Audibles at the Line
Unfiltered in-game observations by Football Outsiders staff

Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Doug Farrar and Vince Verhei

Each weekend, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2009.

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 vs. Arizona Cardinals 23

Aaron Schatz: Former Scramble writer Ian Dembsky is wearing a Chad Pennington New York Titans throwback jersey tonight that he bought on clearance. FIVE BUCKS. That has to be the greatest jersey purchase ever.

Ian also points out that unlike Braylon Edwards, LeBron James can juggle the ball and still catch it at the end.

Pat Laverty: Is chef Guy Fieri (from the "TGI Friday's" commercials) kicking for the Steelers now?

Mike Tanier: Who the hell is this Alex Flanagan woman? Who is she sleeping with at NBC? What is her native speaking language?

Doug Farrar: She works for the NFL Network, and I'm at least more sure of her native tongue than I am Fran Charles'. 90 percent of the time, I don't even know what the hell that guy is saying.

(Ben Roethlisberger runs for a touchdown. The play is challenged and reversed.)

Vince Verhei: Steelers use a lot of one-receiver, power running sets and move down the field. And if Ben Roethlisberger gets close to the goal-line, we know the refs will give him the score.

Bill Barnwell: Ken Whisenhunt has had some awful challenges this year. I think it was the Vikings game where the Cardinals lost both their challenges within the first ten minutes of the game.

Aaron Schatz: I don't think challenging the Roethlisberger touchdown is that bad. On one of the views, it does look like his left knee may be down before he crosses the plane.

More fun was the first play of the goal-line drive. You knew everybody who listened to the Bill Simmons podcast was thinking, "Oh no, Gary Russell's going to score, there goes my money." I think Matt Spaeth may have also put money on Gary Russell not scoring a touchdown because he was a turnstile on that play.

Doug Farrar: I thought the opposite, actually, If he was close and there was a challenge, the last thing the NFL wants is years more of what came out of Super Bowl XL. And I hoped he would have made it or missed it by a good five yards just so that whole thing could be avoided.

Bill Barnwell: Seattle gets their revenge!! For the NFC West!

Mike Tanier: Someday, Big Ben will actually cross the plane of the end zone in a Super Bowl.

Aaron Schatz: Did Pepsi just have a commercial equating Bob Dylan and My God, I'm drinking Coke for the rest of my life.

Also, somebody PLEASE tell John Madden that the field goal from the 1 is NOT THE HIGH-PERCENTAGE PLAY. What, did Mike Tomlin also put money on Gary Russell not scoring a touchdown?

(Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is beaten deep by Nate Washington, but recovers to tip the ball away.)

Doug Farrar: This Rodgers-Cromartie kid is going to be unreal. To have that kind of recovery speed downhill... yikes.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, I don't think DRC caught up to that deep pass. I think the pass hung there and Washington had to come back to it. If that pass doesn't hang, DRC is beat. And if he wants to give a seven-yard cushion to Santonio Holmes, the Steelers will take that all day.

Bill Barnwell: The Steelers are going right after Rodgers-Cromartie with quick hitches and screens. That double-move should have worked but Roethlisberger underthrew the ball by 5 yards.

Vince Verhei: Arizona's drive ends on a botched wide receiver screen on third-and-long, then Pittsburgh's first play on the next drive is a wide receiver screen for a big play. They stopped Arizona's weapon, then took it and used it against them. Beautiful.

Aaron Schatz: However, can we strike the bull**** direct snap fake-Wildcat from the playbook after that 4-yard loss? How many of these do we need to see before people realize that a direct snap doesn't mean magical pixies in Ronnie Brown jerseys will come down from the sky and carry your running back for a 20-yard gain?

Doug Farrar: And the Cardinals are learning that if you go after Roethlisberger, you had better damn well take him down, or he will make a play. First down out of nowhere.

Vince Verhei: Pittsburgh just scored to go up 10-0, but they have run six goal-to-go plays, and five of hem have failed. Whatever Arizona is doing down there, they need to do it all over the field.

I just saw Troy Polamalu miss tackles on Edgerrin James on back-to-back plays. The second was called back on a hold, but still: What the hell?

Bill Connelly: I was just about to say that Edge has actually been fantastic so far today, and then he went and chop blocked...

Vince Verhei: I love it when anonymous guys shine in the Super Bowl. Ben Patrick just made a great catch in the end zone for Arizona. He's a backup tight end with six starts and 18 catches in his two-year career.

Aaron Schatz: Ben Patrick -- PFP 2008 Top 25 Prospects list. All right!

Anyone seen Larry Fitzgerald today?

Vince Verhei: Arizona has a third-and-22 and calls timeout to avoid a delay-of-game foul. Because a third-and-27 would have been so much worse.

Both offenses, but especially Pittsburgh's, have run slow, long, ball-control drives, and the end result is that it's a very short game. With less than three minutes to go in the half, each team has had the ball only three times.

(On the last play of the first half, James Harrison intercepts the ball and returns it 100 yards for a touchdown.)

Bill Connelly: Wow, that's one of the best returns you'll ever see...

Vince Verhei: Even if Harrison's touchdown is called back, he may have just made the biggest play in Super Bowl history. Seriously, Arizona is thinking lead or tie at the half, now they are down TEN. He may win the MVP award if he does nothing else the rest of the game.

Aaron Schatz: I do believe that I have just experienced the agony and ecstasy of Super Bowl squares. My friend Kevin Foster hardly watches any football, but he's over here watching the Super Bowl with us, and he ended up with "7 and 7" in a random Super Bowl squares competition. We've been sitting here for most of the second quarter, rooting for a Pittsburgh touchdown for the sake of Kevin's wallet.

However, Vince, if there's no touchdown on this, it isn't the biggest play in the Super Bowl history, unless you are talking about length. If he doesn't score, the half ends, and all we know is that the score is 10-7 instead of probably 10-10. There are bigger plays -- Mike Jones' tackle on the one-yard line, for example.

Vince Verhei: Yeah, you're right, I was thinking they would have one untimed down to try a field goal due to the penalty.

Mike Tanier: Pretty even half. It could easily be 14-14 except for some red zone shenanigans.

Both offensive coordinators are doing a great job, I think. Most blitzes are ending with a hot read or a screen pass for productive yardage. The Cardinals really adjusted well after that first drive: lots of passing to the outside against the Cover-3.

Madden beat me to pointing out that Troy Polamalu is covering Fitzgerald off the line, and that it is usually a Cover-2 with the corner deep. Smart move, because it gives Polamalu a chance to jam or to buzz the route underneath.

Bill Barnwell: I don't know. We've seen lots of Ike Taylor underneath with Polamalu/Ryan Clark shading deep, or Taylor shading outside with the linebackers dropping back into coverage on the inside.

Doug was right about Lamarr Woodley. He's teeing off on Kurt Warner.

Aaron Schatz: Good job by the Super Bowl halftime show committee filling the fan pit with actual middle-aged Bruce Springsteen fans instead of teenagers pretending they love some band from 30 years ago, the way they did the last couple years. This is way more real. Now, the way they could make this the best Super Bowl halftime show ever is if they have planted Courtney Cox in the audience among all those middle-aged fans and he drags her up from the crowd for "Dancing in the Dark." That would be AWESOME.

Bill Barnwell: Was that Heart? Am I too young to know who Heart was?

Mike Tanier: I think it was cool that Bruce gave Brenda Warner an acoustic guitar and brought her on stage.

Sean McCormick: Arizona is in an interesting fix. They need to flood the field with receivers in order to get Fitzgerald some room to breathe, but their protection hasn't shown that it can hold up without the extra blocking help from Edgerrin James or Tim Hightower. I would think they'll try to keep on working James to the same side as Fitzgerald on some safety releases and try to force the defender to cover the flat. It started working for them late in the half, and I see no reason why it won't keep working, as the Steelers figure to continue doubling up on Fitz.

Vince Verhei: We knew they'd show Cuba Gooding at some point, but in the lower right corner of the screen, you saw the Jeff Reed lookalike chef!

Aaron Schatz: Cuba looked old and unhappy, didn't he?

Man, what was up with the roughing the passer call on Karlos Dansby? He's basically already in the motion of hitting Roethlisberger as Big Ben throws the ball away, he couldn't stop his inertia, he didn't hit him extra hard. Honestly, we thought at first it was a flag for intentional grounding because you could argue that Big Ben was still in the pocket when he threw the ball away.

Doug Farrar: I think the point could be made (as it was made by Madden) then when you have a quarterback who will run all over the place, extending the play, you can't be so precious with defensive contact. It's like they say the strike zone is the same for everybody, but guys who swing at everything would probably tell you differently.

Aaron Schatz: Great play by Carey Davis there to save the interception on the tipped pass at the goal-line. If Antrel Rolle comes down with the ball, that sucker could have gone the other way for six.

Mike Tanier: Davis should have been batting that ball down in the first place, not trying to catch it for a 6-yard loss.

