haggans.
First-and-10, 12:35, fourth quarter: The infamous penalty call. Locklear's hold was no more flagrant here than on any of the previous seven uncalled holds. After he was flagged a second time, Seattle adjusted its offense to keep Locklear from having to block Haggans' outside rush, giving him outside help from Mack Strong for the rest of the game.
Second-and-10, 0:34, fourth quarter: One last time, Locklear hooked Haggans.

Walter Jones

Third-and-9, 12:40, first quarter: This was the first time Locklear was called for holding, and using the strict standard, Jones also should have been called. He hooked his left arm around Joey Porter.
Third-and-16, 5:53, first quarter: Smith again tried to get past Jones to the outside, and Jones hooked him.
First-and-10, 2:08, first quarter: This was the Darrell Jackson touchdown that was called back for offensive pass interference. If the officials had used the strict definition of holding all game, it also would have been called back for Jones getting his left arm around Porter as Porter rushed upfield.
Second-and-6, 1:13, second quarter: Porter tried to beat Jones to the inside, and Jones stuck his right arm around Porter's midsection.
Third-and-4, 13:45, third quarter: Jones used his left arm around Porter on an outside rush.
Third-and-15, 4:30, third quarter: Jones hooked Kimo von Oelhoffen with his left arm on an outside pass rush.

Max Starks

Third-and-19, 10:32, first quarter: Starks blatantly hooked Bryce Fisher -- a much more egregious hold than the one for which Locklear was flagged.
First-and-10, 4:53, second quarter: Craig Terrill looped to the outside and Starks hooked him with his right arm.
Second-and-10, 4:47, second quarter: Fisher rushed to the outside and Starks hooked him.
Third-and-4, 10:27, third quarter: Starks encircled Fisher with his right arm.

Marvel Smith

Third-and-19, 10:32, first quarter: Smith held Grant Wistrom.
First-and-10, 0:17, first quarter: Smith hooked Wistrom, then encircled him with both arms.
Second-and-20, 4:21, second quarter: Smith held Wistrom, Wistrom beat him for a sack anyway.
Third-and-2, 2:58, third quarter: Smith hooked Wistrom.

That's 16 uncalled holding penalties on Seattle and eight on Pittsburgh. Because Seattle passed more than twice as often as Pittsburgh did, Pittsburgh's tackles actually committed holding at a higher rate than Seattle's, although the Steelers were never flagged.

If the officials had called holding on two inconsequential plays and ignored it the rest of the time, no one would much care. But Locklear's penalty negated an 18-yard Jerramy Stevens catch that would have given the Seahawks first-and-goal from the one-yard line, where they very likely would have scored and taken a 17-14 lead with less than 12 minutes remaining in the game. Instead they faced first-and-20 from the 29-yard line, Matt Hasselbeck threw an interception three plays later, and Pittsburgh's subsequent touchdown effectively ended the game.

These are my opinions. Someone else watching the same plays might come to different conclusions, thinking there were more or fewer than 22 uncalled holds on the offensive tackles. But no fair observer can say that given the way the rest of the game was called, Locklear should have been assessed that game-changing penalty. Just as in boxing, two judges can watch the same fights and see different things, but when a judge goes beyond the pale, impartial analysts need to call him on it.

And if the NFL doesn't like having its officials compared to boxing judges, a good way to start would be to improve the way it defines penalties. The NFL needs tighten the definition of holding. Change the rules so that the actions described above, which happen on every play, are legal. Then, whatever is contained within the new, more narrow definition, needs to be called consistently and always.

As it stands, the definition of holding is a joke. Here's another part of the NFL's digest of rules:

A runner may ward off opponents with his hands and arms but no other player on offense may use his hands or arms to obstruct an opponent by grasping with hands, pushing, or encircling any part of his body during a block.

Pushing? PUSHING? If pushing is illegal, does anyone out there -- fan, player, coach, referee -- have a clue what is legal? Is there ever a play when an offensive lineman doesn't push a defensive lineman? The NFL has some explaining to do.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 09 Feb 2006

369 comments, Last at 11 Nov 2006, 4:27pm by dave

Comments

301
by Kal (not verified) :: Fri, 02/10/2006 - 8:41pm

One thing I think that this game kind of indicates is that DVOA needs to do a better job rewarding big plays. Perhaps have some kind of 'bigger success' metric or something for DPAR. Another possibility is to discount penalties at a greater clip; to my knowledge it looks at situations but not at how those situations were arrived at, and a more heavily penalized team is going to be worse than a less penalized team, all other things being equal.

Stuff to talk about in the offseason (sniff) I suppose.

