Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XL

This week, the Football Outsiders staff responds to Super Bowl XL in our usual roundtable e-mail discussion. Mike Tanier: So what do Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Tanier have in common? Neither of us crossed the goal line in the first half. I try to not to complain about calls, but c'mon. The Steelers are playing a lot of Cover-3, it looks like, and the Seahawks are trying to beat them by throwing hitches along the sideline. It's working to some extent, because they are hitting on lots of 7 and 8-yard completions. But the Steelers took away everything deep in the first half, and they are a tough team to execute 13-play drives against. As for the Steelers offensive gameplan, well, after championing Whisenhunt I haven't seen much. Almost every positive play has been the result of freelancing. Bill Moore: I don't think Roethlisberger got in, but I'm not surprised the review didn't overturn. Not conclusive. Can't see exactly where the ball is in the air. No goal line cameras is a joke, but where's ABC's 3-D technology to show the plane of the goal line? I can't believe that hasn't been created yet. But the real travesty is this: The Darrell Jackson Non-TD at the end of the first half: How is that 1) not a TD, and 2) not reviewed? He catches the ball with left foot inbounds and his right foot hits the pylon. TD, right? Got no commentary other than Al Michaels saying "ooooh." Hines Ward MVP? Al Bogdan: Yeah, I voted for Hines. Total Access on Wednesday should be interesting with the usual interview with Mike Pereira. Four awful calls cost Seattle 14 points and 45 yards. The Roethlisberger TD, the Jackson pass interference/non-TD, the Locklear holding call where he barely had a hand on the defender, and the truly ridiculous 15-yard low block call on Hasselbeck. Even with those calls, though, Seattle didn't play as well as they should have, especially in the second half. The defense looked undisciplined on some crucial plays. How do you not stay in coverage when the Steelers give the ball to Randle El behind the line of scrimmage? How many times was Rothlisberger given wide open running lanes to get a first down or close to it? On the crucial third down when Seattle was down to only one time out left, Madden was right on calling a Roethlisberger bootleg. The entire defense collapsed around Bettis giving Ben an easy first down even with that awful spot. Michael David Smith: Polamalu has deserved the attention he's gotten in the playoffs, but he didn't play very well today. The Stevens touchdown was totally his fault, and he wasn't nearly as influential against the run as he usually is. And speaking of Stevens, did he just have the worst game any tight end has had all year? How many times can you get hit right in the hands with a ball and not catch it? Roethlisberger was lousy today. I really hate the fact that I turned to ESPNews after the game and the first thing I heard was, "Roethlisberger becomes the youngest quarterback to win the Super Bowl." Roethlisberger is about the last player who deserved to be mentioned. My three MVP choices for the Steelers... 1. Hines Ward 2. Casey Hampton 3. The officials. A badly officiated game, and almost all the questionable/bad calls went in the Steelers' favor. I don't think Roethlisberger scored. I think the Jackson PI was questionable. I think the hold on Locklear was a terrible call, and I'm the guy who said before the game that Locklear holds all the time. The personal foul on Hasselbeck was absurd. Joey Porter probably should have gotten called for a horse-collar tackle. Peter Warrick's long punt return was called back on a hold that I didn't see (although just because i didn't see it doesn't mean it didn't happen.) But Seattle shouldn't just blame the officials. Mike Holmgren is one of the best offensive minds in NFL history, but he did an awful job calling plays today. What on earth was Seattle doing at the end of both halves? And, hey, Tom Rouen, this isn't Canada. You don't get a point for kicking one into the end zone. Al Bogdan: I forgot about Seattle's awful special teams. Rouen had some bad punts deep into the endzone, but a couple of those were downable inside the 20 if the Seahawks had anything resembling a punt coverage team. And what was Warrick thinking not catching that ball at the 20, and instead letting roll down to the two yard line? On Seattle's poor time management, I didn't agree with their decision not to go for it on 4th down with 6:30 to go. Even if it's 4th and 13, you're cutting it very close to having enough time to score twice if you give the ball over to Pittsburgh there. If you punt it or don't convert, you still need to stop them on the first or second set of downs to have any shot at winning. Seattle was at midfield, so if they turn the ball over on downs, Pittsburgh isn't in field goal range, even after they get the first down. You have to go for it there. Ryan Wilson: Don't have much to add, but the Stevens touchdown was a function of a good play call by Holmgren. Polamalu got picked and didn't have a chance to make a play. Give credit to Seattle. The holding call against Seattle was bogus, the low block against Hasselbeck was also bogus, but otherwise, I was fine with the officiating (spoken like a true Steelers fan). I was surprised Tom Brady didn't get the MVP for the coin toss and, oh yeah, Stevens is awful. Mike Tanier: I think Holmgren called a very good game except at the end of the first half. End of the second half, forget about it, there's nothing you can do. Remember, Holmgren doesn't tell Hasselbeck to throw in the flat to Stevens; Hasselbeck reads the defense and figures Stevens has the best chance to get out of bounds. Absolutely, viciously terrible officiating. I hate putting the game on the ref's shoulders, but I could not believe what I was watching on several plays. I really have a hard time writing about what the Steelers did well or what the Seahawks did poorly. Yes, the Steelers made big plays on offense and shut down the run fairly well on defense. But I know if I was a Seahawks fan this would ruin my spring and summer. I watched the Eagles get beat last year. The Seahawks ... I just hate to use the term "robbed". But ... Michael David Smith: Polamalu looked to me like he was looking to the inside all the way on that touchdown catch by Stevens even though his responsibility was on the outside, which is why I think he deserves more blame than Seattle deserves credit. It's hard to say for sure without knowing the defensive call, but I think it's on Polamalu. Aaron Schatz: Let me start by saying the following: The Pittsburgh Steelers are a great team. I am happy for Bill Cowher -- I never, ever bought that crap about Bill Cowher "not being able to win when it counted" or some such nonsense. I am happy for good guys like Bettis and Ward. I am happy for our man Sean Morey. I am happy for Big Ben, who is going to be a Hall of Famer someday. I am happy for Ryan, I am happy for all the Steelers fans who have supported our site, I am happy for all those fans who haven't had a title in over 25 years. The option play was an awesome play call. The Deshea Townsend blitz was an amazing play call. Casey Hampton was darn swell. BUT I am glad to see that everyone pretty much agrees with me. I feel so disappointed. I don't feel that the refs stole this game from the Seahawks. I feel that the refs stole a great game from us, the fans of the other 30 teams. Nothing says that with better officiating, Seattle would have won. Nothing says that if Seattle goes up 17-14, Big Ben can't march the Steelers down the field and win the game in the final minute. But wow, I really would have liked to see him try. I can't remember another Super Bowl where I came away saying that the officiating was horrible, and totally slanted towards one team. Most of the egregious calls have been mentioned, but if I can add a couple more: Roethlisberger's Delay of Game where they gave him a timeout after the clock hit zero, and the fact that the folks upstairs did not review the play where Darrell Jackson's foot hit the pylon. I don't know, what's the rule on that? Clearly he had one foot in and the other one hit the pylon before landing out of bounds. Watching in Boston, with no Pittsburgh fans and no Seattle fans, by the end of the game we were just screaming at the refs. The Locklear call was the worst, as Ian Dembsky pointed out, the Steelers were doing the same "shove" move on Grant Wistrom the entire first half. We started marking down every play where Pittsburgh was holding. When Randle El caught the seven-yard pass on third-and-6, Hartings was yanking on the jersey and shoulder of Darby. On Big Ben's scramble for a first down, Hines Ward yanked on Trufant's arm to keep him away from Big Ben. They say holding happens on every play in the NFL. Every play is a judgment call. Fine, but why should all the iffy judgment calls go one way? You don't want to think about conspiracies, but it just seemed like for two weeks, the league, ABC/ESPN, the city of Detroit, and the NFL wanted the Seahawks to just go away so the Steelers could have the title, like Seattle wasn't even in the game. They ran those black and white vingettes of players talking about winning the trophy and the FIRST FOUR were Pittsburgh players. Maybe the way the officials acted was just subconscious. Seriously, what was the deal with 90% of the tickets going to Pittsburgh fans? How does that work? Where did the corporate fat cats go who usually get these tickets? The Super Bowl shouldn't be a home game for one of the teams. You don't want to fault the Pittsburgh players. Some of them didn't play their best games -- Walter Jones owned Kimo Von Oelhoffen, for example -- but they took advantage of their opportunities. And Seattle made mistakes. Dropped passes, Tom Rouen is terrible, the time management at the end of the second half was horrific, Michael Boulware overpursued on the play where Parker had the first 16+-yard run against the Seahawks since November and then there was nobody behind him, they didn't give Alexander the ball enough in the middle of the game, they started blitzing in the third quarter and the Steelers were picking them apart until Big Ben threw the interception to Kelly Herndon. But I feel so unsatisfied. Pat Laverty: That chop block call on Hasselbeck was horrendous. He was making the tackle exactly how the other 31 QBs would have. Throw your back at the ball carrier's feet. He made the tackle. He wasn't going after the blocker, he was going after the ball carrier. That official needs a serious review. Tim Gerheim: This is the first game of the playoffs, and the first game generally in a long time, that I didn't care even the slightest bit who won. Usually after the game I find that I'm either glad or disappointed even if I didn't think I was rooting for one team or the other, but not tonight. Maybe it has something to do with the disappointing course of the game, but maybe it just means I don't care about these teams. Right after the game, I commented that I had no idea how Pittsburgh won the game. The conclusion was that the defense played pretty well and the offense got a few big plays. Plus, unavoidably, the officiating. But that's still not a very satisfying explanation. I didn't think it was a case of Seattle just losing the game, but I have a hard time giving the Steelers a lot of credit. All in all a disappointing Super Bowl. Oh, and I'm sorry, but since when do the Rolling Stones suck? Maybe nobody's good at halftime of the Super Bowl, but that was a terrible show. Russell Levine: Well I think it's a little unfair to say the Roethlisberger TD call cost the Seahawks seven points. If he's ruled down, that's fourth-and-goal at the six-inch line, and a good chance that Pittsburgh goes for it, given that the Steelers still had timeouts to spend on defense had they been stopped. The offensive pass interference call I don't think falls in the category of "horrible". He clearly extended his arms ... which is what every official looks for, and his action is what created the separation and the touchdown. Plus, he did it in the end zone, with no one else around, and about six feet from the official. Still, Seattle got the worst of it with the refs today. Not sure what happened on the Jackson play at the end of the half. Since ABC only showed the one replay, I don't know what happened for sure, but I thought it looked to be out of bounds at first glance. I will throw another bad call that hurt Seattle at you. Joey Porter absolutely took Alexander down with a horse collar on the play before Hasselbeck threw the interception at the goal line. That would have been an automatic first down. On the replay, you could Porter clearly reach inside the jersey and take Alexander down by the shoulder pads. That's textbook. Still, the Seahawks screwed up clock management at the end of both halves, missed two field goals, and generally looked discombobulated. Nobody on that team is going to sleep tonight. This was a game that was right there for the taking. Pittsburgh made a few big plays, but at no point did you feel like they were carrying the play. Seattle moved at will between the 30s, then fell apart in the maroon zone. They beat themselves as much as anything. Al Bogdan: I didn't think Jackson was in on that play at the end of the first half. I saw his left foot hit in bounds, but I didn't see the right foot hit the pylon. While I am 100% behind everyone that the officiating was awful and the bad calls were slanted against Seattle, let's not forget how many chances Seattle blew for itself without the bad calls. Awful special teams play all game. Terrible time management at the end of both halves. Not recognizing Pittsburgh's two gimmick plays, even when Madden called the Randle El pass before the play happened. Hasselbeck underthrowing a ball by five yards for his interception in the fourth quarter when Seattle could have taken the lead. Not stopping Pittsburgh from getting a first down twice on their final drive because of overpursuit on both the little Rande El screen and Roethlisberger bootleg. Even with the bad calls, Seattle should have won that game. Michael David Smith: The NFL rulebook, of course, isn't available to the unwashed masses, so we're just going to have to speculate about whether the Jackson pass that he caught but was ruled out of bounds was a touchdown. But I think this is the relevant rule:

A player no longer can be ruled out of bounds when he touches a pylon unless he already touched the boundary line.