Hines Ward is still an excellent blocking wide receiver, and they have been using him to block safeties and corners all game. On Parker's run to get it to the red zone in the third quarter, he blocks Ralph Brown to open the seam down the field. He has also been head-up on Adrian Wilson a few times. The Steelers often split him wide, then motion him into the slot presnap where he can either block or run a short option-type route. I don't know if the injury is limiting his routes, but it hasn't hurt his blocks much.

(Pittsburgh kicks a field goal to go up 20-7.)

Vince Verhei: Pittsburgh has now run 12 goal-to-go plays, and scored a touchdown on one of them.

Aaron Schatz: Let's all say it together: "Gee, why didn't the Cardinals try spreading the field in the first three quarters?" Way for Larry Fitzgerald to catch that fade for a touchdown while being monumentally interfered with by Ike Taylor.

Actually, on the replay from the reverse angle, it looks less like Taylor's interfering, and more like he's playing good defense with his hand on the ball only, and of course Fitzgerald is amazing enough to make the catch anyway.

Bill Barnwell: Steelers stopped getting pressure on Warner and that led to guys open underneath. Playing a deep Cover-2 there is such a dumb move.

Doug Farrar: Wow. Darnell Dockett went all Ngata with that sack on Big Ben.

Aaron Schatz: And with the personal foul against Ike Taylor, I think we can toss the "officiating" angle from this game. That equalized things pretty darn good.

Vince Verhei: Ike Taylor, for handing the Cards 15 free yards on a potential go-ahead drive with 5 minutes to go in the Super Bowl, you have earned the KCW Cup. Congratulations!

Bill Barnwell: Seriously, can we get a running back to help out on James Harrison?

Al Michaels trying to cover for Taylor, calling the James Harrison penalty "huge" when it was really a difference of a half-yard, was a wonderful moment in live journalism.

Vince Verhei: Harrison yanks the KCW Cup out of Taylor's hands. It's a 6-inch penalty, but my God...

Roethlisberger forces an incomplete pass on first down, stopping the clock. Some great dumbness from the Steelers late in this game.

Bill Barnwell: I actually think punt is the right move there on fourth-and-20 for the Cardinals. I'd also consider taking an intentional safety on fourth down there for the field position if I was the Steelers.

Aaron Schatz: We were just talking about an intentional safety here too. And it turns out, instead, Pittsburgh blew a third-down conversion with an UNintentional safety. Whoops.

Bill Barnwell: Blitzing on third-and-long was impossibly dumb. The fact that they got away from it with a safety on a holding penalty (and yes, there's your NEW KCW winner) was awful process, good outcome. Rush four since they're obviously max protecting and let Ben check down, ya know?

Doug Farrar: Holding on Justin Hartwig; safety. Vince, at this rate, you're going to have to outsource the production of the KCW Cups to a larger distributor.

Vince Verhei: I was jumping up and down screaming at the Cardinals for blitzing seven on third-and-10 at the 1, leaving DRC exposed one-on-one and giving up the first down, but they get bailed out by the safety call. Seriously, though, drop back, make the Steelers check down, and make the tackle. It's worked most of the game.

Bill Barnwell: Seeing shots of Art Rooney and Mike Tomlin back-to-back, it seems impossible that one could have hired the other.

(Larry Fitzgerald scores on a 64-yard catch-and-run to put Arizona ahead, 23-20.)

Bill Barnwell: Oh my lord.

Vince Verhei: LOWERCASE GOD!!!!

Doug Farrar: We're moving him to uppercase.

Bill Barnwell: Total defensive breakdown there. They're in Cover-2 and Polamalu jumped the out route.

Bill Connelly: BOTH safeties jumped out routes ... which is amazing considering where Fitzgerald was lined up. Don't really know why you'd jump ANY route other than Fitzgerald's at this time of the game.

Aaron Schatz: Dockett is just killing Stapleton, and now they've got Hartwig and Darnell Stapleton doubling him ... so someone else holds instead.

Vince Verhei: Only problem with the Fitzgerald touchdown: It gave the Steelers plenty of time to come back.

Most impressive thing about that play: Fitzgerald was PULLING AWAY from the defenders. How can a guy that big, that agile, with those hands, that leaping ability, also be that fast? Is there some Super League we can promote that guy to?

And now Pittsburgh's goal-to-go offense, which has been horrible all night, has to come through to win the game right here.

Bill Connelly: This is starting to remind me of the Pats-Carolina Super Bowl, a relatively sloppy game (sans Harrison's amazing touchdown) that suddenly explodes with excitement in the last few minutes.

(Santonio Holmes scores on a 6-yard catch to put Pittsburgh ahead, 27-23.)

Aaron Schatz: Holy f***ing ****.

Bill Connelly: That's a touchdown. WOW has this been fun. My opinion of Santonio Holmes has improved by an incalculable amount in these playoffs.

Bill Barnwell: Well, Santonio Holmes just became a man.

I can't wait to anoint Ben Roethlisberger as the clutch hero for checking down and having Aaron Francisco slip on a tackle.

Bill Connelly: Barring a miracle touchdown (well, *another* miracle touchdown), Kurt Warner will officially have led TWO double-digit, fourth-quarter, Super Bowl comebacks (vs. Pats and Steelers) ... and lost both games.

Ned Macey: And in both, he threw a pick-six that put them in a hole in the first place.

Mike Tanier: So when did Super Bowls become f***ing awesome again?

The play that set up Holmes' touchdown -- the long run up the sidelines -- was set up by a great pump-fake to Mewelde Moore in the flat. It moved DRC out of the lane so Big Ben could throw to Holmes in space. Ben can drive you crazy when he spends a month in the pocket, but sometimes he does something brilliant in there.

Oh crap. Game aint over. Fitz just made a big catch.

Aaron Schatz: My God. Remember when Super Bowls were all blowouts? Think how many close games we've had in the last decade ... Rams-Titans, then all four Patriots games, and even Steelers-Seahawks and Colts-Bears were good games, even if they were not down to the final play.

By the way, I'm guessing that the Cardinals are going to end up with a better DVOA in this game, and even a higher VOA. Warner has been far better than Roethlisberger, even with that last drive. No matter what, the numbers are going to end this season unhappy.

And with 24 seconds left, they quadruple-cover Larry Fitzgerald and he still makes a great catch. Unreal.

Not a big fan of the J.J. Arrington dump with 20 seconds left. You just took your last timeout and you're stuck with just two Hail Mary tries. Now, I can't think of better receiver to have down there for a Hail Mary...

Bill Barnwell: How did they not review the last play?!?!

Aaron Schatz: Wait, did the replay official really not look at that final fumble? Really? That was a tuck rule play. The hand was going forward. The chances that Arizona makes the final Hail Mary are remote, but still, you have to at least review it.

Bill Connelly: I think it actually started coming loose when his arm was going backwards, right?

Aaron Schatz: I'm not happy to end this thing on an officiating question. How hard is it to review the final play? Isn't that why you make the reviews in the final two minutes the responsibility of the booth? So you can review as many plays as you want without a limit on challenges?

And yet, at the same time, an optimistic thought: Is this the best Super Bowl of all time, from the "not a fan of either team" perspective? The ending was as exciting as last year's, and the first three quarters were definitely better.

Bill Barnwell: Looked to me like:

A) Warner brought the ball down to launch a throw;
B) He started to bring the ball back up to make said throw;
C) The ball was knocked out of his hands;
D) The arm continued forward.

Mike Tanier: I have no problem letting the tuck rule disappear forever.

Vince Verhei: "So when did Super Bowls become f***ing awesome again?"

It may have coincided with teams like the Giants and the Colts and the Cardinals making playoff runs. If any team can beat any other team, then each individual game should be more exciting.

Aaron beat me to the punch -- Arizona won the DVOA battle today. Each team had one interception -- the Cards got -1 return yards, Pittsburgh got 100 and seven points. If Harrison drops his interception, and everything else goes the same (obviously, a huge if), the final margin is 26-20 or 30-20, Arizona. He's my MVP, and I don't think he made any other plays.

Bill Barnwell: "Ben can drive you crazy when he spends a month in the pocket, but sometimes he does something brilliant in there."

That's true. I'm underselling Roethlisberger's ability to run around in the pocket, but man, it was weird to hear him hype up his offensive line after the game considering he was probably hurried 20 times.

Polamalu also had a nightmare of a game, overrunning plays left and right and getting caught on the long Fitzgerald touchdown. I know that Warner did a great job of looking him off, but hey, you're supposed to be an elite safety and the possibilities on that flat throw aren't that bad.

On the other side of the ball, Rodgers-Cromartie was everything we saw on film; a great athlete who has major work to do before he becomes a really good NFL corner. He actually had a worse game than Hood, which was pretty shocking.

Sean McCormick: Two questions. First, for people who think Warner is on the fence as far as the Hall of Fame (I think he's in, myself), does that game improve or hurt his chances? He put up terrific numbers, but he also threw the pick that cost the team the game and his Achilles heel -- er, thumb --hurt Arizona badly on several occasions.