302
by Flippo (not verified) :: Fri, 02/10/2006 - 9:38pm

It continues to amaze all non Steeler football fans how defensive they are when the facts are pointed out that they greatly benefited from all the penalties the refs called on Seattle. I recall their outrage when the refs jacked them in Indy's favor on the "interception" and they did not stop "whining" and "didn't get over it" to the extent one of their fans attacked the ref's house.
All nitpicking aside, the 49ers, Texans, and Cardinals could beat the Steelers every time if the refs called the as one sided against the Steelers in favor of these lesser teams. There was no way Seattle or any other team could "suck it up" and overcome such obstacles. No team can successfully game plan for playing against another team plus the refs. NO TEAM! That is why all true football fans and football lost big time in this last Stupor Bowl. The fact that the NFL continues to hide its head in the sand and claim everything is fine is exactly the same slippery slope the emperor's new clothes came from. All of us football fans, including those Steeler fans who can be honest with themselves, will not be happy with this last Stupor Bowl, but will demand that they clean up the officiating. If we can't count on good, clear officiating, we can't believe that we should care and root for a team and appreciate the blood, sweat, tears, skill, and courage the players bring and the coaching the coaches bring. Besides, how can we, in good conscience, ever participate in office pools when we suspect that the refs may be making decisions for some special interest or party, circumventing honest efforts by players and coaches. The NFL's biggest nightmare has come to roost and we, the true fans, should turn up the heat and demand clearer, more realistic rules, and objective officiating. Enough of the Steelers being the cleaner team or Seattle being less successful on the field! It was not a fair and evenly officiated game and in insult to the Steelers and Seahawks and to US! We need to demand honesty and truthfullness out of the NFL!

303
by Björn (not verified) :: Fri, 02/10/2006 - 10:00pm

Dude, Seattle sucked it up. Sure the officials did a terrible job, (like when Hasselbeck got flagged for tackling a guy) but it wasn't exactly Mean Machine vs. The Guards, either. If Seattle didn't suck, they would have won handily.

304
by NedNederlander (not verified) :: Fri, 02/10/2006 - 10:13pm

Just feel I have to stick up for Steelers fans - whom, it should be pointed out, have had to absorb A LOT of obviously wrong calls over the years: (the "coin flip" Thanksgiving game, a regular-season game in 2004? maybe in which the NFL apologized for a blown call that cost them a regular season game, and, yes, the Polamalu interception, which was 10 times more egregious than anything in the Super Bowl, because all of the Super Bowl calls (with the exception of the Hasselback low block penalty) were at least technically accurate calls, even if you don't feel they should have been called). I will also admit into evidence, for the sake of fairness, that the whole reason we even HAVE instant reply, if I recall correctly, is the infamous Mike Renfro play that was called in Pitt's favor against Earl Campbell's Oilers one year.

However, the most striking parallel to Super Bowl XL came in the 2002 AFC Divisional playoff with the Titans (described below from Football Insider):

Tennessee Titans kicker Joe Nedney missed a field goal attempt from 48 yards on the final play of regulation, and then again from 31 yards in overtime. But a running-into-the-kicker penalty on cornerback Dewayne Washington gave him a third chance, which he took advantage of by making a 26-yarder 2:15 into overtime, giving the Titans a 34-31 playoff victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Steelers head coach Bill Cowher ran across the field and confronted referee Ron Blum after the winning kick. Cowher claimed he called a timeout before the kick, but when asked about it after the game, Blum said, "one of my co-officials said that the request came after the ball was snapped."

Cowher was also upset about the call that gave Nedney another shot at the game winner. "For a game to be decided on that call is ludicrous," said the emotional head coach. "A game can't be decided because a kicker takes two steps and we have someone slide into him."

This was a game that was decided by a "ticky-tack" call. The call directly affected the game outcome (in a much more direct line than the Locklear hold). And there were two issues with the play in question - the call itself, and the timeout call. While the quote shows Cowher complaining, I don't recall at the time (maybe I'm wrong) Pittsburgh fans insisting the NFL was doomed, the league was out to get them or that a travesty of justice had occurred.

305
by Rob (not verified) :: Fri, 02/10/2006 - 11:00pm

Some of you need to realize this isn't about SEA vs PITT whine fest! It's about the game we love being destroyed by whims and opinions of a guy in a striped shirt who has to make a one second snap decision.

This is NOT about ripping Pittsburgh!
This is NOT about saying Seattle are cry babies!

This is about the NFL having a BIG PROBLEM! The penalties are out of hand and frustrating all of us! It is ruining the game...

306
by Kris McNutt (not verified) :: Fri, 02/10/2006 - 11:51pm

I must admit, as a recent newcomer to your website you almost had me believing the bad theory that without the four basic controversial calls, the Steelers loose. But the fact that you uncovered so many uncalled hold, nullifies that theory. In doing so, you do not make a case for bad judgement, but instead raise the question as to why do certain holds grab the attention of the officiating crew . . . a far different issue as you just proved that holding is a norm that will not always be detected.

Even if your opinion about the bad plays would hold (which I differ greatly with) that does not explain how Seattle failed to score any big plays in the remaining 58 minutes apart from those four plays. You are now insulting coach Holgrem as you have just proven Seattle was not capable of doing anything worthwhile 2x in a row, while Pittsburgh was able to score on the Big Play.

And as for Big Ben's poor QB Rating, if ward holds the early touch down pass his stats begin to dramatically reverse. Lets face it, while he may have been too nervous to make the big play himself, when he buys time by deliberately staying behind the line of scrimmage, he demonstrated a maturity and sense about the game that I am sure left many coaches and teams salivating over his presence of mind so early in his career.

307
by Andrew (A.B.) (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 1:42am

RE: 292

Hmm. If a player spiked the ball in the end zone, would that count as a touch-down?

308
by SteelerBill (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 12:11pm

Great article - love Football Outisiders - insight and analysis like this is why I (well we) love it.