I just watched the play again. Jackson's left foot was in bounds and his right foot touched the pylon. I honestly don't know if that's a touchdown or not, but I do know that's exactly the type of play the league was thinking about when it made the rule that the booth is supposed to stop the game and review the previous play when there's a close call within the last two minutes. I do think the earlier pass interference on Jackson was the right call -- it's just that it's a right call that NFL officials ignore at least half the time. Pat Laverty: A reporter with any guts at all would go to Joey Porter today and ask him if he's still sickened about the one-sided officiating. If he says anything other than yes, he should be called out on it, big time. Ned Macey: I think everything that needs to be said about the officiating has been said. I didn't think all the calls were that bad, but everything did seem to go against Seattle. After the Steelers survived the Colts in similar situations, I doubt they have much sympathy for the Seahawks. The fact that the Seahawks came a couple plays away from winning is a pretty large indictment of the quality of play. The Seahawks missed two field goals. They threw a pick in the red zone. They gave up a 75-yard run. They gave up a trick play that involved Randle El and Ward (if it had been Haynes throwing to Wilson, then maybe I would understand, but how are you not ready for Randle El to Ward?). Stevens did his best Koren Robinson impersonation, and the list goes on. I have two substantive thoughts. First, the Steelers three touchdown drives all involved a big play, and as usual, big plays are made possible by bad plays by the safeties. Seahawks and Titans' fans can discuss at length between who was worse, Anthony Dorsett or Pruitt, but what was more troubling was Boulware was responsible for two. He let Ward come free on the third and forever play down to the one. Then, he got caught inside on the Parker run and couldn't make a play even though he wasn't blocked. Of course, Pruitt should never have let it go for more than 20 yards, but Boulware (and a block from Faneca on Hill) let Parker get into the open field. My other thought was that the Seahawks lost this game in the first quarter. They were clearly the better prepared team, and Roethlisberger was overwhelmed by the situation. They dominated the entire quarter and only led 3-0. They kept stalling around midfield, and Rouen kept punting into the end zone (and were it not for Stevens, he was certainly the goat of the game). If they had gone up 10 or 14 points, then they likely would have been able to control the game. By the way, the Steelers kept their streak of preventing 100 yard rushers by allowing 95 yards on 20 carries to Alexander. Aaron Schatz: It's interesting. We're all listing all the things Seattle did wrong, trying to prove to ourselves that Seattle would have lost the game even with fair officiating. We're really not talking much about Pittsburgh players who did not have good games, botched plays by the Steelers, things they did badly. But if the controversial calls in this game were split evenly between the two teams, rather than all being slanted towards Seattle, isn't the story this morning how Ben Roethlisberger choked away the Super Bowl with two interceptions, how Joey Porter didn't show up after mouthing off, how Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson creamed Kimo von Oelhoffen, how Jerome Bettis couldn't run the ball in his last game in his hometown, how the Seahawks picked on Ike Taylor in the first half, etc.? Did Seattle really play worse than Pittsburgh, and make more mistakes? Again, nobody is saying that Pittsburgh should have lost, or that Seattle should have won. All we are saying is that this game should have had a level playing field. And, if you don't buy the idea that the officiating was slanted against Seattle, at least you have to admit that the officiating has been controversial all postseason to the point where nobody seems to know what counts as a penalty anymore, and the league has to do something about this. Al Bogdan: Mike Pereira did a great interview with Mike and the Mad Dog on Friday where he sort of acknowledged that there is a disconnect between the officials themselves and between officials and teams at least on certain types of calls, like offensive holding. He said one of his goals for the off-season was to develop more of a consensus on offensive holding so that everyone was on the same page. Michael David Smith: I hate to focus too much on the officials because I think the Steelers and their fans should be happy. I like Jerome Bettis and I'm glad his career ended like this. I like Bill Cowher and I think he earned a bust in Canton last night. I like Hines Ward and I think last night makes it very likely that he'll end up in Canton. I said before the draft that I thought Roethlisberger was a better quarterback than Manning or Rivers, so I always root for Roethlisberger, even though last night he played like crap. So I'm not anti-Pittsburgh, I'm just anti-bad officiating. Ned Macey: I agree with Aaron that the Steelers played poorly, particularly on offense, but the only real surprise was Roethlisberger's bad play. We didn't think the Steelers could run the ball, and other than the one run, they didn't. Kimo got beat up by Walter Jones, but is that news? Porter was a non-factor, but I felt that Pittsburgh was alwyas trying to attack on the right side of Seattle's line, and they did get three sacks of Hasselbeck (including the huge one that put them in 4th and 13 and effectively ended the game). Roethlisberger almost single handedly sunk them with his bad play. The interception to Herndon was one of the worst throws I've ever seen. But, he made one big play, and the other two big plays bailed them out. Pat Laverty: On another listserv I'm on, someone asked if Roethlisberger's performance was the worst ever by a SB winning quarterback? Aaron Schatz: Good question. I plugged Big Ben's numbers into the formula from last year's ESPN article on the best quarterback performances in Super Bowl history. Based on that formula the answer is yes. These were the bottom five -- if you remember, the system was based on a scale from 1-100.

  • 50: Bob Griese, Super Bowl VII -- 8-for-11, 88 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
  • 42: Johnny Unitas, Super Bowl V -- 3-for-9, 88 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
  • 36: Joe Theismann, Super Bowl XVII -- 15-for-23, 143 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
  • 35: Trent Dilfer, Super Bowl XXXV -- 12-for-25, 123 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, only six first downs
  • 26: Ben Roethlisberger, Super Bowl XL -- 9-for-21, 123 yards, 0 TD passing (1 TD rushing), 2 INT, only seven first downs passing

Based on this system, yes, this was the worst performance ever by a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Ned Macey: Does anyone think that Seattle should have run the ball more? They were moving the ball early, but the drives kept stalling. Alexander seemed to be running well the entire game, but he got almost no touches early. Was he successful once he got touches only because the Steelers were playing pass? Also, since this is Football Outsiders, wouldn't we be remiss to mention that Engram had an excellent game? Aaron Schatz: Bobby Engram had an excellent game except for a pass that he could have taken in for a touchdown had he realized Hasselbeck was actually throwing it to him. I know I'm going to get a ton of hate mail now from Pittsburgh fans, and mean comments on the website. I picked against them. We had them lower in our ratings at midseason because of the Maddox game and the fact that they were getting played close by awful teams like Baltimore and Cleveland and Green Bay. Mike wrote that article about how teams that get in on the last day never win the Super Bowl. Well guess what, folks, that's how probability works. When you say "Seattle is a slight favorite" that means that there is still a 45% chance that Pittsburgh will win. When you say that teams that get in on the last day never win the Super Bowl, well, teams that got in on the last day never DID win the Super Bowl UNTIL NOW. What Pittsburgh did was amazing and special BECAUSE it was unique. 11-5 teams don't usually win Super Bowls. Teams below the top 2-3 in DVOA don't usually win Super Bowls. Sixth seeds usually don't win Super Bowls. If we were all supposed to expect this, it isn't really that special, is it? Again, I hope Steelers fans understand what is happening here. I keep reading comments on our discussion threads about sour grapes. Let me give you an example: "Can we accept that the refs made a few bad calls, that close calls against your team are not evidence of cheating and that possibly, maybe, in some fantastical way the Steelers outplayed the Seahawks?" The problem with that question is the phrase "your team." The Seahawks are not my team and they are not the favorite team of any writer on this website. The FO staff has a couple Patriots fans, an Eagles fan, a Giants fan, a Bucs fan, a Lions fan, and a Colts fan complaining about the officials here. The guys I was watching with, you had a couple Patriots fans, a Vikings fan and a Bucs fan complaining about the officials. Kevin Hench picked the Steelers for, and he wrote a column today about the bad officials. Michael "not David" Smith is not a Seahawks fan -- as I've pointed out, he's the best example of east coast media bias because he is the only other national NFL columnist who lives farther east than I do -- and he wrote a column today about the bad officials. isn't exactly known for writing about sporting events immediately afterwards, but they've got a column up about the bad officials. Skip Bayless would rather rip his own balls off with his teeth than say something nice about the city of Seattle and HE wrote a column today about the bad officials. Check out, and read the e-mails Mike Florio has been getting. Amazing. Pittsburgh fans need to understand just how angry the response is, on our site and others, from neutral fans of the other 30 teams. This is not a case of Seahawks fans whining and being sore losers. I have never seen anything like this in terms of fans of the other 30 teams taking to the internet and complaining about the result of a game. People who had nothing to gain from the Seahawks winning. People who PICKED THE STEELERS in many cases. This should not be happening. Throw out everything that any Pittsburgh or Seattle fan has to say about this game. Fans of the other 30 teams are not supposed to complain about the result of a Super Bowl. Something went wrong. For those curious: Seattle's DVOA: 24.0% offense, -19.5% defense, -12.4% special teams, 31.0% total. Pittsburgh's DVOA: -4.3% offense, -15.1% defense, 7.2% special teams, 17.9% total.

* * * * *

Before we go, I want to thank everyone for their support and for reading Football Outsiders all year. It's been a pretty incredible year, it's been great to have so many new people reading our stuff and we fended off most of the trolls although you wouldn't want to read my e-mail. Anyway, I still can't believe that I get to do this for a living, so thanks to all the readers. Don't stop reading, though. We've still got the awards balloting through tomorrow, the off-season free agent contest is coming soon, we have one more Every Play Counts (maybe), the season's final Scramble for the Ball on Wednesday, and the first edition of our off-season column Four Downs by the end of the week. Meanwhile, I'm going to take a nap for two weeks. Then we start on Pro Football Prospectus 2006, in stores mid-July. From all of us here at Three Feet High and Rising, this is your host Don Newkirk. Good night.


821 comments, Last at 06 Mar 2013, 9:22pm

2 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

(*sigh*) Great column, gentlemen. Your words mirrored many of my thoughts.

When asked about officiating in the National Football League, and what would need to happen for real and sweeping reform to take place, I’ve always said that having the wrong team win the Super Bowl would be about the worst, most graphic thing that could happen…the NFL’s “Code Black".

Now we get to find out if that’s the case. Journalists and talking heads are already blasting Bill Leavy and his goon crew, and it’s only going to get worse. We shall see if the Seahawks get anything more than another meaningless apology out of this, or if they will be seen years from now as the heroes who fell on the grenade which caused the NFL to hire full-time referees, begin far more severe physical and rules training for their officials, and bring far more severe disciplinary action when those officials err to this degree.

Were that the case, it would almost be worth it. But if Mike Pereira worms his way out of this one on Total Access, if Leavy is fined half a game check or let off dead-solid free…the NFL will have far more serious issues to deal with than the upcoming status of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

It will, instead, be fighting for its very integrity. And the fans will go away if they cannot possibly believe that everything is being done to insure fair competition.

Right now, I want nothing more than for Bill Leavy to feel the same measure of pain that he has caused every Seahawks fan. But in the long run, what I need from this – what we all need from this - is for Paul Tagliabue to wake up to the ticking bomb in his kitchen, and do something about it.

If he doesn’t, he’ll be singing, "Nobody’s Fault But Mine� sooner than he could possibly imagine.

3 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I can accept some of the complaints, but Roethlisberger crossed the goalline. And Jackson pushed off. And if you're going to invoke neutrality so will I - I'm a Broncos fan. With a soft spot for the Seahwaks because I lived in Seattle recently for 4 years and rode Alexander and Hasselbeck to my fantasy championship this year.

The two plays I'd really like to see again are Locklear's hold and Jackson's non-TD where he hit the pylon.

4 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Neutral fans are upset by the officiating not because it deprived Seattle of a win, but because it deprived us of a closer more entertaining game.

Hats off to yizzins for the win. I don't want to take away from their celebration.

How many days until draft day?

5 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Regarding the pylon isn't it two separate issues?

Possession - two feet in bounds must be resolved first then you look at whether the ball crossed the plane.

I think that the pylon is in bounds but not the ground if you take my meaning. If his foot hits the pylon above the ground then all that matters is where it comes down. Since his foot came down out of bounds after hitting the pylon there is no catch.

6 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Well, it'd kind of complete the circle, since the Vinny Testaverde "touchdown" against Seattle was the impetus for the return of replay. (And, it's worth noting, although it never occurred to me that the pylon call could have been a touchdown and therefore should have been reviewed, that the ones they *did* booth review I think they got right, both times. So at least that worked as designed.) I'd be a lot more bitter about the poor officiating if I didn't think you could credibly make a case that with the exception of the defensive front and Bobby Engram, the Seahawks were substantially worse than the officials, let alone Pittsburgh, on this given Sunday.

7 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Did anybody hear from Ryan? I hope he survived last night's celebrations. I was disapointed by the poor officiating, and I didn't think either team played remarkabally well (I mean, they are supposed to be the two best teams in the NFL, and this is what we get for a performance), but I think the Steelers still deserved to win. In the end, the Steelers made three big plays, and the Seahawks made two (one negated by a "holding" call). Combine that with Seattle's lousy two-minute drills, and the Seahawks deserved to win even less than Pittsburgh did.
But I'm just glad the rest of the NFL's fans have a new champion to complain about.

8 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

To repeat what I said in the game thread last night:

The difference makers in the game:

1:Key drops for Seattle

2:The (non) holding call. Turned 1st & goal at the one into 1st & 20 at the 29. No holding, no pick and very probably Seattle score to go up by 3.

3: The loss of Manuel the Seahawks FS. His backup was at fault for the Parker TD when he took a bad angle and for the Ward TD when he bit on the fake. Chances are one of those scores doesn’t happen with Manuel on the field.

4: Two missed Field Goals. If the Seahawks make one of them, they only need one score at the end.

5: The butchered 2-miute drills, particularly at the end of the 1st half. If that drill is more efficient, at worst Seattle kick a short FG, making the end of the game far more manageable.

The NFL needs to take a long look at its officiating. The playoffs have been dreadful and last night was a joke. The officials should NEVER be the story in a game, and sadly they are the biggest story of all.

I have no real problem with Rothelisberger TD. It was a marginal call but not terrible, and certainly was never going to be reversed. The PI call on Jackson was fussy, but it was right in front of the official and there wasn't an obvious example that wasn't called later in the game.

The (non) holding call was dreadful. I didn't think it was a hold at the time, and what makes it worse is that the Steelers got some key non-calls at important times.

The (non) horse-collar on Porter should have been called, but hasn't been all season. If it's not going to be enforced they should take it out of the rule book. The PF on Hasselbeck was a farce, but in the scheme of things wasn't important.

Having said all that, congratulations to the Steelers. They made the key plays at key times, not just the big plays for the TDs, but, for example the two 3rd-down conversions late in the 4th which sealed the win. Seattle didn't and that makes Pittsburgh (just) deserving winners.

9 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

For the fans of the other 30 teams who are complaining about the officiating ... what league have you been watching for the past 20 years? This is what the NFL is, it's what the NFL has been for decades if not longer. The officials always suck, games are routinely officiated in a way that looks one sided. Big freakin' surprise. If anyone, and I mean anyone, REALLY thinks that this is some sort of league-mandated conspiracy to have one team win, then I recommend giving up watching football and turning to the WWE. Why even watch a sport that is "fixed"? Were there bad calls? yes. So what. That's the way the NFL works.

10 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Oh, by the way, Aaron and the rest of the Outsiders, thanks for a great year of football analysis. Don't forget to take a vacation, you've earned it.