Secondly, can Matt Leinart officially be excused for not beating Warner out? I mean, really, are you an out-and-out bust because you can't beat out Kurt Warner?

Mike Tanier: I think Warner got himself in this year. I think this game helped.

Ned Macey: I'd like to disagree with people on the blitz that caused the safety. Not only did they get the holding call because of the pressure, but they forced Roethlisberger to fit a ball into a very tight window. (The holding call, by the way, while obvious, is not something that every crew would call in that situation.)

I think it is absurd that they didn't review the last play, and while I think it was a fumble, it was certainly close enough to warrant review. I think the officials didn't want to delay it since it appeared the game was over. Do you really want the shot of Woodley on the bench cheering after the official comes back out to say the play is upheld to be the final real image?

Warner is still woefully short of the Hall of Fame if I were a selector. I think it is odd that the standard is that he led three teams to the Super Bowl, and then he plays well but loses, but that is suddenly other aspects of the team's fault. I do think, however, that the game helps with people who actually are selectors.

I thought last year's Super Bowl was much more engaging because it seemed close throughout. This looked like a Steelers blowout early and again after the Harrison runback. Then the fourth quarter was impressive, but it fell short of last year. Closer to the Titans game after the 1999 season.

For Santonio Holmes owners in fantasy: Where the hell was this all year? It really was an outstanding performance, especially since Ward was definitely limited. The game-winner is up there in the Super Bowl pantheon. What I like about it is that the play was as called and just required a perfect throw and a perfect catch.

Vince Verhei: I think this game helped Warner with the selectors tremendously.

Most passing yards in Super Bowls, career:

1. Kurt Warner, 1,156.
2. Joe Montana, 1,142.

Most passing yards in Super Bowls, single game:

1. Kurt Warner, XXXIV, 414.
2. Kurt Warner, XLIII, 377.
3. Kurt Warner, XXXVI, 365.

The Hall of Fame voters will value those numbers more than they should.

Aaron Schatz: After driving home, I feel a weird calm. I feel like the universe has been put back into an order that makes some kind of sense. I wonder if this is what Superman feels like after one of those DC Comics "crisis" events. (Actually, Superman has some control over that situation. Maybe this is what Jimmy Olsen feels like after one of those DC Comics "crisis" events.)

Bill Barnwell: I really can't agree. The Cardinals probably outplayed the Steelers, like you said. Just because the bounces (and the refereeing) bounced their way doesn't mean that we were right (or wrong, for that matter.)

I don't get what the big deal is, to be honest. It's the playoffs. Variance happens.

Aaron Schatz: Well, it isn't a question of what "we" thought. It's more about the idea that the champion should be a team that played well in both the regular season and the playoffs, not just the latter.

Although perhaps, given that the Cardinals played four straight good games in the postseason, the proper question is not "what happened in the playoffs," but rather "what the heck happened in Weeks 13 to 16?" Other than snow in one game, of course.

Bill Barnwell: Fine, but the idea that the champion is the champion is pretty murky when the reason they're the champion and not the Cardinals is a bunch of good breaks and penalty calls. If the Cardinals end up with a VOA that's 50% below the Steelers and they win the game, we're howling about how the world isn't fair; instead, that's exactly what happened with the Steelers.

Ned Macey: I'm hesitant to keep mentioning "penalty calls" when as far as I'm concerned there was one bad call the whole day (roughing the passer), and the Steelers were heavily penalized in the fourth quarter (safety, Ike Taylor, holding to push them back to start their final drive).

I think we can all agree that the Steelers were not "better" than the Cardinals today. Their guy happened to return a touchdown 100 yards. That's the difference in the game, and while I know that return touchdowns are not repeatable, the interception itself was a fine bit of scheming and a terrible read by the opposing quarterback. The return, while not repeatable in a statistical sense, was still a great effort both by Harrison and his blockers. That wasn't a gift interception return like Law's in 2001 where jumping the route gives you the touchdown. For that reason, I'm not really upset that the team that maybe didn't play as well won. (And if they hadn't gotten the touchdown and the big lead, it likely would have played out very differently.)

What I agree with Aaron on is the fact that when you have an effective draw, as this game was in my mind (and maybe the DVOA will show a big Arizona advantage, but the two Arizona fumbles will hurt them), I'm happy that the better team wins the game. If you look at all these close Super Bowls, it doesn't always happen. Since 2001, we've had five extremely close Super Bowls, and the better team is now 3-2.

Aaron Schatz: Right, good point, Ned. We shouldn't confuse the concept that "turnover returns are a non-repeatable play that we don't include in DVOA because they may not be a good judge of the defense's inherent quality" with the idea that "a long turnover return is random chance." There was a lot of athletic talent shown on that return, and excellent blocking.

Vince Verhei: And -- I'm sorry to say -- an uncalled block in the back, which is blatant given the benefit of replay after the game. LaMarr Woodley and Tim Hightower are running down the field ahead of Harrison. At the Steeler 40, Woodley throws a perfectly legal block, and both guys slow up, thinking the play is over. Of course, it isn't over, and both guys start running down the field again. Around the Arizona 35, Hightower looks like he's about to cut Harrison down, when Woodley plants both hands in Hightower's back and shoves him to the ground. Harrison cuts inside, and you know the rest.

This isn't the first time a great game was decided by a play that included an uncalled penalty. Green Bay should have been called for a false start on Bart Starr's winning touchdown in the Ice Bowl, and 40 years later, nobody talks about blown calls. They just talk about Lombardi's Packers as a great team the Cowboys as a great rival during those years.

Mike Tanier: I hope the talk of this game doesn't devolve into a discussion about penalties and reviews. Ultimately, most of the calls were correct. Blocks to the back on jailbreak interception returns often go unnoticed. The roughing penalties, which went both ways, are going to get a little tacky when teams are starting to push and shove. The refs have to throw an extra flag or two to keep the game from getting out of hand. The fumble at the end technically should have been reviewed, but damn, don't you get review fatigue after a while? Every damn significant play of this game needed to be reviewed. I didn't need to see the Cardinals get another Hail Mary attempt on a technicality.

Aaron Schatz: According to the ESPN ticker, Mike Pereira says that booth replay did confirm that Kurt Warner fumbled the ball on the final play, but the officials just didn't announce it. I'm comfortable with that.

Vince Verhei: Quote of the day, from Santonio Holmes' 4-year-old son Nicori after the game, on the Cardinals: "They put my daddy down. They ugly and I hate 'em."


Here are the one-game DVOA ratings for the Super Bowl. With opponent adjustments:

ARI 66% 74% 10% 2%
PIT -22% 11% 33% 1%

Here is the same table, often requested in years past, with VOAf instead of DVOA. This still has adjustments for fumble luck and special teams weather, but does not include opponent adjustments.

ARI 34% 45% 13% 2%
PIT -31% 13% 45% 1%


318 comments, Last at 20 May 2009, 4:11am

298 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Look, I'm not saying it was some grand scheme at the NFL front office to give the Steelers another Super Bowl win. I don't believe for a second that the refs were told or even nudged toward consciously giving the Steelers the benefit of the doubt. Anyone who does is a moron and deserved every ounce of your sarcastic distain.

But I don't think it can be rationally argued that the Steelers have not received many more beneficiary calls/non-calls in their two most recent appearances in the Super Bowl than their opponents have. I won't even rehash the atrocity from a couple years ago. But this year alone there was the obvious block-in-the-back on Harrison's return (completely understandable that doesn't get called, but it easily could have been). Harrison absolutely should have been ejected for throwing a punch (and he would have been if it wasn't the Super Bowl), but instead it cost the Steelers a meaningless half a yard. The roughing call that Reothlisberger got was an absolute joke especially compared to some of the hits Warner took. Holmes should have gotten a 15-yarder for using the football as a prop on the game winning score (I hate that rule, but it's probably the most objective clear-cut penalty on the books and it wasn't called; that would have been huge for Arizona). But even with all those calls, there's absolutely zero chance I'd be here complaining about the officiating. Any one of those calls could have single-handedly changed the outcome of the game. But they're all reasonably understandable calls/non-calls given the situation (even if 'reasonably understandable' and 'acceptable' aren't the same thing).

But not taking the time to give the final play the proper review is appalling. That fumble was probably the most important call a ref made all season, and for them to at best take a cursory glance at the tape and decide it wasn't worth further review is enraging. The fact that it happened to be in the Steelers favor is just the icing on the cake.

72 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Was the post-season competitiveness of this Cardinals team a future harbinger of the college spread offense showing up in NFL games? I know you guys have discussed the lack of the "spread" in the NFL, so is this the beginning of the "pass wacky" offense to professional football?

102 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

The Pats, Colts and Cards have probably been the three teams to have the most success with the spread in the NFL. I don't think its a coincidence though that these offenses have QBs with elite accuracy and decision-making skills and beastly wide-receivers.