Not to over-simplify things but after having beaten the top three seeds in the AFC (and arguably the top 3 seeds in the NFL), the Steelers finally played a bad game. Everyone forgets that Big Ben threw a lousy pass that practically handed the Seahawks their only TD (which would have at least made the game 17-3). Oh and he was playing with a broken thumb. Oh and we still won by 11.

Personally I don't mind the complaints of the Seahawk fans, its just motivation for next year - I say we start the 'One for the middle finger' chants right now....

309
by Eddie (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 12:29pm

ever think that the reason the plays were called back due to holding is because it >IS

310
by Eddie - zeron (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 12:33pm

ever think that the reason the plays were called back due to holding is because it IS game changing? i mean if a player runs for a yard and there is holding, it isnt always 'that' big of a deal; however, if someone holds and a big play occurs, its only natural to call holding b/c it isnt fair that a team should lose to a team that committed such a game-changing PENALTY. I mean im a cowboys fan and wanted the steelers to lose and all... so at first i was all on the "hey its no fair b/c refs called game" and everything, but after thinking about it... major penalties are called when they can change the game, and purhaps... it is better for it dont you think?

311
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 12:38pm

If the referee allows holding on inconsequential plays, he is telling the linemen that what they are doing is okay. It's like training an animal. You have to be consistent.

312
by George (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 1:56pm

The Refs called an average NFL game during the S.B. There are questionable calls in every game. And seriously, although there were some outrageously bad calls in the the playoffs, during the season, there might be 3-4 bad calls each week. As for the holding, what do you want, one ref for each lineman? My opinion is that they call it when they see it. If their attention is on the right side, the guys on the left will get away with one.

313
by Eric (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 2:11pm

Response to 227

TROGDOR,

I know you are not speaking for MDS, but what I pointed out does not belong in here at all. It was a cheap shot plain and simple, the point of the article was to point out inconsistencies, not the results of inconsistent calls, also to say "If the officials had called holding on two inconsequential plays and ignored it the rest of the time, no one would much care." Is wrong on so many levels, that would make a huge impact on any team no matter where the ball is or what down it is that is huge. Look at the Steelers first offensive series, gained enough yards to get a FD if not for two stupid penalties, that could have swung field postion in our favor a lot earlier, field postion is one of the key aspects of our play calling both on offense and defense.

I came to this site in hopes of reading and getting the info I needed from the usual EPC, to bury the folklore that Seattles probowl LT and LG dominated Porter and von Olhoffen. Look at the play by play, Alexander never got a cut back lane or a nice open hole the entire game from them, the one time Porter lost contain he still made the tackle short of the FD, also that was not a horse collar...it is not illegal to grab it is illegal to pull, he never pulled. They were not able to generate a rush on Hasselbeck but they dominated the run game, a key componet to Seattles game plan once they get near or past the 50. Except for 2 times in that game SA never got past our front seven which enabled us to keep Polamalu in coverage, notice how he was not very appearent in this game, thats because the camera always focus on the 'box' presnap and TP was hardly ever in it because the front seven contained SA entirely by themselves.

Funny how almost every anylyst said the key was neutralizeing Seattles OL, we did that but they will not admit that is what ultimetly won this game. Once we did this we then shut down option #1 in their pass game, Jackson. Then we started to elemanate the other options, Jerevicious and Engram, both nearly non-exsistent in the second half, we could not contain every one of their receivers but Stevens dropped the ball when it was his turn to step up, literally.

As far as why Locklear was called for holding, IMO MDS has already staetd in previous EPC's the most likely reason this happened, we have the most doule teamed rushing ends in the NFL, you take a man off Haggans to DT Porter, you have to hold him our your QB is history. Porter is in the limelite but Haggans is a far better rusher, he missed 3 games this year to get hernia surgery and was still statistically better then Porter. Haggans is the best rushing LB on this team and they tried to get away with man on man with him and it did not work.

The penalty, while unfortunate, had nothing at all to do with the outcome of the game.

Eric

314
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 2:43pm

Eric, if that wasn't a horse-collar tackle, then I am a danish princess.

Also, your examples don't fit. By inconsequential, I'm pretty sure that MDS means that the play would not affect the outcome of the game.

Here is the example you provide: "Look at the Steelers first offensive series, gained enough yards to get a FD if not for two stupid penalties, that could have swung field postion in our favor a lot earlier." This is irrelevant, because these plays were clearly important enough to affect the outcome of the game.

You also say that a holding call "would make a huge impact on any team no matter where the ball is or what down it is." I disagree.

Here's an example of an inconsequential holding penalty.

(12:40) M.Hasselbeck sacked at SEA 43 for -4 yards (C.Haggans). Penalty on SEA-S.Locklear, Offensive Holding, declined.

Hasselbeck was sacked despite the hold, and the penalty was declined, forcing Seattle to punt. No consequence for the hold whatsoever.

315
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 2:45pm

I forgot to mention, the Steelers picked up 11 yards on a running play on 3rd and very long, when Seattle was in a safe defence. So they wouldn't necessarialy have gotten a first down on that posession.

316
by Eric (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 3:07pm

Response to 314

Well PRINCESS name me a instance that happened dureing the year that they called this for NOT PULLING when grabing the pads from behind....didn't see many Dallas games did you, because the guy that started the whole horse collar fiasco always does it and he was never flagged because he rode the player down and did not pull. They called this penalty consistently all year, grabbing and rideing down, what Porter did, is not a horse collar, grabbing and pulling backwards is.