11 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I don't like the week off between games from the championship to the super bowl. I am of the mindset that we would have had a better game. I am very , very glad the steelers won. Yet I'm greatly disappointed in the play of my team. But I'm very happy for the bus. Oh and I hope the whiz stays with the steelers one more season.

12 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I was about to say what Moe just did. I really, really wish we could have a real rulebook, because that was an interesting call. I'd assume that you'd need possession for the pylon rule, but you never know....

13 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Really nothing more to be said. Every game has "what if's" but when the what-ofs all revolve around official's judgement calls which all seemed to go one way, it's not been a good game.

Personally, I think all the calls be the officials except for the Hass personal foul were justifiable. However all of them went one way, and as you've pointed out, there were a number of no calls which would have gone the Seahawks' way had they been called.

I absolutely agree that we were robbed of what should have and would have been a great game by officiating.

14 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

A bunch of things:

* Cowher outcoached Holmgren. (Just like he outcoached Switzer in his previous Superbowl, except this time his team wasn't outmatched in terms of pure talent.) Running game not working? Call an end-around. Roethlisberger not having a great game? Try Randle-El on a reverse pass. Good stuff.

Holmgren didn't make any huge mistakes, but didn't do much for his team, either. (Like maybe call a timeout from the sideline when Hasselbeck is butchering the two-minute drill in the second quarter?)

* A bunch of close/judgement calls/non-calls benefitted the Steelers, more so than the Seahawks (who did get a few, like picking up the flag for the helmet-to-helmet that didn't happen). I don't think the Seahawks would or should have won, but people will bitch about it anyway. Steeler fans, get used to it.

And while you're at it, stop crying about Troy Brown's lateral in the 2002 AFC Championship. ;-)

* Seattle picked a bad day to don their throwback "Dropped Passes Group" moniker. That's principally why they wouldn't and shouldn't have won -- if they got more chances, they likely would have dropped more passes.

Their punting didn't help, either. Downing zero punts inside the 20 in a field position battle (like this game was early) ain't good. Not all of them were good punts, but at least two were blown by the coverage team.

* Seattle's defense did better than I expected, especially after losing a starting safety, cornerback, and lineman.

* This game reminds me of last year's Superbowl. Here's why: last year, Philadelphia generally had more success moving the ball than did New England, and had better field position. But sloppy play by the Eagles (especially McNabb throwing poor passes) meant that multiple scoring opportunities yielded no points to them, so that while they had more scoring opportunities, they lost the game.

This year, Seattle generally had more success moving the ball than did Pittburgh, and had better field position. But sloppy play by the Seattle (especially receivers dropping catchable passes) meant that multiple scoring opportunities yielded no points to them, so that while they had more scoring opportunities, they lost the game.

15 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Redskins fan here (so a neutral observer).

What happened last night was a travesty. The Seahawks were absolutely robbed at a fair chance to compete in the game by the officials.

I also feel sorry for steelers fans who know deep down (although i doubt they'd publicly admit it) that their win was tainted by the officials.

16 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

To all the FO staff. Thanks for a great seasons' work! Don't take to long a holiday though, I need my fix. ;)

17 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Aaron -- thank you.

For some undefinable reason, it means a lot to have your reasonable perspective validating what the rest of us (I'm a Seahawks homer) saw. I came in prepared to lose. I even came in prepared to lose on a lame refereeing boner, some new Vinny's helmet (can't believe we actually got a simulacrum!), or forgot-to-run-off-40-seconds thing. We're the Seahawks. We've seen it before. But it was just excrutiating to experience it, the whole time; call after call, non-call after non-call.

I'm really sad. I'm considering going cold turkey off football; FO's writing and wit and perspective is a good argument not to, a stronger argument this morning than anything the shield has.

15 years ago, the Bush pere administration was floating a plan to do affirmative action in a way that race or gender could be "a factor" but could never be "the deciding factor." Michael Kinsley wrote a column pointing out that if it's never a deciding factor, then in reality, it's no factor at all. That's the question here. There's an establishment perspective that would like to say, Seattle made some of its own mistakes, the dicey calls wouldn't have guaranteed the other outcome, therefore, it's no factor. That's a lie. There are always other contingencies you can point to in a game like this. Nobody makes every play. The other guys are getting paid to stop you making them, after all. That doesn't mean we can act like another variable doesn't exist at all. And if it exists, we have to acknowledge that some percentage of the time, or some percentage chance in a single game, it's decisive.

Whether it was or not yesterday may be impossible to say. But no honest observer could say s/he is sure it wasn't.

18 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Oh and bob #9, I don't think anyone is accusing the officiating of any conspiracy (maybe they are on Hawks' boards) but the idea is that bad calls will generally even themselves out. They didn't, and basically through no fault of the Hawks, that was a huge difference in the game.

Maybe if the Hawks had played better those calls wouldn't have mattered, and so they don't have anyone but themselves to blame. But if the calls were better, it would have been a much better game, and it's unfortunate it wasn't.

19 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Also getting play time on football internet forums everywhere:

Stevens' "incomplete pass" on what clearly looked like a fumble right in front of Farrior. He caught, took a step and a half, or two steps, and turned around to run upfield before letting the ball go after the hit.

Block in the back on Ben on Herndon's interception return. Does that penalty apply on INT returns? If so, the Hawks have the ball at the 30, not the 20. That makes the TD much harder, especially since they stalled out at the 50 like it was their job.

Everyone can agree that Foote's (or was it Farrior's?) hand didn't "tackle" or in any way cause Hasselbeck to fall down and lose the ball, so "downed by contact" is stretching it.

Thus, not every call went against the Seahawks.

In my view, the best part of the night was Tom Brady being booed. Somewhere, Peter King wept.

20 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

"Seriously, what was the deal with 90% of the tickets going to Pittsburgh fans? How does that work? Where did the corporate fat cats go who usually get these tickets? The Super Bowl shouldn’t be a home game for one of the teams."

The Steelers' fans were closer and cared more about getting tickets and paying scalpers. Most of thoss "corporate fat cats" sold their tickets, and they sold them to Steelers fans because that's where the demand was. The Steelers' 1st Superbowl, against the Vikings was a lot like that as well, practically a home game. The Steelers just "travel well".

21 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I must have been really drunk watching this game (good bet) but I never thought during the game the officiating was that bad. On the push off, I've seen worse not get called but it was a push off. The holding call was ticky tack, but I could easily see where a ref seeing it from a ways away at game speed would think it was a hold. The out of bounds catch, I was fairly sure at the time that you had to have possesion before hitting the pilon to count as in bounds but I'm doubting that more now. The only suspicious thing is all these close calls went against Seattle in crucial situations.

22 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

One of the reasons "everyone" Aaron cites is writing columns about the bad officiating is that this was a game from which a "storyline" did not emerge. You can talk about Roethlisberger's dreadful game, but the fact that the Steelers won takes some of the steam out of that. You can talk about how the Steelers played a mediocre game, but that lightning struck three times (Parker's run, Roethlisberger's pass to Ward setting up the touchdown, Randle El's pass to Ward), so they won. It's difficult to "analyze" a game that was determined by three outliers. This is one of the most dissatisfying SB's to talk about in an interesting way, so we're falling back on the obvious target. As a Steeler fan, here are some random thoughts:
1. It's good to know that the Steelers can win when Roethlisberger plays poorly, but I'm not counting on it as a strategy for the future. At this point in his career, he is by no means as bad as he looked yesterday, nor is he quite as good as he looked against Indianapolis. He's had fabulous success and I anticipate him having an outstanding career and being a top level QB for many years to come, but yesterday showed that he has plenty of room for improvement.
2. Roethlisberger got the ball over the front of the goal line on his TD; it was called that way on the field and upheld on review. It looked that way to me and to the Giants and Eagles fans with whom I was watching the game. That's one that the "bad officials" people should simply let go.
3. The pass interference call that wiped out the Seattle TD was debatable, but not the travesty of justice that some seem to be painting it as. It took place right in front of the official who had a clear view of it. Similar incidents have been called pass interference in other games; others have been let go. As I said, a debatable call; since I have a rooting interest, I don't have an unbiased mind.
3. The penalty on Hasselbeck's tackle was miscalled.
4. I think this game would have been MUCH better if it had been played last week. Both teams were on a roll at that point--well-oiled machines. Both seemed to be kind of clanking along, in need of a tune-up for much of yesterday.
5. If nothing else, it's good to lay the "Cowher always chokes in the big game" thing to rest. Did I hear correctly that Madden was something like 1-5 or 2-6 in AFC championships? (I'm sure someone can find this more easily than I can, since I'm already taking too much time from work by reading FO and writing this!) Madden is now in Canton despite that record (if what I heard was accurate). Those who denigrate Cowher are going to have to look elsewhere.

23 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Pawnking #18 .. this is Aaron's post from above that I was respondiong to in #9.

"Fine, but why should all the iffy judgment calls go one way? You don’t want to think about conspiracies, but it just seemed like for two weeks, the league, ABC/ESPN, the city of Detroit, and the NFL wanted the Seahawks to just go away so the Steelers could have the title, like Seattle wasn’t even in the game. They ran those black and white vingettes of players talking about winning the trophy and the FIRST FOUR were Pittsburgh players. Maybe the way the officials acted was just subconscious."

24 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Nice column. I doubt Paul Tagliabue is too happy with the way the game played out. Two other minor things I noticed:

On the Wistrom sack, Marvel Smith practically pushed him into Roethlisberger.

There was a sequence of plays during which Haggans (I think) sacked Hasselbeck. That whole drive, and maybe more, Haggans was quicker starting his rush than the Seattle OL was getting to their blocks. I couldn't tell whether he was offsides at any point, but it was really close.

25 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

First of all let me say that I am a lifelong Steeler fan, PGH born and bred. To me the reactions to this game are more of a perception problem than anything else. The commercials during the game that featured players favored the Steelers heavily, the trophy photos (Annie Liebovitz?) and the Disney commercials with no SEA players at all. That being said the commercials had no effect on the game or the officials, just on viewers perceptions which is why so many 'neutral fans thot things favored PIT so heavily. I can't believe folks are complaining about the crowd makeup, all week long the Steeler fans on the board kept saying that there would be a ton of Steeler fans there. I predicted 75/25. They bought their tickets FROM the corporate types at extravagant prices. If you had a free ticket and someone offered YOU $4000 for it, would you turn the $ down? Yes the officiating was bad, but it wasn't as lopsided as people are saying, just that SEA couldn't recover from their bad calls. Steven's fumble early on would have been recovered by us if no whistle blows and that would have been huge, Ben got blocked in the back on the INT return, we got some terrible spots. We did get the benefit of some marginal calls but they were correct calls, Ben did break the plane, there is a still photo that shows it clearly, did the ref call it right away? NO, but it was the right call. On the D-Jack PI, The ref has to call that, he extended his arm to push off and did so right in the officials face. And the official reached for his flag way before Hope started complaining. D-Jacks foot hitting the pylon is irrelevant, what must hit the pylon or cross the plane is the BALL. He must have two feet down in bounds to have possession of the ball, and he never got two feet down, there was no review because there was nothing to review, no two feet, no possession, no TD. Aaron, I'm not sure how you got Jones 'creaming' Kimo. Maybe you watched a different game than I did, but outside of one long play SEA got almost all their running yards going right or up the middle. The first quarter which i agree they dominated, they threw right at Ike and ran right at Clark Haggans. Everytime they ran towards KVO and JP they got stoned, same for the second quarter. All night long they got one long run to the left side and that was a bad play by Deshea Townshend. Kimo's main job on running plays is to tie up the tackle so he can't get out and hit Joey and Kimo did a great job of that. On the Locklear holding play that everyone is complaining about-it WAS holding and a very egregious hold at that. The replay is a bad angle but if you can see the live action angle it is clear as day that he not only held but almost pulled him down to the ground and he had to because he was beat and Clark was about to crush Hasselbeck. Ben sucked majorly (22 passer rating), but he did make a few plays when he had to, but if he hits Wilson for the TD instead of Herndon for the INT, nobody is talking about the refs, cuz the score would be 21-3 Steelers.

26 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Again, to me this issue isn't that these calls were "suspicious" or that the ghosts of Pete Rozell and Roone Arledge decided the game before kickoff. It's that throughout this year's playoffs, the refereeing has been often been inconsistent, and occasionally just flat wrong (i.e. the penalty on Hasselbeck).

As a neutral (Pats) fan, I didn't really see anything that indicated that Seattle would have been able to execute down the stretch of a close game, so I don't know that the outcome was affected. But the SB was the culmination of a lot of refereeing problems this year, and it paints the league--not the Steelers--in a bad light. That's what should worry the league.

Thanks to Aaron et al. for all the great content this year.

27 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

As I recall, the replay on Jackson's catch showed his left foot in, right foot out, left foot hit the pylon. Perhaps my memory is not accurate, but I'm pretty sure the refs got that call right.

28 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I will throw another bad call that hurt Seattle at you. Joey Porter absolutely took Alexander down with a horse collar on the play before Hasselbeck threw the interception at the goal line. That would have been an automatic first down. On the replay, you could Porter clearly reach inside the jersey and take Alexander down by the shoulder pads. That’s textbook.

Yah, I saw this too and yelled "horse collar, what the hell?" when it happened. But as others have pointed out here, the rule actually says

All players are prohibited from grabbing the inside collar of the back or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads and immediately pulling down the runner. This does not apply to a runner who is in the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket.

and as the Answer Man from the Buccaneers states,

The key word in that paragraph is “immediately.� It is not illegal for a player to grab those spots and use the leverage to pull himself toward the runner. What the league doesn’t want is that grab and immediate yank downward, which too often results in significant injuries to the lower legs.

Which means that if Porter grabbed, pulled backwards, and then let go and tackled normally as he fell down, that's fine. Which is what I thought happened, although I'd love to see a clip.

29 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

The commercials during the game that featured players favored the Steelers heavily, the trophy photos (Annie Liebovitz?) and the Disney commercials with no SEA players at all.