So, to answer your question, no I don't think this is a harbinger of offenses to come, at least not successful offenses, because of the personnel requirements to make it successful. That's not to say that you won't see it from teams like the Bengals and maybe the Broncos, who probably have the pieces necessary to make a spread work reasonably well.

108 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

It's not really the *college* spread, since the Cardinals' current offense doesn't seem all that different from the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf outfit, the Patriots' offense last year, and several other offenses going back at least a couple decades (Oilers, for instance, and possibly even the '80s 49ers). Spreading the field like that works when you have crazy awesome receivers like Fitzgerald and Boldin, a quarterback with a quick release, good arm, and good decision-making skills like Warner, and some running backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield when the recievers are being bracketed. But hopefully the successes of the Cards' offense, the Pats' last year, and any others that come along will encourage coaches to try and find fast, quick-thinking playmakers and keep moving farther and farther away from the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust mentality that still plagues some coaches in the league.

199 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Haha, a fair point. They just need to fire every O-lineman on the team and hire dudes off the street, then they'll probably be at least a little better. That might have been the worst Super Bowl-winning O-line of all time.

Hard to pick up three when there are two guys in your backfield on every play. *sigh

80 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

As someone who was not particularly invested in either team (Denver Fan here), I found Aarons comment that it was a good superbowl to not be a fan of either team true but not the best.

2003 was a really fun superbowl to not care about the teams, it was fairly boring, then heated up at the end. The edge is there were so many clearer aspects of that game officiating-wise than this one. Im not saying the officiating was wrong or horrible, but it could have probably gone either way on the rothlisburger sneak, the fumble at the end, santonio holmes right foot, the block in the back at the end of the half, so many different penalties etc. There were at least 5 major challenges in the game, and its just better when its not that ambiguous.

81 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

This game was probably my favorite Super Bowl to date (granted, I'm only old enough to have watched and understood 15 or so), and it was even before the Steelers won, which is really saying something. This is the first of the "unstoppable force vs. immovable object" games that I've seen that has really, in my opinion, lived up to the hype. The struggle between the Cardinals' efficient, precise passing offense and the Steelers' pass rush (it was there, they just didn't have time to get to Warner) was epic, and there were enough big plays, lead changes, and just excellent individual performances to satisfy anyone but a complete scrooge.

(Ramble/probably uninteresting analysis of the game incoming.)

I actually agreed with DVOA that the Cardinals outplayed the Steelers overall, with a couple of huge, all-time-Super-Bowl-great plays making the difference. The Cardinals were moving the ball in small chunks, but completely at will, even in the first half. Having to double Fitzgerald and possibly Boldin, and cover Breaston at the same time, left the RBs open in the flats, and the Cards were getting 5-15 yards on every one of those flat passes. That strategy also negated the Steelers' pass rush--the signature moment for the Cardinals' offense through the first three quarters was a quick dumpoff right over the head of a blitzing Harrison who would have had Warner a second later, but instead had to watch as James/Hightower (don't remember who it was) picked up a solid gain. Eventually, it got to the point, though not till the second half, where the Steelers finally felt like they had to cover the running backs ... and as soon as they did that, bam, Fitzgerald and Warner blew the game apart. If the Cardinals had gotten all heroic and tried to go deep, or even intermediate, from the get-go, it would have been a Steeler rout. The Cardinals' acknowledgement of that simple fact set them apart from all the other offenses I saw the Steelers play this year who tried their luck sitting back in the pocket hoping the pass rush wouldn't get there and got themselves smushed.

This kind of reminded me of an old Ali-Frazier fight (yeah, it's a boxing analogy, live with it) in which Ali would out-guile and out-quick Frazier for most of the bout, but one slip-up meant taking a nasty left hook to the face. In this game, the Cards' O was Ali and the Steelers' D was Frazier, and the big left hook was Harrison's INT return on Warner's only mistake of the game. The quick strike drives the Cards made near the end were (to continue this iffy analogy) the lightning-fast combos Ali would throw as soon as the tired Frazier dropped his guard in exhaustion or frustration. I thought, just like everyone else most likely, that the Steelers were done after Fitzgerald pulled the Cardinals ahead, but Holmes and Roethlisberger somehow came back up and basically two-manned the final drive to win it. (I'll spare you the Frazier 15th round knockdown of Ali in the Fight of the Century ... oh, crap.)

Anyway ... enough of my wall of text. The point is, the coaching battle between LeBeau and Haley/Whisenhunt and the incredible tension caused by the near-perfection the Steelers' defense and Cards' offense demanded of each other were fascinating and made this my favorite Super Bowl thus far. Even if the Steelers had lost, I would have loved it. It was just a great game.

Now if we can stop parsing every call that may or may not have had a real effect on the outcome....

137 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

"The Cardinals were moving the ball in small chunks, but completely at will, even in the first half."

Well, on one out of their four drives in the first half, maybe. The first touchdown drive went as you described - a bunch of short passes for 5-15 yards, although the big play was a deep pass to Boldin. The other three drives, not so much. First drive - one short pass for ten yards, two runs for 0-3 yards, a fumble, an incomplete pass, and a hold, for a net of three yards. Third drive - a six yard run, a chop block on an incomplete pass, a sack, and a false start for a net of -17 yards. On the fourth drive, they had a short field after the pick, and had two incomplete passes, a run for no gain, two of those short passes in the flat for decent gains (one getting stopped at the one yard line), and a couple short dump-offs over the middle. So I don't know that I'd say the Cardinals were moving the ball "completely at will" in the first half.

The Steelers were playing bend-don't-break in the first three quarters of the game. Which I think was a good strategy - prevent the quick strikes to the WRs, and make the Cardinals go 10-12 plays to beat you, because you're increasing the chance of them making a mistake or you coming up with a big play. I don't how much of the difference in the fourth quarter was the Cardinals finally coming up with a way to attack the Steelers' scheme and how much was the Steelers changing their scheme.

200 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Hmm, I guess I didn't notice the bad drives since I'm so used to seeing them against the Steelers. They certainly did better than most teams by not getting baited into picks, deflections, and sacks. But I may have inflated the Cards' success in my head out of fear or surprise or something.

89 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

To the people who can't resist complaining about the officiating in every NFL game.

In the old days, before instant replay, if a ball came out close to the end of the play, there was a good chance it would've been rule a fumble or an incompletion. Instant replay has, in many ways, ruined sport because of all the people who want to bitch about a half-second here or there that you can see when you look at one frame of film.

I think the last play the Cardinals ran, even in replay, was a fumble. Warner lost the ball before his hand is going forward, I think.

But even if not.

Even if not, do you guys think Warner was just a helpless plaything of the whims of the refs on that play? Well guess what. He didn't have to lost possession of the ball on that play. He could have gotten rid of it sooner. The Cardinals could have blocked the three guys who rushed on that play better. They weren't helpless.

Holmes caught the game-winner -- I don't know how anyone jumps to the conclusion he didn't. But in any case, again, it's not like Arizona were helpless on the play. Why didn't they cover him? Why didn't they sack Roethlisberger?

The same things have happened to the Steelers in recent games in the playoffs. I think Holmes caught that ball against the Ravens at the one-yard-line. But, he didn't have to try for the TD, and in reaching for it, lose his grip on the ball. That's his fault.

Or on Polamalu's interception against the Colts. He could have just cradled the ball, instead of trying to get himself on his feet in that herky-jerky way of his. He lost control of the ball, and any player who does, is putting that particular play in the hands of the refs.

Bottom line for you whiny fans out there. If you don't want the guy you're rooting for to be charged with an incompletion or a fumble by the refs, root for him to hang onto the damn ball!

90 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Awesome game. Congrats to the Steelers and their fans...they played a hell of a game, and entertained us all, and even though they got out-played (although not, perhaps, as much as DVOA thinks), they made some amazing efforts at crucial times to get the win. It was a little like last year...the Patriots obviously played better than the Giants, but a couple of Herculean efforts by Manning, Tuck+Osi+Co, and Tyree gave them the win. I have absolutely no problem with seeing a team that got a little outplayed win because of some fantastic efforts (that amazing runback, with blocking, by Harrison, the clever scheme that set the INT up, Holme's effort on that final drive). It's what makes football fun.

A few thoughts:
* Agree with Wanker that that last play should have been scutinized a bit more. As a fan of neither team, I was rooting for as exciting an ending as possible, and I was really disappointed that we were robbed of the chance to see a SB-deciding Hail Mary to one of the best WR's in the game against one of the best defenses in the game. Especially because I think there was about a 75% chance, based on the limited replays they showed, that that final call should have been an incomplete forward pass. The only justification I can think of is that there wasn't enough evidence on the tape to incontravertibly turn over the call on the field of fumble.

* Stop complaining about Holmes's catch. I think the replays pretty conclusively confirmed that it was a catch, but even if you disagree, the fact there there is disagreement means that the evidence can't be incontravertible, so the call on the field of TD should stand.