I have to admit defeat on the inconsequential, that is about the only time it would be so.

Response to 315

Not necessarily, would have been third and 9-10, most defnse are of the "safe" base type, more coverage then rush oriented, on that yardage and down.

317
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 3:26pm

I can't name a single instance during the year when they called a guy for the horsecollar when he just pulled him down. But that is only because I can't name a single instance when the refs called a horsecollar infraction period, despite watching football every Sunday this year, including three or four Cowboys games.

And for the record, can you please tell me how someone can possibly grab a 200 pound man running at full speed by a handle on his back and manage to pull him backwards? Does Popeye play football? Give me a break.

318
by Eric (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 3:44pm

RT-317

You are right, I do not even rember seeing this penalty called all year, I certainly seen players grab a player from behind by the shoulder pads, but they also never gave a jerking or pulling motion either, which every announcer that commented about these plays said that it was not a flag because there was no delebrate pulling motion. If it was not called all year did it suprise you it was not called here??

319
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 3:59pm

The announcers do not necessarialy know what they're talking about. And no, I'm not surprised that it wasn't called. However, it should still have been called. A foul is a foul. This was a textbook horsecollar.

320
by Eric (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 4:23pm

Unless you can give me the exact wording that is in the rule book, which I know you cannot, me and you both have to take the announcers word for it. That word being that there has to be a "deliberate pulling motion" FOR IT TO BE A PENALTY. JP on that play and the numerous other players I seen this year on the same type of play never made a "deliberate pulling motion" but instead rode the player down to the ground. his topic was started on the "INCONSTENCY" of penalty calling, we both agree that this was called consistently the same way all year, all be it we dont agree on the infraction itself, so this argument does not belong here.

If you want to argue inconsistency look at the PI on Heath Miller. I will not deny that this is a penalty but it has been called two different kind of penalties. It was a pick type move, something that is illegal but I have seen it called both PI and illegal contact, nearly every time we were flagged for it, except once, the player being illegally contacted never would have been able to make a play on the ball any ways, thats is not PI. Thats inconsistency and that is the type of issues that need to be talked about.

321
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 5:02pm

That probably just depended on whether or not the ball was in the air. But I can't say for sure, because I don't remember the Miller play.

My understanding of the rule is that if you tackle a guy by reaching inside the back of his shoulder pads, it is an HC, deliberate pulling motion or not.

The wikipedia link only proves that there is at least one person in the world that shares my opinion, but I think this is the correct definition.

322
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 5:05pm

It just occurred to me how much fun it would have been to argue pro-Seahawks in this thread and pro-Steelers in the other thread when both were hopping.

323
by Eric (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 5:52pm

That is the correct defention, but what is missing in that play and the plays from the regular seaso is any action to "immediately" take a player down by those shoulder pads, like I said all of those players were rode down to the ground. If it was illegal the league can also fine you, did they fine JP or any other player this year??

Did you look at the defention of offensive PI after you looked up horse collar, if not click the link. It has been called inconsistently this year. On this play the ball was thrown to a very open receiver in the flat and Miller was down field no where near the flat.

One other thing that NEEDS TO BE DELT WITH, is the time/play clock. Our game against NE and the calls in the playoffs were horrendous.

324
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 6:07pm

Well, there was another pretty soft OPI call in that game going the other way. And to me, it looked like Porter immediately took Alexander down. He grabbed him, and he went down. I can't think of a way it could have been more immediate, unless Porter took out a pistol and shot Alexander in the ass.

325
by Eric (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 6:53pm

Do you really want to go there??? They are both teachnically judgement calls but a big differnce in where the judgement lies.

In the Stevens incident the judgement lies in clearer rules, either he did it or he didn't, I wont say my opinion on this one. In the Miller incident the rules are less clear, IT WAS A PENALTY NO DOUBT!!!! The rules do not make it clear what penalty it is though and there will be two different repercussions from it in down and yardage. Like I said this is controversial because of what penalty do you call and the rules are not very clear on which it should be. Check out the defentions and the key words "include but are not limited to". Like MDS was saying these type of things need more defention, you know where the link is.

326
by Kris (not verified) :: Sat, 02/11/2006 - 7:13pm

This whole thread remains much ado about nothing.

The Super Bowl was as well-officiated as any NFL game. Like in any sport, officiating is done by humans, and mistakes will happen here and there.

Everyone harping on the officiating is probably incapable of or uninterested in interpreting a game in which two defenses played conservatively, and therefore didn't produce a whole lot of dramatic defensive plays, but very well.

The only problem the NFL has is not with officiating, but with the intense scrutiny of a fanatical minority interested, I believe, in pumping up some nonscandal. In this sense, it isn't any different from any large institution people care about in the US today.

I would like to see the NFL specifically address and explain that the four or so calls Seahawks people are fired up about were actually the correct call. There may be some areas where the NFL could clarify the rules, but in the calls in question, I don't think it's rule complexity that is the problem.

The Jackson push-off was obvious; what would greater rule clarity accomplish there? Haggans was held, and would have sacked Hasselbeck had he not been. On the play before the half, Jackson catches the ball without getting two feet in bounds.

The NFL could do something to make the "football move" thing more clear, but that didn't play a part in the SB. Interpreting whether a catch has been made, though, will always be complex and difficult in the most ambiguous cases.