I'm pretty sure they were selecting those clips (the trophy ones) based on the plays that were occurring on the field. After Hasselbeck's touchdown pass, the next clip shown was Hasselbeck with the trophy.

30 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Let me self-identify as a Steeler fan, first off.

My first reaction is that this was one of the ugliest Super Bowls I've ever watched. An unsatisfying way to see my favorite team finally win a championship.

However, I think the Steelers did put together an astonishing string of playoff wins -- the most impressive playoff performance in NFL history,in my view.

Some points I'd want to make:
1. Officiating: I really don't see the controversey over Ben's TD. Look at the replay. Where do you people think the ball is? Under his shirt against his belly? That ball did cross the plane.

2. Jackson did push off in the end zone, and that created the opportunity for him to catch the ball. The ref has to make that call.

3. Ben was clipped on the INT return -- that wasn't called. Locklear held Haggans all night.

As for Ben, I think it's tough on him to say he choked in this game. He had very little help. The running game did nothing. Nothing! The O-line for Pittsburgh did not have a good night. And when he threw the ball, people were not open. Not saying Ben played well, as he obviously wasn't accurate and seemed to be gun-shy and short-arming stuff. But I think the Steelers' offense was pretty dysfunctional all night.

Ben did make some very key plays on 3rd down, and the 3rd-and-28 play was pretty damn ballsy. So I'd disagree with the notion he choked, because if he was, he would have taken off an ran the ball on that play.

Give the Steelers defense some credit. They held Seattle to 10 points. The Seahawks beat themselves in a lot of ways, mainly because Holmgren is in love with the pass, and he made a big tactical error not pounding Alexander particularly in the 2nd quarter, when the Steelers were on their heels, and had gained nothing at all in the entire 1st Q.

Don't say the Seahawks outplayed the Steelers because they did not. They dinked and dunked the ball, which makes for some nice looking stats, but football isn't a contest of who can throw the most 5-yard outs. The Steelers defense played a very good game, and the Steelers made enough big plays to win. And they capped an excellent postseason, and were able to pull out a Super Bowl despite having, in my opinion, an overrated O-Line, and no running game.

Just want to close by saying I think Matt Hasselbeck is very impressive, and the game made me a fan of that guy, whom I'd seen little of before the playoffs. Hats off to Seattle for a great year.

31 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

There were only 2 clearly bad calls:

1. The hold on Locklear - In the officials defense it may have looked like a hold from a different angle.

2. The Hasselbeck penalty after the INT - Ironically, this same penalty was called on PIT twice earlier in the year after INTs. Besides these three times, I've never seen it called in any other game. If Hasselbeck hit a blocker low then it is a penalty but I didn't see it.

As far as the rest, I think the officials mostly got it right:

1. Ben TD - IMO, he was in. If not, the Steelers score 95% of the time on 4th and a molecule anyway.

2. Engram PI - That was clearly PI and it happened right in front of the ref. Easiest call of the night.

3. Porter horse collar tackle - looked to me like he grabbed the jersey and not the shoulder pad. Thus, no penalty.

4. Engram pylon play - His second foot may have hit the pylon but it never hit the ground. Does touching the pylon count as having a foot down?

32 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Re: Ben's TD. On the big HD screen, it looked like the tip of the ball crossed the plane, but it was really close.

33 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

The WORST call in the history of the NFL went against the Steelers a couple of weeks ago in Indy (you know which one I'm talking about). Did the Steelers use that as an excuse to lay down and die? No, they found a way to win the game. That's what championship teams do. Seattle had some calls go against them, but instead of overcoming them, they lost their composure. End of story. Good luck getting back to the Super Bowl next year minus Shawn Alexander.

34 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

By the way, if you FO guys can't tell already, I love this site and you guys did a great job all year long. Without all those debates about ALY and the SEA run D, I don't know how I get through the two week run-up. KUDOS to you all and get PFP 2006 out ASAP plz.

35 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

As for Ben, I think it’s tough on him to say he choked in this game. He had very little help. The running game did nothing. Nothing! The O-line for Pittsburgh did not have a good night.

To quote Aaron before the game,

"I don't think people realize exactly how good Seattle's run defense is."

What baffled me was that Pittsburgh was trying to run the ball early. Apparently Pittsburgh also didn't realize how good Seattle's run defense was.

Other gem predictions by Football Outsiders: Seattle would attack Pittsburgh's ends, and have success (they did). They would attempt to pass to running backs, and have success if they threw to other than Shaun Alexander. Alexander dropped two easy swing passes.

36 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

" All we are saying is that this game should have had a level playing field. And, if you don’t buy the idea that the officiating was slanted against Seattle,"

Maybe, just maybe the field was level and more penalities were committed by the Seahawks. As stated in #22, when things don't go according to "script"....

Pitt made some big plays, SEA didn't.

37 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Spot on analysis. I think the pertinent question is not whether a particular play would or should have been called a penalty, but rather how many times would that particular play be called a penalty? On the DJ "pushoff" (btw, totally asinine to claim that he actually pushed off, or that that was the reason he made the reception, totally incidental contact and the defender was beat regardless), I think 99/100 times that play would not be called a penalty. Ditto with the phantom holding call.

Even if every referee call could have been justified by the rulebook, I look at the sum of the penalties, and note that they were all extremely marginal, all went against one team, and all occurred on big Seattle plays (this doesn't include the non-calls on Pittsburgh- in addition to the holds and horsecollar, the guy who sacked Hass on that one potential TD drive was clearly offsides by 2 feet). I guess I'm a wingnut but I'm sniffing conspiracy here. Just terribly biased officiating, no way this was just bad calls.

38 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I tend to think that a lot of neutral fans were rooting for Seattle because of a backlash to the apparent coronation of the Steelers. I almost always root for the AFC team and so I was rooting for the Steelers in this game although they creamed my Broncos two years ago, but I started to really feel for Seattle when it was apparent they were being ignored. I think if you picked Seattle to win, you probably had some interest in seeing them win and would react to bad calls against them for than against the Steelers.

And I do think that Stevens' non-fumble was as egregious a miscall as some of the other ones being brought up.

I don't know that full-time refs would help. What are you going to make them do during the week? Other sports have full-time refs becasue they play games more than once a week.

39 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I think most times DJax's push would be called a push. He extended his arm right in front of the official, and ended up with significant separation from the DB immediately after the extension. Whether or not he really pushed, he extended and separated. And right in front of the official that called. That gets called 99/100 times, not the other way around.

40 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Re: 33. Did the Steelers use that as an excuse to lay down and die? No, they found a way to win the game.

By what, fumbling the ball away and then using their psychic powers on Mike Vanderjagt?

41 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl


To most anyone except the refs it did look like the Stevens incomplete was actually a fumble, but 1 down later the Stealers get the ball back in roughly the same field position and go 3 and out. Hardly earth-shattering stuff.

The block in the back, as Pitt fans are grabbing at straws, was a block in the side, then Ben turned as he fell down. Watch the tape (nice block by the way).

The touch on Hasselbeck didn't have to "cause" him to do anything. But if he was "touched" which you admit, he is down. Read the rules.

These are minimal impact at best, but it's good to see you agree that bad officiating would have an impact.

Steelers fans: if you were on the receiving end of those calls, you would be going apeshit and you know it.

42 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

What really irritates me about the holding call (besides the fact that it was wrong, and that is not how holding is called 98% of the time) is that if Seattle scores a touchdown there we have the making of an extremely entertaining finish, with the Steelers attempting to do something, come from behind in the second half, that they hadn't been asked to do in the playoffs. Who knows? Maybe Roethlisberger catches fire, and his fourth quarter becomes part of Super Bowl legend. Instead, we get a laughable holding call, leading to the interception, with fifteen yards of field position gift-wrapped for the Steelers as well.

I missed the Jackson pylon play due to a spilled beer, but it would be good to have the NFL give us the rule. It would be even better to see the rules before the game starts.

I don't get the criticism of Holmgren's playcalling. If Jeremy Stevens makes the catches that a reasonably competent NFL tight end makes, the Seahawks would have been in fine shape. If you want to criticize Holmgren for having Stevens on the field, fine, but that ain't playcalling. As to the clock management at the end of the first half, Hassebeck was calling audibles, so it becomes diffcult to fault Holmgren, and the end of the game is a trip to Longshotville, and really inconsequential. Holmgren's playcalling for the most part kept the Steelers off balance, and unable to create the chaos they did versus the Colts and Broncos.

Boulware's play killed the Seahawks every bit as much as Stevens', and the hideous punting didn't help either. However, if you had told me that Roethlisberger would throw for 123 yards, no touchdowns and two picks, while Alexander ran for 95 yards, with the Seahawks only having one turnover, I would have wagered large money on the Seahawks. The only statistical indicator of a Steelers victory, besides the points, of course, in that Hasselbeck threw almost 50 times.

43 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

By what, fumbling the ball away and then using their psychic powers on Mike Vanderjagt?

Of course. Everyone knows the real reason Vanderjagt missed is because Cowher gave him "The Jaw" when Vanderjagt gave him the "money" sign. Clearly, jaw beats money.

44 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Boy, you guys are complaining more than the Seahawks fans.

DJ didn't get a touchdown because he never established possession inbounds before he hit the pylon. When Ron Mexico does his Superman imitations at the goal line, he already has possession when he flies over the pylon.

Roethelisberger did break the plane from my view, the tip of the ball being about 1/2" over the goal line. An even if he didn't, its hard to see them not going for it and not making it from the 6 inch line.

etc., etc.

How did Pittsburgh win? Pittsburgh won the same way a Baseball team can win 3-1 while only getting 4 hits and giving up 15 hits. If three of your hits are home runs, and you only give up 1 run defensively, while your opponent strands 1 or 2 guys on base every inning and hits into a couple of double plays, you are going to win every game. Pittsburgh only needed 4 plays to win the game - pass to Ward on the 3, Roethelisberger 1 yard TD run, Parker 75 yard TD run, Randle EL to Ward TD gadget pass. Everything else was killing clock.

If you'd just sit back and think about it, Seattle was never really close to winning this game because Stevens couldn't catch passes, DJ didn't understand that whole catch out of bounds isn't a catch rule, they kept making dumb penalties, the kicker couldn't hit 50 yard field goals in a dome, the punter aimed for the back of the endzone every time.

The game only appeared close because of Roethelisberger's bone headed interception at the 6 yard line. Doesn't it say something that Seattle could only get into the endzone in around 34 minutes of possession when the offense was given the ball with just 30 yards to go? Aren't the chances of coming away with a TD when starting on the 30 about 2 in 3?

I mentioned this here in the lead-up to the Super Bowl that the game would come down to Hasselbeck controlling the ball, because even when Roethelisberger does poorly controlling the ball, the Steelers still win or are close to winning. Hasselbeck threw his pick, Seattle lost.

45 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

RE #40 Touchy-touchy, Aaron. How abot McFadden's pass defensed on Wayne in the end zone?

47 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

On the DJ “pushoff� (btw, totally asinine to claim that he actually pushed off, or that that was the reason he made the reception, totally incidental contact and the defender was beat regardless)

That's just crap. Full speed, it's clear that bracing his arm against Porter slowed his momentum and allowed him to turn around quickly. Porter's feet were braced (trying to turn around as well) so he didn't move.

Slow motion it doesn't look bad, but full speed it was pretty clear to me.

48 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Hey, I'm a Seahawks fan, so I must have an opinion. Not really bummed about the Steelers winning, but it's sooo true the game's energy was sucked away by uneven play by both sides. Lots of ripping on the refs, with some real arguments, but let's face it--neither team had a good performance on the field.

You know what the Steelers were? The computer opponent in any Madden game. You've shut down their running game, they can't complete a pass to save their lives, but you just know the computer-aided success play is coming. OMFG THEY JUST CAUGHT A BROKEN-PLAY BOMB TO THE 2 YARD LINE. Then you break your controller and have to use the bad one with the stuck B button. GOOD LORD, 75 YARD TD RUN.

The Seahawks, on the other hand, re-emerged from 2004 with hands of stone. The Jackson calls were fine with me. He did have his arms out and in contact with the DB on the TD. The guy who said his foot brushing the pylon but hitting the GROUND out of bounds is likely correct. (Usually pylons determine FOOTBALL location, when people reach for it with arm extended--their feet are already in-bounds.)

What it masks is Hasselbeck throwing an inaccurate deep ball, the pair to Jackson and another to single-covered Jurevicius matched with a much shorter corner. Alexander had almost 100 yards, but no special runs that said "MVP." They picked up the Steeler blitz, but did little with it--where were the West Coast Offense slant routes, other than the one that slipped through Engram's hands? You could argue they needed more Alexander inside the red zone, but remember that Hasselbeck was the key to the Carolina victory. Another game like that would've carried them, but it didn't happen.

Seriously, it was a subpar performance by both teams. It reminded me of the Rams / Titans Super Bowl that was so exciting at the end. People forget it was mind-bendingly dull for three quarters, and only the last ten minutes saved it.

49 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

"but if I can add a couple more: Roethlisberger’s Delay of Game where they gave him a timeout after the clock hit zero"

That's down to officiating technique. See the Jerry Markbreit column--there's one official looking at the play clock waiting for it to hit zero. When it hits zero he looks to see if the ball has been snapped, thus there is a delay, which Jerry says is about 1 second. A grace period, which is given to all teams, so while not completely accurate that is at least completely consistent.

50 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Hope made contact with Jackson in the end zone that was ignored, and Hope also extended his arm out on the PI call. Jackson pushed Hope's arm off of him.

There is no way the official calling the Roethelisberger touchdown could tell the ball crossed the plane by an inch without the super slow motion replay. He only made the call because Ben put the ball over the goal line after he was down.

Should Dyson have been ruled in because he clearly crossed the plane
after being down against the Rams?