* Harrison should have been ejected for what he did. A half yard penalty simply is not punishment enough for punching a guy repeatedly when he's down, and then hurling him to the ground after the play.

* One (minor) tactical error that no one has discussed: At the end of the 2nd down play right before the Pittsburg safety, it looked like Parker had been tackled in the endzone. The refs ruled that his forward progress had carried him out of the endzone, but it was real close. Arizona still had one challenge, and three timeouts, and there were only about three minutes left in the game. They promptly used a timeout to stop the clock, and on the next play Pittsburg committed holding in the end zone and got a safety.

But wouldn't Arizona have been better off challenging the ruling that Parker got out of the end zone, instead of calling the timeout, since they were going to call a timeout to stop the clock anyway? It was such a close call that, best case scenario, you win the challenge, save your timeout, get two points, and Pittsburg loses the chance to run a third down play and convert. Worst case scenario is that they review it, don't overturn it, charge you a timeout, and you're in exactly the same situation that you were by not challenging and just taking a TO. So why not challenge? You only have a minute of gametime left where you might want to use that challenge anyway, and if you don't use it, you only have two timeouts left so you'll be reluctant to use the last challenge anyway...

117 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

The whole ball has to make it out of the end zone to not be a safety.

Rule 7, Section 1, Article 2, Note: A ball in the end zone which is carried toward the field of play is still in touch. It is a safety or touchback if any part of the ball is on, above, or behind the goal line (plane) when dead. In such a case, the ball must be entirely in the field of play in order not to be in touch.

95 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I wish they spent more time on review if for nothing else to conclusively put an end to the incessant whining and second guessing. Woodley jarred the ball loose before Warner's arm moved forward. It was an empty-handed throw that he tried to disguise by pushing his arm towards the loose ball to simulate a throwing motion. The booth took little time because it was THAT obvious on first glance.

97 Holmes never got the foot down

Let’s break down this catch:

This photo proves Holmes didn’t have his left foot down when he first possessed the ball:

So the question then is does he get the left foot down as he is falling out of bounds. Here is the replay again.

At 1:22/1:23 is the moment of truth- is Holmes on the ground or on his sole? The cameras get a closer look at 1:37/1:38 and it is impossible to note where his right foot is (on the left sole or on the ground). Now, before you close out, note where the Cards defender is in the play (at 1:22 he is starting to make contact with Holmes at 1:23 he has both hands on Holmes and at 1:24 he has one-arm shoved Holmes out of bounds.

Here is a still shot of 1:24 that clearly shows Holmes’s right foot off the ground after the Cards defender has lost two-armed contact with Holmes (click on slideshow and it is photo number 11)

So we know that unless Holmes’s foot touched at 1:23, he never touched.

Here is a photo where both hands of the defender are on Holmes (i.e. 1:23 in the video)- click on the Steelers 27 Cards 23 Photos section and it is photo number 8

I’m trying to figure out when Holmes had the right foot on the ground

111 Re: Holmes never got the foot down

Let it go, man. If you can't tell immediately going through frame-by-frame analysis then it's close enough. In real time and video replay it's pretty clear that both feet are down; it's not that close.

116 Re: Holmes never got the foot down

Close enough doesn't cut it when this is going to do down as a historic play. Would Fisk's HR hold up under scutiny if it was inches foul? Legacies and legends are determined here.

There were loads of photags in that corner of the endzone (shooting 60 frames per second). So far every photo out there shows that his foot was in the air.

98 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

not a single comment about the :04 dead-ball run-off after the Dansby pick just before the first half 2MW? that was the most head-in-hands effin-Steeler-luck moment of the night for me... everything else seemed forgivable re: human error, until the fastest-ever 'booth review'.

a great game, hugely entertaining. Is Mike Tomlin now America's #1 Man-Crush?

100 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Whiners whine and winners win. I think holmgren ruined the Seahawks with his whinining. Calls will go for and against you in a game (sometime more for you, sometime more against) and if that's what you focus on afterwards you inevitably become a loser.

104 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Here is an better link to the Newsday shot,0,4250122.htmlpage

So far there are about 40 still high resolution photos out there and none of them show Holmes getting his foot down. I am open minded on this, but I think I may be searching for something that doesn't exist.

If this call was wrong it moves the officiating from questionable towards Pitt to pathetic.

119 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Go away, troll. This has been explained already, by me and by other people. The video shows that both of his feet were down, and it shoes it pretty conclusively. Even in the highly unlikely event that the video replay is all some sort of optical illusion ... well, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, the only thing you can conclude in the moment, without the aid of "40" (lol) high resolution photos, is that it really is a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae.

It was a good call on the field and in the replay booth, and you know it. You're just trying to provoke people at this point.

138 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Occam’s Razor- what’s more likely that the myriad of photographers that all have cameras that shoot 60 shots per second all somehow missed the one instant that Holmes happened to have his feet on the ground or that he didn’t actually have his foot on the ground?

I saw the same TV replays. You can’t tell from those where the left foot is. I agree it looked like it was on the ground on the TV, but it could have just as easily been resting on the sole of his right foot and you wouldn’t be able to tell from the TV. These photographs are bearing out that theory.

The play and the game become tarnished if he didn't get his foot down. Jeter's flip would have lost its historical impact if Giambi was actually safe by a gew inches.

155 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Pathetic may be strong, but Pitt needed a clean SB more than anybody due to the Seattle debacle. I don't think there is a person out there who wouldn't admit that the Steelers didn't get a good whistle. If Holmes was out of bounds it pushes the officiating closer towards the Seattle level.

163 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Picture one shows his right foot in the air. I see daylight between the first foot and the second foot. The comments in the chain also see it this way. Thanks for providing another data point to support my case.

Picture 2 is clearly his left foot and not the issue at hand

169 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I wouldn't want you on a jury looking at detailed evidence. The 2nd picture is the left foot embedded in the ground. We are not playing college football here. The first picture was a good catch though and adds to the litany of pictures showing that he never got the right foot down.

194 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Two things :

1) Does it really look to you like Holmes right foot might not be touching the grass there? That's all it has to do I believe - not be planted down into the ground. If I'm wrong about that, there's just no way to ever know.

2) If it's so hard to prove one way or the other, the refs trying to judge at game speed can't possibly be held accountable for being wrong. Therefore, even IF it could proven that this wasn't a catch, the judgement of the jobs the refs did shouldn't change. They're human after all.

106 Plays of the game

Am I wrong or AZ really blitzed on both this plays?

3-6 PIT26 (1:56) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short right to S.Holmes to PIT 39 for 13 yards (K.Dansby).

and two plays later:

2-6 ARI46 (1:02) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short right to S.Holmes to ARI 6 for 40 yards (A.Francisco).

I coudn't believe when I saw AZ blitzing. WHY?! Both passes went behind the line, and Holmes just ran free to the first down and more.

114 Re: block in the back

Super Bowl XL. Ben gets flattened by a block to the back on Seattle's INT TD. The party I'm at is excited, and I say "That's a block in the back!" One guy explains to me that, if you're between the ball and the blockee, you can block in the back. If that's true (and I question it), there's no penalty on Woodley, right?

151 Re: block in the back

Correct. The penalty is "illegal block in the back" which implies that the blockee is between the blocker and the ball. Think about a defensive lineman doing a spin move. Just because he turns his back to the o-line doesn't mean there an illegal block.

115 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Does the fact that the team with the better DVOA lost mean that the way the Superbowl is decided needs to be reviewed?

135 Fitzgerald's 2nd touchdown

I didn't read the comments thoroughly, so someone else may already have written about this but...
There was a lot of talk (and rightly, I assume; I'm no expert) that LeBeau's scheme was brilliant that led to Harrison's interception. I was wondering if I was alone thinking the Cards should have gotten more credit for the scheme that set up Fitzgerald for that phenomenal 60 yd. catch and run. They showed that great nearly overhead replay where two receivers curl out to the sideline and Pittsburgh's safetys step up towards them just as Fitzgerald's seemingly fairly harmless crossing route suddenly hits the middle of the field and he turns up into the Red Sea that has just parted in front of him. I don't ever remember seeing a play so clearly designed to get the defense to do exactly what it then did in such a breathtaking way (thought the excitement of the game added to the thrill).

141 Re: Fitzgerald's 2nd touchdown

I noticed that view too. I actually stopped the game and rewound the DVR to show the play design to my kids and some of their friends that were watching the game with us.

Certainly didn't score any cool points with that maneuver.

aka Cheezer

144 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Can't understand why Whisenhunt sat "The Edge " for the entire fourth quarter. Arrington wasn't at full speed. Cards had their chances although they went a little crazy with those blitz schemes late in the game.
Analysis on both NBC and ESPN lousy. Football Outsiders was much more interesting and made a hell of a lot more sense.

154 Kurt Warner's Walter Payton Award

Am I the only person angry that they chose to give Kurt Warner the Walter Payton Good All-Around Dude award on the field right before the game started? I was thinking, "leave my man Kurt alone! He needs to be in his own head right now, not getting some lousy booby-prize from Goddell or whoever that was!" Big surprise that he came out slowly.