327
by Flippo (not verified) :: Sun, 02/12/2006 - 2:47am

Just stopped by to see if anything good was going on only to find that in #326, Kris is still smoking that certain green veggie that helps him to perceive that the last stupor bowl was well officiated and NFL officials are direct descendents of Solomon (how can anyone miss how far offside Haggens was all game? - well, the officials didn't).

That was the most one sided officiated stupor bowl game in history; if it wasn't, there wouldn't be so many concerned individuals and stats for FO to trot out to show the absurdity of the calls. Yes, many so-called fans do not care if football is played and decided on the field by the players. For those, their beer and more beer and a few bets will make their lives seem better. Real fans do care and are concerned that football is damaged beyond repair of its integrity. If the refs had called the game just the reversed - penalized the Steelers and not the Seahawks, true football fans would be just as concerned as we are now.

To blow off the stats, and the overall chilling effects the penalties had on the losing team's performance is to blind and not care about the game; this discussion is not for those who cannot see the problems facing football. Are we going to hide our heads in the sand and ignore this cancerous problem? If so, the 49ers, Cardinals, Texans, and any other weak team will "beat" the better teams; no NFL team can beat another plus the zebra crew.

No team can game plan for the zebras calling an arbitrary game because the game is predicated on honesty and fair play (hear that Ben, if you didn't get the ball over, don't bait the stupid ref into making a call that serves his biasness by sneaking it over after the play is dead). Kiss football as a real game of beauty, teamwork, skill, desire, guts, and courage goodbye. The game now belongs to the gamblers, and rich and powerful in the back rooms.

As President Theodore Roosevelt said:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Let's keep the NFL and zebras honest. We need to demand that they do their job honestly and correctly and leave football to the real men in the "area".
If we don't, we are the real losers.

328
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Sun, 02/12/2006 - 11:11am

hear that Ben, if you didn’t get the ball over, don’t bait the stupid ref into making a call that serves his biasness by sneaking it over after the play is dead

That just might be the stupidest thing that anyone has said n this thread.

329
by MH (not verified) :: Sun, 02/12/2006 - 3:10pm

Very good article. You guys actually talk about football. Amazing.

The ref's chimed in with their own Terrible Towls and handed the Steelers a tainted Super Bowl victory. Seems like Americas Blue Collar team has a history of "gift" games. I am convinced that referees are influenced not only by the biases of the fans in the stands but by the media.

I wonder if there is any statistical correlation between a teams TV viewing market size and winning percentage over the last say 10 years in regular season and in the playoffs. Any correlation between team gear sales and winning percentage?

The ideal business model for a sports franchise would be to reward with favorable outcomes, teams with the most fans most frequently but not so often as to become boring and predictable.

A larger audience means larger advertising revenues and this is what the NFL really cares about. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

330
by SteelerBill (not verified) :: Sun, 02/12/2006 - 4:36pm

There is absolutley no denying what the Steelers accomplished this year....

21-10

331
by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Sun, 02/12/2006 - 4:59pm

re #328: well, to be fair, the manner in which that call was made was interesting. The line judge definitely has the ball marked short of the goal-line initially, and then changes his mind and calls it a TD as he's running towards the middle of the field to spot the ball. It's not entirely clear why he changed his mind, so the whole scenario does kind of invite speculation.

332
by Bob (not verified) :: Sun, 02/12/2006 - 7:26pm

I saw on the Sports Reporters this morning that Stephen A. Smith and Mike Lupica agree that the Seahawks got hosed by lots of bad calls. Anytime I disagree with those two bozos, I'm pretty darn sure I'm right.

333
by SteelerBill (not verified) :: Sun, 02/12/2006 - 9:17pm

Re: #332 - Well said Bob....

334
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Sun, 02/12/2006 - 10:18pm

Re:#332

Considering what others have said, I'm not entirely sure that is true. There have been several posters who have stated that the ref was not making a 4th down signal at any point.

However, regardless of what exactly the referee was doing, it is clear that he was indecisive- which is perhaps the greatest sin for an official. Make your call promptly and emphatically, and a lot of complaints will likely be diminished.

335
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Sun, 02/12/2006 - 10:31pm

Rick S (#196 )–
Bottom Line Pittsburgh fans, it is unprecidented to have this kind of controversy following a Super Bowl.
You missed the Raider, Steeler, and Ram fans, all howling conspiracy theories after Superbowl 36.

336
by Joel Dias-Porter (not verified) :: Mon, 02/13/2006 - 1:35am

#334 Not only did the official never give the 4th down signal, he never marked Ben down short of the goal line (which he would do by pointing to the ground), people aren't reacting to the officials actions they are reating to Al Michael's comments where he said he thought the official had marked him short then changed his mind. If ou watch it again the official never changed his mind, he immediately put up half a TD sign then got his other hand up as he ran in, but his first hand that went up is clearly in the 'blade' shape used to signal a TD. Look at it again.

337
by Kris (not verified) :: Mon, 02/13/2006 - 1:33pm

Flippo, in my opinion, not only are you wrong, but there's a kind of hypocrisy at the center of your claim.

On the one hand, you're clamoring about officiating and a "cleanly played" game; on the other, you want to basically have allowed the Seahawks to cheat in order to score points.