I think the pylon doesn't come into play unless you already have 2 feet in, but it's an interesting call and I thought should've been reviewed.

51 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I think the pylon doesn’t come into play unless you already have 2 feet in, but it’s an interesting call and I thought should’ve been reviewed.

Why? Just because we don't know the rule doesn't mean they do. If it's clear as day to the officials (i.e. "always look at the feet first") then it didn't need to be reviewed. I don't know the rule, but that doesn't mean it needs to be reviewed.

54 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I'm not a Steelers fan, I had no rooting interest in the game, and frankly, I'm really surprised at the amount of griping at the officials. The only call that I thought was clearly a poor one was the one made against Hasselbeck's tackle attempt. That was it. Darrell Jackson didn't just kind of push off, he clearly pushed off, and he did it with a referee standing right next to him. I understand that it wasn't a big time shove or anything, but it's what he used to get separation and it deserved to be called. And I thought that Locklear was holding on the Stevens catch that got the ball down to the one yard line. I wouldn't have called Roethlisberger in, but it was a 50-50 call that would have been unsatisfying no matter which way it went. It was unfortunate that Seattle kept on shooting themselves in the foot whenever they got close, but blaming the refs is akin to killing the messenger.

All I can say about the Super Bowl is...poor Peyton. This was clearly his year, then he goes out and plays one bad half coming off of his coach's son just having committed suicide, and now he has to live with the sight of watching Ben Roethlisberger play a dreadful game and come away with his "winner" credentials better than ever. Seriously, Peyton must feel pretty ill right now.

55 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Here's a question for Pittsburgh Steelers fans.

If every call we complain about in Audibles had gone the other way, against Pittsburgh, do you think that the FO staff would have told Steelers fans to suck it up and deal, or do you think our complaints would have been the same?

Remember, again, that none of us are Seahawks fans.

56 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Aaron: I think Vanderjagt's shank was actually Belichick exercising his anti-Randle-El psychic powers. Taking Indy down with him!

57 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

... the Steelers got some key non-calls at important times.

Hmm, interesting. Unlike the Indy game, nobody is saying there were any bad calls. People are just complaining that Seattle had more penalties called against them than Pittsburgh did. So then why is everybody afraid to say the obvious, that this is a result of COACHING? Holmgren was absolutely outcoached.

I think nearly all commentators are hypnotized to think that unless there are big plays from Porter or Polamalu, the Steelers' defense isn't doing anything. (Madden and Michaels were clearly baffled. Listening to them you'd have thought the Seahawks had a 14 point lead for most of the game.) But the Steelers' defense played their best game of the season yesterday. Almost no blitzing, but all kinds of zone the Seahawks weren't mentally prepared for. The game plan was to wait for the 'Hawks to unravel. And that's exactly what they did, and that's why they got called for more penalties. They were not mentally tough enough to face the extremely bland Pittsburgh game plan, and they lost confidence, and thereby defeated themselves.

Dare I say it ... Cowher's game plan was Belichekian in its brilliance. He's obviously learned from losing. The Steelers clearly "looked" like the better team in last year's AFC Championship, for example, with the exception of the handful of big plays from the Patriots that led to the final score ...

58 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Skip Bayless would rather rip his own balls off with his teeth

Is that even physically possible? Whatever else you can say about Bayless, you'd have to admire someone with that kind of flexibility...

59 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

(Er, I mean, nobody is saying there were any *atrociously* bad calls where we can't even imagine what the ref was thinking.)

60 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Jackson shoved the DB in the chest. It made him hop backwards. Thats not incidental contact, you can watch it on the highlight clip.

61 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

If that is offensive holding, there are going to be some really, really, long games next year, without much scoring. Holding was called because the pass rusher ended up on the ground. It was a clearly bad call, totally inconsistent with how holding is normally enforced.

62 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

RE #55:
I have said on several occasions, the Refs are (actually according to the rules) part of the field. There is no alternative to having refs make the calls. After the '01 loss to the Pats, I was down, but I felt the Steelers lost the game because they didn't match the big plays of the Pats (blocked FG among other plays.) I view this as the same except this time I am on the sweet, not the sour side.

I don't expect SEA fans to "suck it up." They lost in an ugly game and that is never easy. They will get over it and they will be a contender.

Neutral fans and press-types I think are responding to the ugliness of the game and the deviation from script. I mean, my goodness, folks are saying they as fans were robbed! We are such an entitlement society sometimes. It wasn't the perfect shoot-out that was envisioned. Too bad, suck it up!

63 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Re: 40

Jeez, Aaron, comments that snarky will get people thinking you do have a serious anti-Pittsburgh bias.

After the overturned INT, on Indy's next drive, Pit stopped a swing pass to James for 2 yards, forced and incompletion and sacked Peyton twice. On the fumble, Ben made what anyone must admit was an impressive play on the tackle. Bryant McFadden made a great play on a fade pass to Reggie Wayne in the corner of the end zone.

Arguing the Steelers folded up after the play is in pretty poor form, Aaron. You're really sounding like you've got something against the Steelers in this thread - I don't believe you do, personally, but I think you might want to calm down a bit. Unless you're getting a lot of personal emails, I'm not seeing the "Hahaha, your predictions are teh suxor, you suxor" reactions you seem to be expecting (and if you are getting such emails, I apologize on behalf of my more idiotic bretheren).

64 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Comparing Ben's TD to the last play of the Rams-Titans game? That's ridiculous.

Look, this won't go down as one of the great Super Bowls. But part of that is due to the fact, I think, that both defenses played great.

I agree with an earlier poster that the media's reaction to this game has more to do with the fact that a clear narrative doesn't really present itself, so people are focusing more on things like the refs.

It was a good defensive game (dropped balls had something to do with the Seattle receivers being hit a lot, I think), but the Steelers made the big plays to win it.

65 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Why would the pylon come into play when he clearly never had 2 feet in to begin with?

If anyone wants to hand out blame, blame the Seahawks for not making good with their opportunities. How many plays did they run in the first half in Steeler territory and only managed 3?

*not a Steeler fan but sick of the friggin crying*

66 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

If every call we complain about in Audibles had gone the other way, against Pittsburgh, do you think that the FO staff would have told Steelers fans to suck it up and deal, or do you think our complaints would have been the same?

I don't understand. Are you saying that you would be complaining about these calls even if they had gone the other way? If you're complaining about them now, don't you think they should have gone the other way?

67 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

"I missed the Jackson pylon play due to a spilled beer"

And that's why I'm always very hesitant to attend Super Bowl parties. When you want to actually enjoy the game, the beer-spillers and commercial-watchers can get annoying.

68 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Joey Porter calls Stevens "a first-round bust", who has "barely made any plays", and is "way too soft".

Stevens returns with a meek response and proceeds to crap the bed.

Can we please credit Porter for Steven's play (regardless of whether it's valid)? He's no Lee Flowers, but that's a job well done. He destroyed another guys brain a full week before the game, and it didn't even require helmet-to-helmet contact.

69 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Nobody's called the horsecollar all season. Why do you want them to start now?
And the offensive PI call too? So you want them to start nitpicking on the horsecollar, but not nitpick on the pass interference? Make up your mind! You can't have it both ways.

The Roethlisberger TD was too close to call, so you cannot possibly call it a blown call.

The call on Hasselbeck was stupid, but correct. The Steelers got hit with the same penalty earlier this season. On an interception, you cannot tackle the ballcarrier by cutting him at the knees. Stupid rule, correct call.

70 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Also, agreed with 63. But of course I love this site, and I understand that Aaron gets a lot of pressure from jerk fans, which I truly regret.

71 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

#67: So can five kids under the age of 12. I don't know if my karmic discomfort with the game is because of the poor officiating or because I couldn't hear a darn thing that was going on.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Will, he had his arm wrapped around the LB. It looked like holding live. It looked like not-holding on the one, bad angle we saw on replay. The rusher fell down. I think the furore is mostly because it called back what would have ended up a TD, but one thing I took away from Madden (the fat guy, not the game) is that people get mad when big plays are called back because of a penalty while ignoring that the big play happened because of the penalty. Maybe I'll download the game and have a look, but I'm pretty confident in what I saw and the ref's call.

I do feel bad for Seattle fans. but I agree with whomever it was that said that people are complaining about the refs because the teams played so atrociously. I think that's the underlying problem.

73 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

My gosh I can't believe the whining over this. The holding call against Locklear was a judgement call. When you hook, like he DID, they can call that. Do they always? No. The OPI against Jackson was an easy call. For those who have a problem with it, get an NFL rulebook and look it up. Easy call. The call on Hasslebeck was a poor call. But the trick play with Randel-El to Ward would have scored from 90 yards out, so it had little effect on the game. IT was a poorly played game on both sides. But the refs did not decide the outcome of this game. The Hawks did, with poor clock managment, poor play on offense by not capitalizing on their opportunities and poor play on defense by not stopping the big plays. The best team won.

74 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

At least we can finally put the whole Message Board Curse to bed, right? The only curse that seems important now is the Super Bowl Loser's Curse. Good luck to Seattle on making the playoffs next season. Fans better hope that Shaun Alexander doesn't go on the Madden cover (assuming he re-signs).

75 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Locklear had a fistfull of jersey up around the shoulder pad after the defender had turned the corner on him. Not only is that holding, but it's the reason Haggans didn't sack Hasselbeck on the play, which is to say that the hold was the direct reason for the play's success. As with the push-off, you see worse infractions all the time, but it was the correct call.

76 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

No, what I mean is that if there had been a number of questionable penalties on Pittsburgh, and no questionable penalties on Seattle, do people think the FO staff would complain just as much?

The e-mails from Pittsburgh people the last couple weeks have been horrible, yes. Frankly, I need the off-season to get away from the constant barrage of bitter e-mails.

But the bigger issue is that I just don't buy the "Seattle didn't have enough character to come back from the bad calls" argument. Pittsburgh definitely played good defense to keep the Colts to that field goal attempt but if Vanderjagt hits that field goal and then the Colts win the coin toss and kick a field goal to win the game, does that mean the Steelers don't have character? That's just stupid.

Remember, I was the only national writer to pick the Steelers to win their division in 2004. I'm the guy who wrote glowingly about Ben Roethlisberger in our book last year. I'm the guy who's always argued about the importance of Hines Ward's catch rate and how it shows that incomplete passes are an important stat for receivers. I have nothing against the Steelers.

77 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

The funny thing about the Stevens non-fumble is that if it hurt anybody, it hurt the Seahawks. If they hadn't blown the whistle, Farrior probably would have grabbed it, but the location would have been about the same as after the punt. If he hadn't gotten to it, it was going out of bounds, and then the Seahawks get it where it was dropped, and get a first down.

And to Kris in #30, it wasn't necessarily choking, but Roethlisberger sure wasn't good. On the 3rd-and-28 play, of course he didn't take off - it was 3rd and 28! It was a good play, don't get me wrong. And he was better than Eli in the Carolina game.

Oh, and Richard Seymour needs to explain to Joey Porter that you're not supposed to admit after the game that it was all a bunch of B.S.

78 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

"Nobody’s called the horsecollar all season."

It was called once this year.

"On an interception, you cannot tackle the ballcarrier by cutting him at the knees."

Yes, you can. The rule is that you can't take out a player who doesn't have the ball by cutting him at the knees. It's perfectly legal to take out the guy who has the ball that way.

79 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Perhaps the problem is not the officiating per se, but the rules and how they are interpreted and enforced.

So many penalties are judgment calls (pass interference, holding). Many more are seldom enforced or not well understood (horse collar tackle, hitting below the waist penalty against Hasselback). Every year new rules are added, none are ever eliminated. Perhaps the solution is to simplify and reduce the number and types of penalties in the rules.

Have the officials focus on the safety the players first and foremost. Holding, contact after 5 yards, push in the back, and I am sure many more can be eliminated.

This wasn't the first game this year that was decided by the officials. I can recall quite afew where after awhile, you immediately thought "Where's the penalty?" after the play since the officials were calling so many.

The NFL is entertainment, first and foremost. The Super Bowl, and many other games this year, were not entertaining. Officials are human, they will make mistakes. But giving them so much control over the outcome of the game results in boring games, and over time undermines the integrity of the game.

I would like to see Aaron and some of the other FO crew to take this topic up in the off season in more detail. What penalties can be eliminated to make the game more fun to watch? How can we reduce the amount of influence the officials have on the outcome of the game? Because, if something isn't done soon to correct this problem, the NFL is going to start to look a lot like professional wrestling, or worse, the NBA.

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Say, steelershomer, please educate us as to how Cowher coaches the other team into dropping passes. Please educate us as to how Cowher coaches Boulware into completely misplaying a rather vanilla interior running play, or how Cowher coached Boulware into trying to make an interception on a third and 28, instead of simply playing to knock the ball down. Educate as to how Cowher coaches a phantom offensive holding call.

Look, the Steelers made more big plays, and thus won the game. Those big plays, with the exception of the gadget, however, had nothing to do with coaching. Roethlisberger scrambled out of pressure on a third and 28, had the sense to not cross the line of scrimmage, and threw a ball across the field on which the safety made a very, very, poor play. The same safety did a completely incompetent job of filling the hole on an interior running play, and thus a 75 yard touchdown run ensued. On defense, the Steelers were blessed with multiple dropped balls by Seattle well downfield.

I like Cowher, but coaching was not the difference here.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Here is my official list of bad calls against the Seahawks. These plays highly influenced the outcome of the game.

1) In the 2nd or 3rd Quarter Mack Strong caught a pass on 3rd down and was stopped short by a couple inches (why didn't he stretch the ball out?) I thought the spot on the field was bad, but ABC never showed us a replay. ABCs presentation sucked.

2) Offensive PI to take away the touchdown. Both players played patty-cakes on the play. 80% of the time this is a non-call.

3) Hasselbeck being called for a low-block. You are not allowed to take out blockers by going into their legs on returns. You are allowed to take out return men by tackling them below the waist.