Did the NFL want the Steelers to win? It reminded me of the Raiders/Broncos game a few years back where in the 4th quarter Tim Brown got his 10,000th career recieving yard, and they stopped the game for 15 minutes while they brought his mom down onto the field and wasted a bunch of time. Anyway the Broncos were dominating in a defensive struggle up until that point, and on the next play the Raiders broke off a long go-ahead TD. It was one of the most flagrant instances of cheating I can remember in professional sports.

174 Re: Kurt Warner's Walter Payton Award

Your Raiders example isn't cheating, but it is tremendously obnoxious and typical of the Raiders. When Hines Ward became all the all-time leading Steeler receiver, there was a mention on the PA and that was it (as far as I could tell).

As for the NFL giving the game to Pittsburgh by giving Warner an award before the game...well, may I remind you that the supposedly jinxed Warner had the lead with 2:30 remaining. I guess the NFL psyched out Warner so badly that his defense gave up the game-winning touchdown. That's some powerful voodoo.

156 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

The notion floated by Vince Verhei about the length of the respective interception returns strikes me as nonsense.

When a defender jumps a short route outside the hash marks, the expected outcome should be a long-ass return; the defender is in space, has a running start in relation to the intended receiver and his proximity to the line of scrimmage allows him to bypass the level the offensive linemen are on before they have time to cut off his path.

Balls that are tipped at the line, hang in the air forever and come down in the middle of the field in a mass of humanity carry no such expectation. And unless you think the deflection was directed and repeatable, the fact that Arizona even had an interception to return for -1 is the event that needs to be chalked up as non-predictive.

162 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Personally, officating this year in the playoffs has been the worst I can ever recall.

The block in the back was a textbook call, wide open in the field of play and near the ball carrier and something that I would expect a HS ref to make.

Big Ben got away with 1 blatant, maybe 2 intentional groundings (couldn't completely tell if there was someone deep left from the NBC feed) that would have created 3rd and long and likely killed both Pitt drives that both resulted in points.

The Dansby roughing the passer call was atrocious...but then later Harrison hits Warner in the head and no call.

Then the celebration which was clearly in violation of the stupid celebration rule (but still should have been called) and the lack of review that was later claimed to be the 10 seconds between the plays. Right.

The Chargers/Colts OT playoff game was completely an abortion of officiating consistency and accuracy and then you get this debacle...well to soon after the train wreck that was Super Bowl XL.

You know, I used to be a MASSIVE NBA fan...but the playoff officiating just ruined the sport for me. I really hope that the NFL doesn't make the same mistake and gets back to officiating basics...cause right now they are way off the mark with consistency, fairness and accuracy.

207 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

So are you a Steelers fan? Its amazing how "atrocious" calls can be when they are against the team you are rooting for. Close calls are part of the game. To take away from an amazing contest by blaming it partially on officiating is pathetic, especially when you consider the body of work the Steelers(and specifically their defense) put together over the entire year. When you do that, you insult the entire game and all the players, including Cardinal players, that participated.

If you haven't guessed, I am a Steeler fan. I'm starting to feel like a Pats fan circa 2004. And I'm strangely fine with that.

240 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Great, quit watching football. See if anyone cares. Since you think any HS ref should be able to call the Woodley block on Hightower, can you explain to me how it differs from Fitzgerald's block on McFadden on the Boldin catch and run that set up the Cards first TD?

They are at 1:55 (Fitz) and 2:45 (Woodley). Look forward to your response, Coach.

164 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

It was an exciting, chippy, well-schemed game with superb individual efforts.

Exciting's been covered.

Chippy - well, more personal foul and unnecessary roughness penalties than I can remember in a Super Bowl.

1. Ike Taylor definitely deserved a roughness penalty. James Harrison was extremely fortunate that his idiocy didn't cost the Steelers.
2. Roughing the passer on the Cardinals was called because the rusher extended his arms and pushed the QB in the back after he let the ball go. Had he pulled his hands back and just shoulder-bumped him, or turned his body to follow the play and "accidentally" knocked him over, it wouldn't have been called (or, imho, incorrectly called). Ditto for the QB facing him, but if the QB's back is turned it's a safety issue.
3. Wilson got called for roughing the holder because he extended his hands and pushed him to the ground then regained his balance (watch the end of the play - Wilson never goes down!) Again, had he pulled his hands back, given himself up and gone down short of the holder, or obviously not been in control enough to keep his feet, he wouldn't have gotten called (or it would have been incorrectly called, imho). The NFL rightfully tries to protect the "defenseless" players from even accidental hits; both these calls were in line with what I saw of regular season games.
4. The big difference I saw was that, of the penalized plays, Harrison's was the dirtiest and had the least effect on the game. That could be construed as the refs favored the Steelers, because the "worst" action was the "least" penalized.

As far as well-schemed:
1. The Steelers obviously schemed for Fitzgerald not beating them. (Then, because he really is an alien from another planet, he almost does anyway.) They were mostly effective; both safeties were clearly mistaken to jump outside routes on Fitz' 2nd TD, and it looked to me like Boldin's catch was a well-timed route-improvisation, good protection, and an alert read by Warner to deliver the ball off route but in a hurry.
2. The Cardinals obviously planned for that and ran a lot of quick routes to the flat to try to force the Steelers to shorten their coverage. They also mixed up their blocking schemes very effectively.
3. The Steelers didn't adjust their pass rush as well. Warner seemed to get the ball out just before he got hit time and time again.
4. There were a few points in the 3rd where the Steelers seemed have the hot routes sniffed out and Fitzgerald covered, and I kept thinking that they were about to stuff the Cardinals and roll right over them. But the Cardinals kept adjusting and finally got the D off-balance.

So many individual efforts.
1. Larry Fitzgerald is a serious, serious player. He is everything that TO was supposed to be in his prime, without the alligator arms (which is not a knock on TO - for a few years, he was everything he thought he was).
2. Santonio Holmes just justified that draft pick and the fumble-itis year. It looked like he was open all day.
3. LaMar Woodley seemed to be all over the field. On the Cardinals final play, when Warner tried to buy time, Woodley alertly tossed his guy into Warner's path then sidestepped to make sure he had contain before driving in on Warner and forcing the fumble. (As an aside, the major consequence of the tuck rule is to make every pocket-disputed call a curse on its name; whether or not the officials understand it, the fans don't - or choose not to when the call goes against their team.) (As a further aside, it looked to me like Warner was cocking to throw and Woodley took the ball and his arm and mashed them against his chest, causing the ball to come loose; he might have wanted to throw but Woodley didn't let him. That's a fumble.)
4. Dockery was definitely causing mayhem on the line as well. The holding call in the end zone was in line with other holding calls I've seen and like other, oft-discussed holding calls, was "earned" because the defender won his battle on the line. (If a guy looks like he's getting to the QB and goes down while engaged with a lineman, the referee is going to see a hold because there almost always is one and he's looking at the action. If you're being held, beat your guy once so the ref can see it.)
5. Harrison's return was obviously a game-breaker. DVOA doesn't take it into account because it's statistically non-repeatable, which means that DVOA doesn't do a good job of telling the story of this game. (That's not a knock on DVOA, but rather a recognition that telling a good story about the season, and predicting what might happen next, is more important to DVOA than explaining what happened today, which is as it should be.)
6. That said, Harrison's return was a great defender making a superb play, then showing nice speed and footwork, and a good defense alertly blocking for him and getting seven other guys down the field in a hurry for the convoy. It wasn't lucky in the sense that it wasn't earned; it was lucky in the sense that if the same setup happened 99 more times, we'd all feel comfortable betting he wouldn't return it all the way even once more.
7. Big Ben looked much more like the QB I expected to see last Super Bowl; he made a few of his patented "shrug off hits, move around until someone gets open then rifle them the ball plays", he underthrew a deep ball by quite a bit, and he had one interception on a batted ball (which was a bad throw by him), but he mostly read the defense well, kept the ball secure and took what they were giving him. He really didn't force the ball at all.
8. Kurt Warner is a Hall of Fame QB. The knock on him, IIRC, was that he'd fumble and fold under a heavy pass rush. Go back and look at how often he got hit as he let the ball go yesterday and then please reassess that. That's a really nice season from a guy who was about to be shoved aside in favor of one of the best college QB's anyone had seen in a long time. (I wonder what Leinert is thinking now? For his sake, I hope it's "OK, time to buckle down and learn something, since clearly my talent can't take me any farther.")

167 Back, and to the right. Back, and to the right.

Below is a link to a still photo of the Holmes catch. You can enlarge it and still get decent resolution. While I can not definitely say the right foot is down, my best guess is that it is. At the very least, way too close to kvetch about the call.

171 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Regarding the 100 yard runback and penalties called or not called, something that no one mentions is that Fitzgerald ran out of bounds and back in to get around Steeler blockers to try to tackle Harrison. Even if Harrison did not get in (he did), the TD should have counted because an ineligible player impeded him.