Again, while the calls in question are possibly close, they all lean in Pittsburgh's favor (the Ben TD, the Jackons OPI, the Jackson non-catch, and the Locklear hold). I don't find it at all persuasive that these were close calls that could have gone either way, and since they all went against Seattle, that's a sign of bias or bad ref'ing.

Rather, they were calls that sometimes get called differently, but all lean toward being plays which should have been called in Pittsburgh's favor (much more so than they should have been called in Seattle's favor). That all four were in fact called in Pittsburgh's favor may be good luck for the Steelers, depending on your definition of luck. But again, each of these four plays, I don't think you could look at say it's a 50-50 call or that they clearly should have gone Seattle's way. Each of these plays far more clearly called for the call that was actually made in the game.

Again: Much ado about nothing.

338
by Ron Mexico (not verified) :: Mon, 02/13/2006 - 2:25pm

If people want "make-up" calls, they should watch the NHL.

339
by OMO (not verified) :: Mon, 02/13/2006 - 2:49pm

GIS: "Bad Super Bowl officiating"

172,000 results.

Much ado about nothing?

Stick your head back in the sand.

340
by JMM (not verified) :: Mon, 02/13/2006 - 3:37pm

The phrase "is Elvis alive" yielded 4.0 million hits.

Flying saucers = 2.1 million hits

Lock Ness Monster = 4.3 million hits

Bigfoot = 11.7 million hits.

341
by OMO (not verified) :: Mon, 02/13/2006 - 4:15pm

"JMM makes irrelevant points"

978 results.

342
by Kris (not verified) :: Mon, 02/13/2006 - 4:16pm

Exactly, JMM.

343
by OMO (not verified) :: Mon, 02/13/2006 - 4:22pm

"Kris is an NFL shill" 168 results.

And so we all get equal time.

"OMO is a big mouthed idiot" 547 results.

344
by Björn (not verified) :: Mon, 02/13/2006 - 4:37pm

"What the hell happened to this thread?"

4.03 million results

345
by Matt Weiner (not verified) :: Mon, 02/13/2006 - 7:35pm

"put quotes around your google searches"

16,300,000 results -- though not if you put quotes around it.

346
by Sid (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 12:49pm

If Locklear was holding, I have to believe Faneca was holding when he tackled LeRoy Hill on Big Ben's phanton touchdown.
I watched the video, and that was incredibly blatant. Right in front of Big Ben, Faneca tackled Hill.

347
by Peter King\'s Mindless Minion (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 1:53pm

On the SI site, Peter King has written, in an exclusive, subscriber only article, that there was only one bad call. That all the hoo-ha is emanating from Seattle fans and the Pacific Northwest, and get this, is because of the calls made by two of the national media guys on TV (Madden & Young).

He is basically saying the fans have just gone along with what was planted in their heads. Talk about disrespecting your audience. We are too stupid to use our own eyeballs and determine what we have seen for ourselves - we have to be told what to think. What a Jackass.

The reason this doesn't die is because the NFL and their syncophants have refused to take responsibility and to say they will work to fix it. Never mind the SB or the current teams, just fix the problem for the future.

348
by steelersin06 (not verified) :: Wed, 02/15/2006 - 5:30pm

I haven't seen any perspectives from anyone actually at the game in this thread so here are mine. Haven't had much time to post lately and maybe no one cares anymore anyway.

I was sitting right on the 35 yard line in the third deck, fourth row. Unlike the rest of the stadium, my section was about 40% Hawks fans, 60% Steelers (as an aside, I did not see nearly as many "corporate types" as I expected). Both the offensive pass interference in the end zone and the "Locklear hold" were on our side of the field. The Hawks fans next to me were angry about the pass interference call, because they said "that call is never made", not because it was not P.I. I happily agreed with them at that point, as they gleefully pointed out after the Heath Miller offensive P.I. They felt a lot better about the P.I. after Miller was called also.

On the Locklear hold, I was standing up screaming for the flag, while the Hawks fans around me sat down in disgust because they thought it was a clear hold.

Talking with some Hawks fans during and after the game, some said stuff like "you guys got more breaks" but there was no "conspiracy" or "we was robbed" talk.

Now my sample size was pretty small(one section of Hawks fans, talked with maybe 10 after the game), but I was shocked the next morning when I flipped on ESPN and heard all the complaining. It's possible that the Hawks fans I interacted with were not representive, but I wonder how much of this stuff is TV storyline driven, especially with the media's love of controversy. I mean, if people at the stadium (mostly without the benefit of replay and incessant announcing) did not think the calls were especially bad, it makes me think that maybe people's opinions are being influenced a little too much by the boob tube. Although, I will freely admit that the only disappointing thing about being at the game was the lack of multiple, and good, replays.

On a different note, almost all the Hawks fans I interacted with were classy and fun, and I wish them and their team luck next year (as long as it is not against the Steelers).

349
by Sid (not verified) :: Thu, 02/16/2006 - 6:02am

RE: 109

However, I can only support the call for more clarity on holding calls, and want to extend this to kick returns. It seems like on kickoff returns of more than 40 yards and punt returns of more than 20 yards, 9 times out of 10 there is a flag for holding.

I'd change that to "On any long kickoff/punt return*, there seems to be a probability of the return team getting flagged for holding or blocking in the back."

It's uncanny. From my experience, blocking in the back is actually called more frequently on returns than holding.
Whenever I see a long return, I hold my breath, waiting for the flag.