4) Phantom hold to take away 1st and goal inside the 5. It was a very marginal call at best.

5) Haggans was moving before the snap on the phantom hold play, and the sack he had after (before?) it. I’m not sure if he was lined up close to the neutral zone or not, ABC never gave a good replay.

6) Porter had what looked to be about the most blatant horsecollar tackle all year. He grabbed from the top of collar and pulled down. I would’ve like to see a replay to better judge.

7) Big Ben TD… the call on the field was blown. There is no way you can tell the ball crossed the plane unless you viewed the slow-motion replay. Furthermore, BIG BEN FUMBLED THE BALL WHEN IT GOT HIT… thus you can’t assume he got in. NFL officials all year have called goal line plays this way. I think he probably got in, but you have to infer the ball across the goal line, even on the replay.

8) Peter Warrick returned a punt in the first half to around mif-field and #35 was called for holding during the return. Upon replay, I couldn’t see the hold, and the crewmember who threw the flag was 20 yards downfield from the play.

9) Hines Ward for holding on the busted play run by Roethelisberger.

10) Holding by the center on the Roethelisberger draw.

11) Seahawks safety originally called for an unecessary roughness flag for hitting Hines Ward. I know the flag was picked up, but when I saw it I nearly jumped out of my chair…

12) Ben Roethelisberger calling timeout after the center forgot to snap the ball during clock killing drive. You can’t call a timeout after the playclock has already gone down to 00. The Steelers ended up getting a first down by 2 yards on a run.

This doesn't include blocking very similar to the "holding" called on the Lockyear holding call.

Here is the list of calls against the Steelers.

1) Stevens catch-fumble. NFL officials have been calling this incomplete throughout the year, so it's not really surprising they call this close one incomplete.

I'm sure Seattle probably had a few missed holds on them as well.

Holmgren didn't get out-coached, his offense was moving the ball quite well against the vaunted Pittsburgh defense. My only problems with him were not challenging the spot or going for it on at least 1 4th down.

The Seahawks ended up 1 big play short.

82 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

It just so happens that penalties were already going to be a major focus of the research in PFP 2006. This just makes that even more important, and makes an officiating-focused column next season seem like an even better idea if we can figure out how to do it and who to do it.

83 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I didn't think anything would top my dissatisfaction with SB38 (in which it seemed like the two teams forgot how to play football until the fourth quarter). But then this game came along.

In all honesty, I think the Steelers probably would have won still if there was good officiating in this circumstance. But even beyond that, the teams looked so unprepared. After this game, I'm now in the camp proposing no week off before the Super Bowl. I can't think of any other reason for such sloppy play, other than nerves.

84 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl


I didn’t think all the calls were that bad, but everything did seem to go against Seattle. After the Steelers survived the Colts in similar situations, I doubt they have much sympathy for the Seahawks.

85 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Can someone help me out here? I definitely remember seeing a call similar to the PF on Hasselbeck in a couple different games earlier in the year, and I seem to recall one of them was on Roethlisberger in the MNF game vs. Indy. It seemed preposterous at the time, and Michaels and Madden thought so, too, but then after the commercial there was an explanation of the rule that made more sense. But I can’t remember the details of the rule (and, as others have mentioned, the complete rulebook isn’t available online).

As for the other calls, I’m pretty sure Big Ben broke the plane (and there definitely wasn’t clear evidence that he didn’t), and Locklear held -– I remember noticing how badly he had been beaten, and was amazed Hasselbeck didn’t get sacked. Also, I don’t know what the exact rule is on the pylon, but common sense would dictate that whether or not you cross the pylon, you still have to come down with both feet, which Jackson clearly didn’t do (insert joke about NFL rulebook and “common sense� here). I did think the PI on D-Jax was ticky-tacky, and whatever pushing he did didn’t help him get separation (the DB was leaning the wrong way), but as others have pointed out, it happened right in front of the ref.

So overall, while the officiating wasn’t great, I’m hard pressed to find too many egregious calls; certainly nothing on par with the Polamalu non-INT or Bailey non-touchback.

[For the record: Redskins fan who didn’t particularly care about the outcome.]

86 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl


Yes, my fellow Steeler's homers would be bitching about the calls if they were called against the Steelers. That's how fans (short for fanatical) work.

Having said that, only two of those calls were clearly wrong: Hasselbeck block and the Locklear hold (and even this one is debatable). The other controversial calls COULD have been the other way but were correct IMO.

Jackson PI was an easy call. The push-off created the separation needed to make that catch.

Ben did get into the endzone.

Porter's tackle was not an illegal horse collar tackle. Not only did he not grab the shoulder pad he didn't yank the ball carrier backwards. They fell forward.

The Jackson pylon play was clearly not a TD.

So, there were a couple of bad calls. Enough to make up a 11 point deficit? Maybe, maybe not.

87 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Gary, if you take away those penalties, I'm not sure you have much of a game. How could the defence ever get to the QB if the line had the jump on them AND could pull them down/grab them from behind? Penalties are there to make sure that inborn advantages don't turn major parts of the game into a farce. They're important.

As for arbitrariness, you're never going to get rid of that. Baseball tried decently since its inception to work with this. You'll never get rid of the human aspect.

Actually, King Kaufman (or was it Z? I forget) wrote a VERY persuasive article about how most of the problems (with the polamalu non-INT as the springboard) with the officiating was because they were trying to make the game's officiating mechanical, and making the refs second-guess themselves and tie themselves up with restrictions they may not be sure of.

And MDS is right. Hasselbeck's hit was fine. The contention on Roethlisberger's hit was that he hit low through a blocker. They ruled that since he went through him, he by extention did a low block. I can buy that. Hasselbeck hit a blocker and the carrier at the same time (or the carrier first, even). Not the same situation. Terrible call.

88 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

First, my thanks to the keepers of this web site. Fabulous job and continued success.

As to the issue at hand, I can write with some degree of certainty that this is NOT a new issue.

Will, care to comment on Vikings/Cowboys of yesteryear? In fact, I think any fan of ANY playoff team from the mid-70's to early 80's will write that it sure SEEMED like the NFL had a rooting interest in seeing the Cowboys win in the playoffs. Because the officiating was DREADFUL. On a routine basis.

Or the Cowboys/Packers of the mid-90's when Green Bay would routinely go to Dallas and get absolutely HOSED including an NFC Championship game where after Reggie White obliterated Troy Aikman early in the game it was determined that punching White in the throat was now "blocking". And when White complained after the game folks called him a big whiner and told him to shut up.

I am listing only the most obvious examples so that folks can quickly reference that unfortunately this is not a NEW phenomenon.

What IS different is the attention courtesy of something called the Internet. (Yes, the Internet was around in the mid-90's but the ability to provide IMMEDIATE feedback to the powers that be wasn't in place quite yet.)

So maybe, just MAYBE, the NFL will address the somewhat "uneven" nature of the game's overseers.

And again as a long-time NFL observer I do somewhat quibble with the title of this thread. I think this speaks to the relative "youth" of the author. Not that I am thrilled to be older then dirt but I have had the misfortune to see some pretty miserably officiated "big" games.

This game is certainly in the discussion.

On a totally unrelated note, I do think Mike Holmgren is getting a free pass for being something of a poor sport. I have asked several times, and I am now fairly certain that he did not shake Bill Cowher's hand after the game at midfield. That may seem like a minor thing and some will point to the circumstances as "justification". I would disagree. A quality coach honors his opponent at the end of a game. It's pretty simple.

But that's me......

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Well, Sean and Fnor, my tivo doesn't show what you describe, so we'll have to agree to disagree. The former players and coaches I've heard comment on the play have said it was not holding, with the exception of one on the NFL payroll. Perhaps he is correct, and all the other ones are wrong.

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I think I'm in the minority here, but I honestly don't think the officiating was that bad. The roethlisberger TD was legit as I saw it. It seemed pretty clear that keith jackson stepped out of bounds with his right foot. I thought the offensive pass interference was a pretty chincy call, but I don't think it was egregious. The hasselbeck penalty was bad, but it didn't impact the game that much. Honestly, what I saw was a good seattle team march up and down the field without getting any points, and a steelers team that made enough big plays to win. I wouldn't say this is the finest day of NFL officiating I've ever seen, but I really don't think it was THAT bad. The officiating in the steelers-colts game was much worse IMO. BTW I'm a lions fan.

91 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I think the officiating column should be called "Under Further Review". Seriously, that would be cool. I have no idea who would do it. Maybe Leavy or Morelli will be looking for a job?

And inre: #55 I don't think that the writers would be ignoring the calls if they had gone the other direction. I just think that while some of the calls were questionable and one was flat wrong, I don't think it was an uneven playing field. I think the complaints about the calls are a reaction to the generally bad game played by both sides. It was not a very entertaining superbowl.

92 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Was the officating really that bad though. So far, we have at least 1 holding call that nobody can argue with. I think that in time we will all come to agree that D-Jack did commit that interference. On the D-Jack non-td, well, he did hit the pylon, but he didn't get his two feet in. I'm not sure either what the rule book says about that, but I don't think hitting the pylon matters. The Roethlisberger TD was a tad questionable. The call on Hasselbeck was lame, but Pitt got stuck with the same call earlier in the year. I'll agree on the horsecollar, and the one hold was BS. Those are the only ones i've heard people really bring up. Seattle got away huge on the block in the back too. If you wanna talk about bad officiating in general I think it is only fair to mention that one. If the refs did call it seattle would have gotten the ball around the 40-50 on their INT return, not at the Pitt 20.

93 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

If you were making a list of all of the reasons the Seahawks didn't win the game, a disparity between the number of questionable calls going against Seattle and the number of such calls going against Pittsburgh has to be one of the items on the list. Whether it should be at the top or the bottom of that list, it's there. I'd probably put it fifth after 1) poor defensive discipline on Pittsburgh's big plays and on the two third down conversions late in the game; 2) awful special teams that cost Seattle at least 80 yards of field position and 6 points on missed FGs; 3) poor clock management at the end of the first half and 4th quarter (including the decision not to go for it on 4th down w/6:30 to go); 4) dropped passes, especially by Stevens.

94 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Aaron's views expressed in this article were the most balanced and accurate that I have read.

I am a huge Bronco fan and have no interest in either team. In the playoffs this year there reaked a hint of manipulation that always seemed to favor the most marketable team winning.

I hope everything is a coincidence, and it probably is, but think about the following...

This year, Peyton Manning provided the best marketing opportunity for the NFL. However, he refused to take a game (Pit) that the NFL tried to give him after they had already cleared the way by getting the Pats out of the playoffs for him. After that, the Steelers were the only team left that had national appeal, and were given every 'edge' in the SuperBowl.

I have never been a conspiracy theorist and have not necesarily begun to believe, but I certainly have become suspicious.

Any Steeler fan or player who was upset at the Colt game would be a hypocrite to not alt least admit that officiating gave them a significant advantage.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

76 and 80, OK, I agree; I don't think you have an anti-Steeler bias; and penalties would be a good focus. I think talk of character is pretty silly anyway.

But I think that the posters here are making much too heavy weather of the officiating, as though every single call should've gone for the Seahawks (again, I'm a homer). If Roethlisberger had been ruled short, and Jackson hadn't been called for that push-off, I think Steelers fans would have cause for complaint. And the holding call (I have no opinion) and the Hasselback low block should be 4-point plays, in what turned out to be an 11-point game. (Yes, the Seahawks didn't get a FG after the holding call, but that's on them.)

81: the call on the field was blown. There is no way you can tell the ball crossed the plane unless you viewed the slow-motion replay.

If he crossed the line, which the replay showed he did, then the call wasn't blown. The referee is supposed to get it right on the field, isn't he? Maybe his intial judgment was that the ball crossed the line.

96 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

It wasn't a great game, so the officiating is put under an even bigger microscope because of that. People have to talk about something, after all.

However, Seattle did nothing to win the game. They had bad clock management and key mistakes. Pittsburgh made big plays, Seattle did not. The holding call was questionable, and the Hasselbeck call was bad. I know everyone wants a game of this magnitude to fit into a nice little package of "this is certainly why one team won," but that doesn't always happen. Sorry.

Also, it's funny how everyone complains that offensive pass interference isn't called enough, and when it's called correctly, everyone whines about it. Kind of a no-win situation for officials in that case.

And let's give some credit to the Steeler D. Only allowed one touchdown, and that was on a very short field.

97 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I don't think that would make Pittsburgh fans hypocrites. The reason to be more upset at that call than these is that in the Pitt/IND game, the call was correct on the field and then overturned incorrectly on replay. To me, overturning a correct a call on replay is a lot more egregious than not getting completely right on the field.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

#55: I think your complaints would be the same if the calls in question had gone against Pittsburgh. I also believe the complaints in this article and thread are excessive. I generally find that giving the officials such attention is just annoying and often incorrect. I am equally frustrated by the constant moaning by my fellow fans at calls that go against my team. There is just too much of it, and I don't believe the claims of bias here are being adequately justified.

#79: As far as taking the entertainment out of watching a game, the worst of it is how there must be something like 50% of special teams plays that are ammended by penalties unseen on television. Why even bother with kicking and punting?

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Giants homer, weighing in: maybe it's just my East Coast bias speaking (though I currently live in Chicago), but I didn't think the officiating was all that terrible.

1. I think the Jackson PI call in the first was the correct. If the ref is 15 yards away, he lets it go as incidental contact; but when it happens five feet directly in front of him, he has no choice but to call it. It wasn't a Michael Jordan-Bryon Russell shove, but by extending his arm, he did prevent the DB from making a play on the ball. Given the placement of the pass, it probably would have been a TD anyway, but the extension prevented that us from knowing for sure. This is one of those rare cases where the ref having a better perspective is what makes the call controversial.

2. I'm about 51% sure Roethlisberger scored on his dive. He looked short at first, but on replay, given the position of his arm in mid-air, it looks like the tip of the ball inches past the line before he's pushed back. Judgement call either way - I don't see how anyone can say it's clearly right or clearly wrong.