I think that the calls overall balanced themselves out and the better team won. The Cards made some impressive stops inside their own 10 yard line or else this game is a blowout. Hats off to them and Kurt Warner should be Canton bound.

While Brady's stupid "tuck" play (that really was a fumble) has made me hate replay, this game only made me realize the negative effect of the entertainment value. Every time the Steelers scored, you ended up in a replay review. All of the momentum and excitement is stopped while the zebras study the play. Factor in the calls that they actuall screw up with replay and the fact that only a fraction of plays are reviewable, and I would just as soon do away with it and live with human error.

235 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Is this some kind of joke? Arizona's first replay challenge took four Pittsburgh points off the board (that just might have affected the end of the game), and their second challenge overturned a fumble recovery, pushing the Steelers offense back from midfield to their twenty. Both calls were, by all appearances, correct. Are you seriously telling me that the 'negative entertainment value' of two minutes of replay is more damaging than the established 'negative entertainment value' that comes from fans deciding that a game's officiating is hopelessly broken/rigged and giving up on the sport?

172 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Did Harrison cost himself the MVP by committing an inexcusable Personal Foul? No way the NFL allows him to get it after punching a guy who is on the ground.

I thought the officials and replay were way too prominent in the game, but that is more the fault of the players, than being over-zealous.

175 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I guess I'm the only one here that thought that was a damn difficult game to officiate with a lot of close calls and a lot of, er, physical play, and McAuley and his crew did a damn fine job. The only call I really hated was the roughing-the-passer on Dansby. Even there, it was less 'bad call because we're helping the Steelers' and more 'we're absurdly overprotective of QBs so we call roughing the passer here 70 percent of the time'. Dansby couldn't stop from hitting Roethlisberger, but he got his hands up as he ran into him, which gave at least the appearance that he was shoving Roethlisberger. Throw his hands in the air and give a dramatic twist or something and maaaybe he avoids that call. Maybe.

Most all of the other penalties I thought were OK. But about the whole 'that last fumble was reviewed, they just didn't say it' thing... I'm pretty sure it wasn't. Even in the last two minutes, the booth calls for a review, but it's still the referee that actually reviews it, right? I'm pretty sure there wasn't enough time there for McAuley to trot over to the review truck and back.

The explanation that the booth guy(s) looked over the replay and decided it didn't need reviewed, yeah, I'd buy that. It was clearly a fumble and doesn't take more than a viewing or two to confirm.

217 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I agree; I was amazed at how often the right call WAS made, and even the review overturns weren't at all egregious. I was all ready to be upset just about every time they called offensive holding; but every replay showed a clear hold, so I ended the game thinking that they really seemed to call it consistently, which is all you really ever want (within reason). They didn't get all the calls perfect, but I thought the officials did a fine job. Most especially, I didn't think they took away from what was an outstanding game.

179 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

If LeBeau is a genious for the interception, what does that make him on the Fitzgerald touchdown? The Panthers played a soft Cover-2 against the Cardinals (without Boldin) and got schooled costing the DC his job. Why did LeBeau not go back an extra week on film?

Bonus question: Should Fitzgerald have taken a knee at the 1-yd line?

192 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

My first thought (okay, second thought after 'damn look at Fitzgerald go!') was that they were going to score waaay too soon. seems like the 'smart' thing to do would be kneel at the 1, burn off more time with a single wasted play, then spend 3 downs trying to gain a single yard.

In retrospect.

But, you're down by 4 with less than 3 minutes to go, you need a TD against the league's stingiest defense...I don't see many coaches calling for a kneel. And I doubt many players (yeah, I know...Westbrook) would have the presense of mind to kneel in that situation. To abandon the certain lead (score 7 now) for a strong percent chance of a lead and less time for the opponent to work with (which assumes you'll get the lead; a safe assumption with 1 yard to go and 4 downs to do it).

222 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

IIRC, in the Westbrook kneel play the Eagles were already ahead, so his kneel sealed victory. It was like a DB deliberately dropping an INT on 4th down instead of catching it and trying to run it back.

I thought maybe he should kneel too but you can't give up points like that when you're down by more than 3. The risk of not getting the TD is too great to play games like that.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

310 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

panthersnbraves: I think the credit for the Fitzgerald touchdown goes to the Cards' coaching staff and Warner, rather than blaming Lebeau for his defense giving up exactly the type of play it is supposed to prevent.

Consider that the strategy they had used effectively for the better part of 3 quarters: For most of the game, the big play to Boldin aside, they had been effectively taking away the receivers and the middle of the field and forcing the Cards to take dump offs to the backs coming out of the flats. Inside of 5 minutes left in the game, to continue to do this would be stupid because the backs would then just keep going out of bounds and stopping the clock after every catch. The game situation dictated a change of strategy to take away the sidelines and invite the middle, and Warner's ability to look Polamalu toward the outside, coupled with Clark's decision to also move toward the other outside receiver created the perfect situation for Fitzgerald in the middle of the field, and Warner is superb at timing and placing the ball perfectly on those types of throws.

184 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I'm not sure Holmes got both feet down. What is up with him and questionable TDs? Also, it was ridiculous that Harrison got .5 yards of penalty for that roughness. I'm not sure if he deserved to be ejected or not, but if he was, I don't think I would've had a problem with it.

The Adrian Wilson roughing seemed a bit ticky-tack to me, as did the Ike Taylor one.

Beyond the roughings, I felt that the 15 yard facemask call against the Cardinals (don't really remember who was even involved on either side) was a bit ticky-tack too. Yeah, he grabbed it. But he didn't twist it hardly at all (if at all). I guess it was the letter of the law, but it just seemed like 15 yards over nothing. An instance when I wished the 5 yard variety was still in effect.

Last Arizona play should've been reviewed. I think Kurt pulled it off and it was an incomplete. I know that the chances of it mattering are slim due to the hail mary odds, but who DOESN'T want to see the Super Bowl come down to a final jump ball for Fitzgerald?

Once again, I feel like Pittsburgh stole another Super Bowl. Maybe in a few years the 49ers and Rams will beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl and avenge the NFC West.

186 Ice Bowl play

In response to Vince's complaint about the Ice Bowl touchdown, I have seen discussion as to whether or not there should have been a penalty called on the play on one of those ESPN top 25 lists from a couple years ago. However, the penalty discussed was an offensive offsides penalty, not a false start for forward motion. The discussion gave me the impression that the false start penalty either didn't exist at that time, or didn't apply to forward offensive line motion.

196 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

The notion of the refs giving the game to Pittsburgh is so utterly nonsensical that I am astounded people are actually spouting off about it. Can anyone present any possible scenario in which you see the officials make two holding calls against the Steelers in the fourth quarter at critical moments when the game is in doubt if they are actually trying to hand over the game?

If I'm a ref, and I'm trying to throw the game to Pittsburgh, and I see Roethlisberger throw a first down to Santonio Holmes from his own end zone, what would possibly motivate me to make a discretionary holding call, when the first down basically ices the game, and the Safety gives the ball to AZ with a chance to take the lead?

If, after having done that, I see the Steelers, down by three points with around 80 yards to go, and I'm trying to make it so they win, why do I call holding and make it first and twenty with a million yards to go?

I remember thinking after this game- "no one can blame the refs this time and sound even remotely credible" and yet, here we are, listening to people blame the refs for trying to give the game to the Steelers.

Really? Am I on crack? Is this Steelers-bias theory not outright hogwash?

206 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

It seems to me that it's a strangely Steelers-centric phenomenon. Ed Hochuli screws up and admits it. Everyone jumps all over him, but no one suggests that he wanted Denver to win. Officials make borderline calls in the Super Bowl, and clearly there's a conspiracy to award Pittsburgh the trophy.

225 Re: Holmes's TD

In reply to by Eddo

I'm not trying to perpetuate the controversy because I think the call was the best that could be made in context; however, the picture you linked to does not show that Holmes' right foot is down unless his left foot is freakishly and asymetrically small, a detail which probably would have precluded his becoming a star NFL receiver.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

236 Re: Holmes's TD

In reply to by Bowl Game Anomaly

Yeah, I guess I looked at the picture too quickly. Embarrassing.

Though I truly believe it was a catch, and I really didn't want it to be. There was definitely a replay angle that showed his foot come up and then back down in bounds, though, so I agree they made the right call.

202 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

A lot of people here have been saying stuff to the effect that the lack-of-replay cost us a dramatic finish to the game because we didn't get to see a hail mary.

Is it just me, or isn't a strip-fumble on a hail mary attempt also a dramatic finish to a game?

I've always liked replay, but after this game I think I'm going the other way. Having to sit around and wait to see if Harrison's TD and Holmes' TD would stand up kinda sucked some of the awesome out of them. And then the procedure bitching about replay on the last Arizona play is really... I mean, people are going around saying "The call was right, but they should've reviewed it! That was BS!" Seriously? The fact that a call wasn't reviewed is a big deal?