*-You could even extend that to fumble/INT returns, although it seems the refs miss more in those cases because they aren't prepared for it and the ball is headed in the opposite direction.

350
by Tinselburn (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 4:38am

Bens "phantom touchdown" you could see where the ball was just barely over. I demonstrated by pointing circling it on the screen in while arguing with the rest of the room. Either I conviced everyone or they just wanted me to shut up...(I know for a fact I changed at least four minds) I remain convinced that I can do the same if youd all just like to come over.

The block/tackle thingie bad call. the uncalled clip against Rothliesberger equally so. offensive P.I. right call both circumstances. if jackson hadnt of locked out his elbow, it wouldnt have been called. I just recall being incredibly relived and confused by it. considering Hope had absolutely no chance to male a play on the ball.

we agreed it must've been unconcious and just incredibly unfortunate and ensured a lonely plane ride home. we didnt realize he'd have stevens and locklear to keep him company. probably throw in that kicker too. (pitty was destined not to overcome kickers here...karma for nedneys good acting skills a few years back. just ask vanderjagtass)

locklear held Im sorry. I know you hate to see it but he did. Haggans figured out the snap count it was pretty obvious throughout the game. It was stop him any way you can or hasslebeck is flattened.

A quick aside if you'll allow it. Pittsburgh lets Porter run his mouth so damned much because it draws attention away from haggans, just speculation...

I honestly dont recall the horse collar tackle. I do stand with the reasoning that you have to pull them backwards as that was what kept causing the injuries.

As far as the their being so many steelers fans there. steelers fans are notoriously widespread and travel incredibly well this has been spoken of regularly since the dallas game of last year. you can talk to mike tice about that one.

but honestly seahawks fans still have every right to complain. It just wouldnt matter anymore than if pitty did after the patriots got an extra minute to win the game in their regular season match.

351
by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 11:09am

Oh and he was playing with a broken thumb.

Don't see how that is an excuse. He's played well with the glove before. He had a bad game against a good defense. As simple as that.

352
by nano (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 2:22pm

i keep seeing comments that say both teams just played poorly and that is all. I can't agree with that. The holding call on Locklear prevented what would have been one of the greatest drives in SB history. 98 yeards I believe. I thought Seattle moved the ball well throughout, every call by the officials negated a big play for them, which is interesting.

Kendell Simmons had a couple of the most blatant holds I've ever seen that weren't called--both prevent a tackle behind the line of scrimmage if I remember correctly.

Congrats to the Steelers though, it is a great organization---but to say the officiating isn't fishy and didn't change the game is beligerent.

353
by JMM (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 5:11pm

There were two other SEA drives which ended with official calls and as a result of those calls did not yield points. In both cases SEA tried to kick field goals and both were called wide by the officials.

No one is complaining about those because we all (I hope) understand what the criteria for calling the FG's good vs bad are and we can plainly see the result and judge for ourselves.

Now, maybe there are some who believe that the officiating is fishy, and some may believe that the officiating was the "worst ever" but isn't it also possible that some believe the calls were "normal" and "normal" is acceptable?

So on one hand the Head of Officiating for the NFL says "the hold" meets the test of what officials look for to make a holding call. On the other hand John Madden (who just loves the Steelers) says he didn't see holding. No doubt in my mind where the credibility is.

354
by Rob (not verified) :: Fri, 02/17/2006 - 8:59pm

#352 Rather than say that both teams played poorly, it is better to say that both teams played inconsistently. The deal is that Pitt made more plays than did Seattle and that is why they won. The Steelers are a good team and good teams find ways to win even when they do not bring their "A" game.

There will always be plays that could have gone one way or the other, the refs do the best that they can. Teams have to play better and make sure that the game is not determined by a couple plays and they will not have to worry. It is not feasible to stop and analyze each and every play unless you want the game to take 6 hours.

Honestly, the fact that you CAN see more calls go against one teams indicates to me that refs are trying to call what they see, as opposed to the NHL years ago that tried to balance out the penalties no matter who was violating the rules more. How often is it that both teams voilate rules the same number of times? Just maybe Seattle was holding more than Pitt. When players hold there is a reason - is because they are getting beat.

I do definately agree to make the refs full time. With the kind of money the NFL makes, there is NO reason at all that they should be paid such small salaries that require them to work second jobs. They should spend the off season improving their skills and working out how to consistently interpret the rules.

355
by Björn (not verified) :: Sat, 02/18/2006 - 2:23pm

On the other hand John Madden (who just loves the Steelers) says he didn’t see holding. No doubt in my mind where the credibility is. -353

But pretty much everyone agrees that there was holding. Madden had only seen one camera angle when he made that comment. The camera angle he had seen was the angle from the back of the Seahawk endzone. Since Haggans was between Locklear and the camera, Madden didn't see Locklear's hand on the front-right of Haggan's chest.

356
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 12:30pm

So on one hand the Head of Officiating for the NFL says “the hold� meets the test of what officials look for to make a holding call.

Maybe it did, maybe it didn't. But the NFL has no credibility in my eyes. They resorted to outright lying in order to try and BCS the fans into believing the Super Bowl was officiated correctly.

357
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 12:32pm

The most telling part is that I predicted they wouldn't admit any mistakes. In the Pitt-Indy game, they did, because the right team won anyway. Here, they weren't going to admit they screwed up the Super Bowl.