3. Jackson was OOB at the end of the half. I spent most of halftime watching the replay on TiVo - I'm more certain on this call than I am of any of the others.

4. The hold was questionable, but not necessarily wrong. Locklear got beat, and disengaged, but he did so while his right arm was wrapped around Haggins's shoulder. It was almost like a leg-whip with the arms - it looks like he's getting out of the way, but he does so in a manner that impeded the defender. Can anybody clarify what the exact rule is? I can understand why you throw the flag when you the defender just barely misses getting the sack when a blocker has his arm wrapped around him from behind.

5. The Hasselbeck personal foul was total BS, but irrelevant. Its sole effect would have been a 58 yard TD pass to Ward instead of 43 yards.

The only unambiguously bad call was the one that mattered the least; I honestly don't see how any of the others can be considered especially heinous. That they all went against Seattle may be irritating, but individually, I didn't think they were all that bad.

On the other side, people have mentioned Roethlisberger getting blocked in the back on the INT return; I missed that entirely, but I don't remember Roethlisberger being anywhere near where the ball on the return. The Stevens non-fumble was pretty bad, but, given the field position and the Steelers offensive ineptitude in the game, I don't imagine it having all that much effect .

In short - not the best officiated game in the world, but hardly the gross injustice everyone seems to be screaming about.

101 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

A lot of posters are saying that two feet must be inbounds for the pylon to matter, but I disagree. I called it just as the play happened, and I'm sticking with it- From what I've heard, the Pylon counts as an inbounds part of the field. In other words, both feet touched inbounds, because one hit the ground, and the other leg hit the pylon.
And as far as the holding calls... I want clarification on holding. If a defensive end beats a tackle on an outside rush, but the tackle gets his hand on the defensive end's shoulder (on the front of his body) and pushes back on it, is that holding? I don't think so. And that explained why there was no holding calls in the 1st half, despite Pittsburgh doing that to Seattle defensive ends on almost every play. Fine with me; if it's not a penalty then it's not a penalty. But it was the exact same thing that happened on the big holding call that pushed Seattle back from the 1-yard line, and that's why I'm pissed off. It's the same official staring at it happening on every play, and it's a lack of consistency. It doesn't matter to me of one officiating crew sees it different from another; the fact is that it hadn't been getting called all game, and it's almost like the official thought to himself "Uh-oh, Seattle's got a chance to take the lead! I need to flag holding on this play."
I'm almost never a conspiracy theorist, but this game reeked of it. Despite the fact that I think the Roethlisberger TD counted, and I don't mind the PI on D-Jackson.

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I'll just admit this: When Seattle punted, I said oh no, terrible call. Then when Pittsburgh had the ball and it was 3rd and 8 or so, I changed my mind. If they'd held them there, they'd get the ball back with about 4 minutes to go, needing 2 scores. That's rough, but not terrible (especially when in theory, one of the scores could be a FG). And the 4th down was 4th and 13, on the wrong side of midfield. The odds of converting that were pretty low. Hopefully we can get a Krasker analysis.

Of course, Pitt converted the 3rd down, and it was pretty much academic after that. But I still think the punt was the best call.

103 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Regarding #96

On probably half of the passes in the NFL, there is pushing and shoving between both defense and offense. Hines Ward had a similar play on a key 3rd down catch that was not called, as minor contact by the ofensive player is usuallynot called. Michael Irvin would never have a catch it the push off was called every play.

Additionally on this play contact was initiated by the defender (albeit minor), so if you are going to go by the letter of the law...

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Totally off topic
James Gibson, months ago in the Redskins thread you mentioned your OPS+SP stat.

"- which I decided was First Downs + TDs divided by down set for OBP"

I am not sure what you mean by down set, so I have not really tried to use the stat(if anyone knows I would love an answer, thanks)

105 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

On the hold call, Locklear did nothing wrong. He had his arm on the inside of Faggins frame, got turned, and let go. As long as he didn't grab a hold (which he didn't) he's allowed to do this. It was a bad call.

The horsecollar was a horsecollar and another missed call.

On the PI, both Hope and Jackson were contacting each other. If they call Jackson for the PI, they should also get Hope for illegal contact downfield.

Like Aaron, I'm mostly disappointed that the whatever flow the game had was taken away by these calls.

106 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Hey guys,
I'm a longtime Steelers fan and a huge fan of your site.
I've been trying to justify the bad calls by the officials and convince myself that the Steelers would have won without them...I'm doing okay so far - I do think that Big Ben got the nose of the ball over the line and I do think Jackson was out of bounds, but the PI call in the endzone was terrible)...I also think that the Steelers made big plays when they had to, and Seattle didn't...
But in spite of all of that, I am just not able to enjoy the win as much as I should...I'm happy for the Bus, Cowher, Dick Lebeau, Hines, etc., because I think that they are classy guys who go play the game the right way, but it's too bad that they had to win the big one in a game with so many what-ifs...Just like with any game, the story should be about who played well and who didn't, not about whether one team got screwed...

That said - a couple of other observations on the game itself:

On Herndon's INT, Big Ben was on the receiving end of a terrible block in the back as he was moving in to make the tackle - did anyone else see this??

I'm not as quick to tear Big Ben apart as everyone else will be...He definitely looked like a 23-year-old QB melting under the big lights in the first half, but after starting out 2-of-8 for 9 yards and a pick, he kept his head and went 7-of-13 for 114 the rest of the way, with 25 yards rushing and a TD...Not superstar numbers, to be sure, and the second pick was horrible, but he ran tough, lowering his shoulder for extra yards on the ground and throwing a beautiful block (for a QB) to give Randle-El time to hit Ward for the TD...

I don't know much about Stevens other than this game - are his hands that bad, or was he feeling extra pressure (or hearing footsteps) because of all the trash-talk?

Why has there been no mention (here or anywhere else) of Randle-El looking like he might have been paralyzed on that punt return, and then coming back a couple of plays later?

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on these...

107 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

If the fix was in on this game, the refs wouldn't have picked up the flag on the helmet-to-helmet call they almost made against Seattle in the 1st quarter.

If anybody is honestly thinking that the NFL made a serious attempt to throw this game, I think that play has to seriously call into question your theory.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl


Good list. Special teams gets far too ignored, and in games where offenses struggle, it can make all the difference. How do you punt into the end zone three times in a row? And then miss 2 field goals? And when he didn't punt into the end zone, they were these huge booming punts that Randle El returned for 12 and 20 yards. Just flat awful.

Plus I'd add to the clock management list, by saying that they should've kicked the field goal at the end of the game. At least it would've given them a shot at throwing a Hail Mary to end the game had they recovered the onside kick.

109 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

RE: 103

But the rule doesnt disallow all contact, it only disallows contact that interferes with a player catching the ball. The DB did brush arms with Jackson, but he didn't pull or shove him.

110 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Well, Freak, I'm not one for conspiracies. I think the PI call was marginal, but given the arm extension, I could see it being called. I don't know if Roethlisberger scored, but it would have been preferable for the zebra to make the call decisively, as opposed to wrestling with it, and then making the call after the ball-carrier dragged it across the line while laying on the ground. The Hasselbeck penalty was horrible, but likely not important. The holding call was was very bad; inconsistent with how the penalty is normally enforced, and extremely critical to the flow and momentum of the game.

That said, Stevens, Boulware, and to a lesser degree, Rouen, have larger burdens to bear than the guy who threw the flag on the non-holding.

111 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Thad - by down set, I meant "set of 4 downs." Basically if you look at the Football Outsiders glossary, it's the same stat as DSR in Jim Armstrong's drive stats, but I don't know if I realized it at the time. So any time a new first down, a punt, a TD, and INT, a FL, a FG attempt or a turnover on downs would happen, that would be placed in the denominator.

112 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

On the PI, both Hope and Jackson were contacting each other. If they call Jackson for the PI, they should also get Hope for illegal contact downfield.

Not if it was incidental, which it looked like. It didn't materially change the position or speed of either player. After that incidental contact, Jackson pushed off without any contact from Hope, which is clearly offensive pass interference.

Especially if you see it at game speed. There's just no way Jackson can make that cut without transferring his momentum to Hope.

113 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

For one quick moment, put aside thoughts about the officiating.

Am I the only one who had a problem with Holmgren calling for a punt on fourth and inches? He's got the league's MVP, a pro-bowl guard lined up next to him, running back who is, um, pretty good, and a quarterback who can scramble when needed. How can you punt on fourth and inches?!?

Set the tone (it was still first quarter), force the Steelers defense to stop you, keep the Steelers offense off the field, and trust in your offense to keep moving the ball (which they were doing quite well at that point).

Perhaps TMQ will have something to say on the matter tomorrow.

114 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I'm actually not sure why Rouen's still in the league. The guy was terrible in Denver, but his stats looked ok because of the inflated stats kickers and punters get at Mile High.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

RE: 106

I think you are about the 3rd guy to bring up the block in the back. I saw it, so did becephalus. One guy said that it was actually in the side. I think its a good thing for everyone to look back at, because if it was legit, thats like 60 free yards for the seahawks.

116 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Re Will Allen, you may be right about the playcalling. There are just too many things that COULD have happened for me to say you are absolutely wrong.
However I felt that punting on 4th and inches was a terrible call. I also felt they should have had a bit more run pass balence.
I do not want to accuse you of bias, But I think you are a Vikings fans who probably saw them lose to the Niner's in 88 and 89. Bob Shcnelker was their OC. That was truly bad playcalling, constant first down runs up the middle.
Compared to that, yeah Seattle did ok. But a few more runs and a less passes might have helped.
Man when they punted I thought game over.

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

While I do think the officiating was poor, I think Bill Cowher completely outcoached Mike Holmgrem

118 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

You know I'm glad to see people saw the game the way I saw it. I really didn't have a rooting interest in this game. Yet I still can't see how the NFL can let their biggest game of the year fall flat due to the hint of bias officiating. When NFL flims breaks this game down it's going to be a series of "then the official ruled..."

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Something has to be done about the officiating after this post-season. I am forced to conclude:

No one knows what a "football move" is. Including the refs. Because if they did, it would be more consistently caalled.

No one knows what offensive holding is unless there is jersey stretched out in a player's hand. Because if they did, it would be more consistently called.

No one knows what interference is, because if they did...

No one knows what the rules are. Maybe some of the refs do but I'm not even sure about that having seen a variety of calls this post-season. It is appalling to me that the full NFL rulebook is not available. It's one thing to argue about interpretations but we should all be able to read the rules for ourselves. I'm not much for conspiracy theories but when you keep your complete set of rules secret then you give yourself a lot of room for interpretation and then is never going to look like an unbiased system.

Full-time refs are needed. What will they do all week? Watch replays from all the previous week's games together as crews and understand what the correct interpretation is and why on every call. Watch games with all umpires (or whatever position) together so they can have consistency across crews. Critique each other. Practice on rules interpretations until they are second nature. Stay in shape. Learn play-calling tendencies of the teams in their upcoming matchups so they can be in position. Learn what certain players do so they can watch for infractions. Now that there will be more frequent THU night games, watch those together to make real-time judgements together on calls. Between those ideas, and I'm sure others can think of many more, game day, travel, and a day or two off each week in season, I think you can pretty quickly make a full-time job out of this.

120 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

The Locklear holding was silly, but if you really want to make the argument, Stillersfans, persuade me by going play-by-play, blocker-by-blocker for every Pittsburgh offensive play to detail why each of their players was not committing a hold -- and not just by some plausible interpretation of the rulebook but by the interpretation that was being applied to Locklear. Much worse than that was being done routinely on the Pittsburgh line without a call.

Let me put it this way: if the hankie never came out of the pocket, would anybody today be highlighting this block as an occasion when a borderline call went Seattle's way?

No way.

If they banged Haggans for jumping offsides instead, would that look like a gift to Seattle?

No way.

It's that hobgoblin of little minds that's so grating. I'd like to see offensive P-I called a great deal more, and by that standard, I'd have no problem with the call on Jackson. But that play happens a dozen times a game without a call, and this curious epiphany in the end zone -- punctuated by a dubious Ohio State-like interval, just like the "no wait, Ben got in" TD call -- never recurred on the field yesterday.

121 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Re: #76

If, if, if...the favorite word of every sore loser. Reminds me of Cowboy fans crying about Jackie Smith dropping the Staubach pass in the end zone in SB 13. Rather than dealing in hypotheticals or speculating on a team's character, let's deal with the facts. The Steelers were a #6 seed that went on the road and knocked of both conference #1 seeds, and the AFC #2 and #3 seeds. Except for the Indy game where they were huge underdogs, they won each game by double digits. I'll be the first to admit that Seattle outplayed the Steelers in the first half. But if Seattle was a better team they would have had more than 3 points at half time. They would have been up by a touchdown or more. But you see games like that every week in the NFL. One team statistically outplays the other, but doesn't establish a big lead. Thereby letting the other team get back into the game. That's why football games are 60 minutes long, not 30 minutes.

122 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Why would anyone say the fans were robbed?

We got:

1) a Super Bowl record long rushing touchdown
2) a Super Bowl record long interception return
3) a fantastic trick play that succeeded
4) several great successful broken plays by the quarterbacks
5) some great unexpected quarterback rushing/sneaks/bootlegs
6) the melodrama of Jerramy "Baaaaa I'm the Goat" Stevens dropping passes that will be remembered in highlight reels for years to come
7) Roethelisberger and Hasselbeck throwing potential game-changing interceptions
8) two dramatic barely missed field goals

All that was missing was a blocked punt or field goal, a dramatic fumble and return, and a special teams or defensive touchdown.

This was one of the more exciting games I had seen in a while, and given how poorly Pittsburgh and Seattle played, they kept you on the edge of your seat to the end thinking maybe Seattle can pull it off, even while they really had no realisitic chance.