358
by Robert (not verified) :: Sun, 02/19/2006 - 8:49pm

RE:#307
"Hmm. If a player spiked the ball in the end zone, would that count as a touch-down?"
It's not "spike Down" or "throw Down" but "TOUCH" down. See the difference?

359
by augiedog (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 1:50am

No two ways about it: the officiating was the worst you would have expected to see in a championship game. Seattle had a ton of officiating breaks go against them. The myth that Seattle made no big plays and that was the difference was the most painful. Seattle had a TD on a nice QB step-up nulified, a 1st and goal at the 1 nulified, and even made a great goal-line stand (I was never too worked up about this call). Had Seattle just received some of the marginal breaks - the game is totally different, stands a good chance of a different outcome. Finally, I am not going to say Seattle played great. But, I think it laughable for some of these threads to make it sound like Pittsburgh defense or offense was great. Anybody that watched the game saw the Hawks gameplan totally neutralize the Pitt Defense. Net-net, game over...tee it up next year.

360
by Tony C (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 4:30pm

I'm surprised; an entire article and 359 posts on holding calls in the Super Bowl and no one has brought up the apparent hold by Heath Miller on Bryce Fisher that helped spring the 75 yard TD run by Willie Parker?

http://pullonsupermanscape.typepad.com/pull_on_supermans_cape/2006/02/pl...

BTW, here in Pittsburgh, Steeler fans stewed for months about that running into the kicker call against the Titans. And there was great joy proclaimed when Nedney suffered a catastrophic knee injury early the following year. Nobody holds a grudge better than Steeler fans.

361
by Vash (not verified) :: Mon, 02/20/2006 - 6:14pm

360: There's no evidence whatsoever there. Stills are a HORRIBLE way to look at calls.

And how he's calling Miller's action a hold but saying Locklear's hands are in "perfect blocking position" despite the fact that he is BEHIND Haggans, I have no idea.
Oh wait, I just thought of it.
Maybe he's a Seahawks fan.

362
by MC (not verified) :: Tue, 02/21/2006 - 6:00am

Vash: There’s no evidence whatsoever there. Stills are a HORRIBLE way to look at calls.

So, you're regularly called as an expert witness to demonstrate that video stills are worthless to arrive at evidential truth? Make sure the NFL knows this, because they don't agree with you and they'll need your expertise coming up.

Not a Seahawks fan - a football fan that expects a fair game and won't rest until the NFL guarantees it...

363
by fiddycentbeer (not verified) :: Tue, 02/21/2006 - 7:41pm

The Seattle duo held less, on a % of all dropbacks but that was mainly due to Jones. By the same metric, Locklear held more than any OT on the field.

IMO, it's a weak argument to purport that because he got eight freebies, he was entitled to a ninth.

364
by Zagut (not verified) :: Sat, 02/25/2006 - 1:09am

361: I thought the key component of Locklear's alleged hold was the hooking with the right arm. The video still clearly shows Miller with his arm hooked around Fisher. Looks like a "textbook" hold.

365
by spfischer (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 12:32pm

When a player has his arm hooked around someone from behind and pulls the defender downward, so it looks as if he is trying to get a piggy back ride, as Locklear did, then a hold is in order. You are correct about holding, it could be called on every down in every game. However Locklear was just unlucky to be caught. Haggins could have been pleeding a case to the ref all game and that might have been the time teh ref decided to pay special attention. The NFL officiating is far from perfect and it never will be perfect, but they can improve and be more consistant.

366
by LLG (not verified) :: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 5:58pm

Wow, when they said that Pittburgh is all about defense, they weren't kidding. Steelers fans have been on the defensive since the superbowl, but I suppose they have to be.

#363: I think the intent was to point out one of the many iconsistancies in the reffing, not to try to defend Locklear or defend the Seahawks.

A mentor once told me that a guilty conscience needs no accuser. This explains Steelers fans right now, say something other than how great a job the Steelers did, no matter how benign, and they jump all over you.

Is it possible to have an intelligent discussion wothout people getting so worked up?

367
by Johnny Jock (not verified) :: Tue, 06/20/2006 - 8:12pm

I would like to write that I know the NFL is fixed. I hope you aren't offended but I will tell you that 2006 is a big year for scamming fans. The Cardinals will be in the playoffs despite the Rams and Seahawks, because that new stadium has to be filled. The NFL started fixing games in 1996. Games are fixed in order to get as much money out of fans as possible and keep the rating up. Large marketing firms and corporations have contol of most of the NFL and government agencies use have used certain teams in the superbowl for political reasons (pumping up the nation for war). Fans who care about the game should contact me after going to my site. They can make all the money they want but he game should be left honest, If my team stinks I can deal with it but if other teams win because it was written up in a scam, I ain't spending cash on that.

Tell any of your friends who gamble to save their money, the season has already been decided.

Hopefully fans will get together and complain enought to get attention on this issue. NFL front offices will not want to hear a bunch of fans complaining about fixed games.

368
by kerry mccarthy (not verified) :: Sat, 10/28/2006 - 5:14pm

"Encircle" means to comletely circle (bear hug). Rule doesn't apply.

369
by dave (not verified) :: Sat, 11/11/2006 - 4:27pm

Why does it matter that the Steelers held at a higher rate becaused they passed more often? So what? Seattle held more times than Pittsburgh, so it should have been called on them more often.