123 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Once and for all, would somebody please explain how Cowher coached Stevens' dropped balls, and Boulware's two hideous plays? Because that is the ball game, ignoring the officiating. Now, if we have Roethlisberger's idiotic interception cancel out Boulware's play on the third and 28, we are still left with the key plays being (with the exception of the gadget, which took advantage of a back-up safety being on the field due to injury) Boulware's play on the 75 yard run, and Stevens' drops.

Should Holmgren have gone for it on fourth and six in the fourth? Yes, but that is so far down the list in terms of imporatnce that it is barely worth mentioning. Should Holmgren have run more often? Perhaps, but the fact remains that without the Stevens drops, the Seahawks are in very good shape offensively. If you want to fault Holmgren for having Stevens on the field, fine, but you better have watched nearly all the Seahawks games this year to form such an opinion, and I don't recall anyone saying prior to the game that Stevens should not be playing. If you have the guy running routes, and he is the guy most open, you have to throw the ball to him. You can't gameplan around dropped balls.

124 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

NFCCF -- It has since come out that the throng of security people kept Holmgren from getting out to midfield. Cowher says Holmgren went to the Steeler locker room after the game and congratualted him. He's fine with it.

I don't know how you can call the Roethlisberger TD in the first place -- even the Rivetheads are saying that the tip of the ball was barely over the line. If my shoulder lands on the goal line, the ball is not up above my shoulder, not in a crowded situation like that one. How that call gets made from 15 yards away is just inexplicable.

DJ was out of bounds; his other foot came down out of bounds before the pylon was knocked over.

The holding call and the Hasselbeck PF were both "What were they thinking?" type calls, but only the hold had real impact on the game -- at least until the first QB gets racked up (could it be Peyton, please? JOKE) trying to tackle someone in a way to avoid the flag. Then you'll hear screaming all the way from Park Avenue.

Darrel Jackson's pushoff doesn't get called most of the time -- and I actually think Peter King had a point in saying it doesn't get called LATER IN THE GAME, when everyone's settled in. But it certainly could be judged that way, so that's the deal. The 'Hawks certainly had enough time to recover.

Pittsburgh gets two flags on its first drive, and only one the rest of the way? That's just a total statistical oddity, and anyone looking for stink will find it there.

For those of you who don't know, I'm a Raven fan, so I can already hear the dismissals. But when every officiating break goes Pitt's way, you can't ignore it. And props to Aaron and the guys for talking about it in a logical way.

125 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

#106: Is "beautiful block (for a QB)" the football equivalent of "runs well (for a catcher)"?

126 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Say, steelershomer, please educate us as to how Cowher coaches the other team into dropping passes. Please educate us as to how Cowher coaches Boulware into completely misplaying ... (etc.)

The same way Bill Belichek does it. If you make the opponent confused, they make more mistakes.

127 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Pitt did not play well enough to win, but Seattle played poor enough to lose. Even with the penalties, Seattle should have won that game.

128 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Re Aaron, # 55

Here’s a question for Pittsburgh Steelers fans.
If every call we complain about in Audibles had gone the other way, against Pittsburgh, do you think that the FO staff would have told Steelers fans to suck it up and deal, or do you think our complaints would have been the same?
Remember, again, that none of us are Seahawks fans.

In reply, I would argue that the neutrality claimed by the FO Staff doesn’t buy it much credibility. What buys the FO Staff credibility is the quality of its analysis. I believe it doesn’t gain much credibility because claiming to be neutral does not imply that members of the FO Staff — along with those non-Seahawk fans who are complaining the officiating in last night’s Superbowl — are in fact right about the calls and non-calls about which they are complaining. What this neutrality does mean is that those who have it can rightly claim to be neutral with respect to the blinders typical of the pure fanatic. Neutral observers lack these blinders; pure fanatics do not.

129 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I'll say it again... It doesn't matter whether or not the hold called on Seattle matches what's in the rulebook- Pittsburgh was doing the same exact thing to Seattle the entire game and was never called for it. That whole pushing the shoulder thing was not called time after time after time in the first half. It wasn't mentioned much, because Seattle still held to 3-and-outs, but that doesn't change the fact that it wasn't called.
And on a different topic, I think it's funny that someone would praise Big Ben for his block on the Randle El pass to Hines Ward. Wasn't it the same exact thing that Hasslebeck was called for on the interception return?
And yes, it definitely warrants mentioning that Randle El looked like a WWE wrestler after receiving a vicious Atomic Knee Drop, while at the same time slamming head-first into the turf. It looked horrific. Yet he managed to come back in the game; mad props to him for that one. He's a guy that shouldn't make too much in free agency, but I'd like to have him on my team.

130 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Oh, and btw, anyoen want to bet that Easterbrook calls Polamalu for looking into the backfield on the Stevens TD?

Odds may be less since Pittsburgh won, but even my wife is saying, "Why was he looking there? His man just went right past him!"

131 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl


Thanks. I am glad to read that.

I wrote elsewhere that when in Green Bay Holmgren was defined by his NEED to pass. His offensive coordinator was on the sideline pretty much to remind Holmgren to RUN THE BALL. I know that folks think that Holmgren has clearly changed as he has the NFL rushing champ. But what is common for all of us when the chips are down is to revert to form.

And not running Alexander more with THAT offensive line and THAT defense sucking air like a Hoover on high has to be a puzzle for Seahawk fans.

Did anyone else notice how much rotation was going on with the Steeler d-line? Aaron Smith is a superbly conditioned defensive lineman and HE was showing the effects of grappling with the 'Hawks line.

You CAN get back into the contest with a running game in those types of circumstances. Pittsburgh's D was hanging by a thread. A few more body punches and they would have been rolled.

I am certain of that.......

132 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Once and for all, would somebody please explain how Cowher coached Stevens’ drops,

He heard footsteps. What was all around him was not what he had studied on tape.

133 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

A note on the coaching problems of Holmgren- I thought Alexander was running real well, but they took the ball out of his hands in the third quarter. They should have stayed more committed to the run game at that point and been less pass-happy; they were only down two scores. And the game mismanagement before the end of the first half was inexcusable.

134 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

#129: No, it wasn't the same thing. On a posession change (perhaps just an interception/fumble return, I'm not sure), a would-be tackler can't go low at a blocker. The call on Hasselbeck was that when he went low at Taylor, he also got whoever it was to Taylor's left on the way. (I don't have my Tivo here at work to look up who it was.) I don't think it was a good call, but it's a different situation from Ben's block, which was just a good ol' cut block.

135 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl


The steelers looked better than the pats in the afc championship game last year?

that game was a blowout.

136 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

129. Blame the dumb rule, not the officials. The penalty on Hasslebeck is designed to prevent people, especially on punt/kickoff returns, to dive into the feet of the wedge, acting like a bowling ball. Now, calling the foul when the contact on the return "blocker" is incidental, like the Hasslebeck penalty, is debateable, and that rule may change.

The situation that the rule is trying to prevent would be if the QB launched himself at a blockers' feet, in order to get at the ball carrier. That isn't what happened, but it is how the rule was interpreted.

There is NO correlation between a QB blocking in pass protection and a QB trying to make a tackle.

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Re #110 if you have TIVO I can't see how you can deny it was holding, look at the whole play from the live angle, Haggins perfectly times the snap count and beats Locklear who is using his arm to bar Clak and pull him down, how is an OL with a fistful of Jersey with his arm extended out past his body not holding?

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Maybe the Outsiders could do like they did after the Atlanta trolls showed up and split the thread into "officiating/non-officiating" threads, so we could maybe actually get some discussion of the gameplay. Cause if I'm not mistaken, there were actually a couple of football teams in Detroit yesterday, and I think what they did on the field may actually have had some small impact on the final score of the game, though that seems to be getting lost in the noise.

139 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Conspiracy theorists, please explain how the NFL is supposed to successfully orchestrate a fix. With the number of people that would have to be involved to make it work, and the payoff in fame and fortune if you were the participant that "revealed the truth," it seems to me impossible to successfully pull it off. Why would you think that the NFL would be able to avoid leaks when the Bush Administration, the Clinton Administration, the Congress, the CIA, the NSA, General Motors, IBM, Microsoft, and every other organization in the universe cannot prevent them? I haven't noticed the NFL being so much more efficient than anyone else.

140 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

My first vote for MVP would have been Alan Faneca. How great would it have been for an o-lineman to be recognized for that aware? My second vote though would have been for Ward and I'm glad he won it since someone had to.

I can forgive the refs not overturning the call on the field on Rottenburger's TD run, but the three bad flags (off. pass int. in end zone, that holding call (atrocious), and the low block) really marred the refs performance. The NFL has a problem on its hands with all of the blatantly bad calls this post-season.

141 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Ian: blocking in the back is only a penalty on returns. He lead with his shoulder and spun around, anyway, so it's immaterial.

142 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

the fourth and inches punt was maybe defensible ( I think Seattle should've gone for it) because they were at there own 26. Deciding to punt on the possession before that, though, was the wrong choice. There'd been two terrible touchbacks already, Pittsburgh handn't done a thing offensively, two yards to go from Pitt's 47, at a time in the game when Seattle was moving pretty well. I don't think Holmgren's playcalling was bad, but he made some poor decisions. If he's going to play a field position game, he'd better make sure his punt team is up to the task.

More of the same in the second half. fourth and five following Parker's TD, from Pitt's 32; sure a 50 yard FG is makeable in a dome, but Brown isn't the most reliable long distance kicker around, as shown once in the game already...
ah well, no hearts broken or money lost for me, and I'm not too down on the refs. It was a good week here in the D; I thought the city came out looking pretty good, plenty of good press, none of Simmons' relentless bashing.

143 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Well, much of Seattle's mis-managing the two minute drill was Hasselbeck audibiling at the line. But, with 2 times-out left in the first half, Holmgren really needed to burn one when the offense was squandering 25 seconds after that oddly-chosen running play.

And again, Cohwer and Whisenhut weren't afraid to call trick plays when their offense was sputtering. I'm not saying Holmgren coached a terrible game, but he didn't help all that much, either. Cowher did.

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Re: 138

Unfortunately, the entirety of the Audibles commentary was about the officiating. Its not like there's much gameplay related in the article we're commenting on to which we should react (yay avoiding terminal prepositions!)

145 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Re 113: You're the only one. The Seahawks were completely dominating the game at that point, and it would have been about the dumbest move in the history of the sport to risk completely blowing momentum and giving the Steelers a guaranteed three points by going for it there. The risk to reward ratio was completely against a conversion attempt.

On the holding call- again, I don't have a problem with it being called, and I wouldn't have had a problem with it not being called. That said, it absolutely doesn't work as evidence of some conspiracy to give the Steelers a win, as the penalty was called before the pass was thrown. It's not like it was a play where the refs waited to see how Seattle did and then went, "Uh-oh! Down to the one! We better put an end to this, pronto!"

There's no question that the call on Hasselbeck was a bad call, the clearest bad call of the game. Moreover, Pittsburgh probably doesn't call the trick play if they don't have the extra field position to work with- thos plays are invariably called within the 40s, so I wouldn't say it had no impact on the game. Still, I don't think that the refs imposing their wills on the game was the story. The story was Seattle's inability to maintain consistency or to make big plays. They looked just like Philadelphia did last year, and like a great many AFC teams did during the NFC Super Bowl streak, only instead of killing themselves with turnovers, they did it with penalties and drops.

146 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

If you want to know why the NFL has lousy officiating, just look at this page. Look at all the comments, look at all the buzz going on everywhere. You can't buy that kind of publicity. Because of the officiating, the fans and press in Seattle and all of the other non-Superbowl cities are going to be talking about this game all summer. The NFL's #1 tool for generating marketing buzz is controversy, especially when it happens on the field. If the NFL wanted competent refs, they'd hire them. If they wanted easier to interpret rules, they'd write them. The NFL has marginal officiating and byzantine rules because it generates controversy that just feeds interest in the league. When the Pats beat the Raiders in 01 due to the "Tuck Rule", Pats fans were crowing about how it avenged the call on Ray Hamilton 25 years earlier. 25 years! Most people can barely remember what they were doing 25 years ago but they remembered that call. NFL marketing-wise, you just can't put a price on something like that.

147 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I think there are two reasons why the NFL doesn't have full-time refs:

#1: $$$$$

#2: If the NFL went to full-time refs, the quality of officiating would probably suffer an immediate significant drop-off. I suspect many of the current refs would quit if they had to work full-time. They currently all have day jobs, which I suspect many of them rather enjoy, and the change in lifestyle would massively disrupt their family lives. It might mean an improvement in the long-run, but even that isn't assured, as its not like there aren't officiating gripes about Hockey, Baseball, and Basketball, all of which seem far easier to officiate IMOHO.

148 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

Well, this is the first time I've read of a head coach coaching an opposing tight end into dropping balls or hearing footsteps, since tight ends are notoriously inexperienced at catching balls in traffic. Learn something new every day....

149 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

with the Steelers attempting to do something, come from behind in the second half, that they hadn’t been asked to do in the playoffs.

You mean like when the Steelers trailed the Bengals 17-14 going into the second half?

150 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl

I'm a Steeler fan. I feel... dirty.

Ya know, the Hawks got cheated out of a chance to win a Super Bowl, but we actually had our victory stolen from us.

"You don’t want to think about conspiracies, but it just seemed like for two weeks, the league, ABC/ESPN, the city of Detroit, and the NFL wanted the Seahawks to just go away so the Steelers could have the title, like Seattle wasn’t even in the game. They ran those black and white vingettes of players talking about winning the trophy and the FIRST FOUR were Pittsburgh players."

Yep, that was sort of freaky.

It's also the pattern, throughout the playoffs, of the "story" teams getting breaks from the officials (NE and Indy).

This has me seriously pondering whether the NFL is just a glorified wrestling league. 50 years ago, they weren't too far apart.