Replay obviously improves the accuracy of officiating, and that is undeniably a good thing. But the issues about what is or is not a reviewable call, the drama that gets sucked out of incredible plays by the two minutes of uncertainty, the fact that fans now expect as a matter of course that close plays will be reviewed... I think its hurting my experience as a fan, and I think something needs to change.

208 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

This just can have the opinion that the officiating sucked and not imply a crack-induced conspiracy by the NFL

/Continue paranoia

210 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I just think that opinion's wrong. Under pretty difficult circumstances I thought the officials did a good job, and we're being too hard on them.

212 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Sad, sad thing is that on an article talking about one of the most thrilling SB ever, 90 % of comments are about officiating.

Let's talk about where Dockett ranks when talking about the best DTs in the game, the hyped A.Wilson vs T.Polamalu battle that completely flopped, the Big Ben future HoFer debate, Ward's future, underrated Heath Miller, Boldin's value and future, Warner possible retirement...Or, talk about what could be done to improve officiating ? More technologic help ?

214 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I'm going to pretend that you didn't just write "the Big Ben future HOFer debate".

Remember when Dubya said he was going to meet with Canada's PM, and (among other things) talk about withdrawing water from the Great Lakes? To which the Canadian PM's reply was something like, 'I expect it will be a very brief discussion.'

Same applies here. With that team, you could put most NFL QBs in under center (in Pittsburgh) and they'd win a Super Bowl. Hell, you could even take (our) crappy Tarvaris Jackson (please!), and Pittsburgh would win. See my post above about Roethlisberger's numbers from SB XL. They won despite their QB in that game.

Is Roethlisberger bad? No. Is he good? I'll give him that.

Is he HOF good? I'll assume you're kidding, or perhaps are trying to start a conversation about 10 years before its time (optimistically).

223 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

You didn't really say the Travaris Jackson could have made that final drive last night?

As for Ben, he is 5th is all time passer rating and 5th all time in yards per attempt. That plus two super bowl rings is going to go a long way if can compile any other significant stats in the two years he has left before retirement. Oh wait, he is only 26, make that 3 years.

275 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

As for Ben, he is 5th is all time passer rating and 5th all time in yards per attempt. That plus two super bowl rings is going to go a long way if can compile any other significant stats in the two years he has left before retirement. Oh wait, he is only 26, make that 3 years.

Roethlisberger is tied for 7th in career passer rating among active players and is 9th all-time.

Leaderboard here.

231 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

"Same applies here. With that team, you could put most NFL QBs in under center (in Pittsburgh) and they'd win a Super Bowl. Hell, you could even take (our) crappy Tarvaris Jackson (please!), and Pittsburgh would win. See my post above about Roethlisberger's numbers from SB XL. They won despite their QB in that game."

BS. There are very few if ANY other QBs in the league that could win the SB if plugged into the 2007 or 2008 Steelers roster. You need to be able to shrug off 20+ hurries/rushes a game, absorb 5 sacks and 10 good hits a game, and have an extreme ability to throw lasers through the late season wind/cold @ Heinz Field across your body and off your back foot while on the run (for your life). Being tough enough to have survived a windshield faceplant is a good prerequisite test. Oh, and to do all that while running the idiotic play calls of Bruce Mr. Predictable Arians.

218 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Pittsburgh fans have pulled off the impossible. Their incessant whining about fans criticizing the officiating brings the culture of victimhood to a new low. The officiating was atrociously one-sided, and contrary to what some have stated, most of the calls were flat out wrong. At one point the penalties were 8 for close to a 100 yards against Arizona, and 2 for 15 against Pittsburgh. One cold make the case that most calls are going to be wrong at this level of the game, but why are they consistently for one team?

I was just watching the game as a fan. By the end of the first quarter when it became obvious that the calls were all going Pittsburgh's way it just ruined the game. I started rooting for Arizona not to beat the Steelers, but to beat the refs.

234 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

You are leaving out three fairly poor and significant calls that went in favor of the Cardinals.

At the end of the first drive, Roethlisberger ran in for the game's opening touchdown. Upon review it does appear that he did indeed make it into the endzone for the score. Even if you disagree with that, there is certainly no incontrovetible video evidence that he did not make it in.

Fitzgerald's first touchdown reception was not a catch. He was still trying to gain control of the ball as he went to the ground, and the ball itself hit the ground. This play didn't even get reviewed. If this one had been reveiwed, it too might not have been considered incontrovertable evidence, so there's that.

The holding call that erased a first down in favor of a safety was questionable at best. De jure it might not even have been a hold, but if it was it was an extremely common inside-the-frame hold that happens every other passing play and is not called nine times out of ten.

But these, just like most of the other calls people have mentioned, tended to be close judgment calls that could easily go either way, and on balance the calls did go either way just like they do in every other football contest.

On a related note, doesn't it strike people as disengenuous to complain about a play not being reviewed? If a call is wrong it's wrong, and if a call is right it's right. If the referee makes the correct call on the field, then what does it matter that it's not reveiwed no matter how difficult or close a call it is?

290 Re: Review of Fitzgerald TD

In the last two minutes all reviews must come from the booth, but I don't think anything prevents the booth from reviewing other plays without a coach's challenge.

Anyway, my point wasn't "Look at these three examples. How dare they get these wrong?" My point was that in real time the officials are going to make several wrong calls when it's so close that people will argue the point even after slow motion replay from multiple angles and that these calls are going to average out. If you want to avoid being on the bad end of close calls, play just a tiny bit better and make them not close.

I'm from Seattle and I can tell you that worrying about these things is silly and will tarnish your enjoyment of the game. What we saw yesterday was a good contest between two very different but very talented teams.

291 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

No, he didn't make it in. CONCLUSIVELY. His shin and knee were both down before the ball was across the plane. Whisenhunt doesn't go from Challenge buffoon to genius in one game. He challenged two bad calls and was right on both.

The ball is actually allowed to touch the ground on a catch. Not sure if you're aware of the brand new Bert Emmanuel rule that's been in effect since the 90s.

The holding call was an instance where the guy was being knocked on his a** and pulled the other guy down with him. I'm not saying it was the best call in the world, but I also don't think Parker made it out of the endzone a few plays before that, so it was justified.

The people who think that the play was a fumble but that it still should've been reviewed are right. Well, half-right. The play was an incomplete pass and should've been reviewed. Just because someone is touching the ball doesn't mean it is out of the QB's hand. Kurt maintained control of the ball and moved forward with it. It is ridiculous that the play was not challenged.

Also, the refs missed a BLATANT "use of ball as a prop" call on Santonio after his *not a* touchdown. If they call that, the Steelers are kicking from their own 15. You CANNOT possibly tell me that the missed yardage there didn't matter. I'll take my chances with Kurt and Larry from the 30 (or closer even!).

Harrison received star treatment on his personal foul. As Madden said, he should've been tossed. If not for his previous touchdown and the fact that he was DPotY, he gets thrown out. Also, speaking of his touchdown, how about calling illegal block in the back? Hightower got BLATANTLY leveled from behind by either Woodley or Farrior (can't remember). They call that and it's 10-7 at the half instead of 17-7.

Adrian Wilson's penalty was ticky-tack. He was off balance and just sort of collided into the holder. The roughing the passer call on Arizona was absolutely whacko though. Not only should it NOT have been roughing, but AT MOST it should've been offsetting penalties for roughing AND intentional grounding. Lastly, the facemask call on (if I remember correctly) a Parker run out of bounds was ticky-tack. Yes, he grabbed it. But no, he did not yank him down by it. If the 5 yard variety was still in effect, I'd say call that, but 15 yards for that? Give me a break.

Now, to be fair: The unsportsmanlike call on Ike Taylor was a bit ticky-tack. I don't think what he did deserved a penalty. Other than that tough, there weren't really any Steeler penalties that were debatable (other than the justified holding safety).

219 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

There was nothing especially unusual about the officiating in this game; it's hard to keep track of the actions of 22 fast men at the same time, and although I tend to dislike the way roughing the passer is enforced, the call yesterday was pretty normal. The failure to review the last fumble wasn't very important to me either, since it was so close that people could form any opinion they wanted to, and not be definitively proved wrong.

As to the stuff the athletes were doing, some of the folks above, who were trying to rank qbs, made the mistake common to evaluating football performance, that is, ignoring context. Ranking Warner ahead of Roethlisberger is really an egregious error. If you switched teams for these guys, Roethlisberger would still do quite well, and probably would have his stats improve. Put Warner on Pittsburgh's roster, and he has about an 80% chance of being on injured reserve within a month, after producing more turnovers than a bakery.

That said, Warner, with these teammates, is terrific, which is why it wasn't shocking that they easily could have won. I do think the playcalling at the goal line at the end of the first half was more risky than it needed to be; having the hot route be in a place where James Harrison would be if he instead was dropping into coverage (Holmgren did a nice job at halftime explaining why), is simply more risky than is necessary, and first half field goals are often undervalued by playcallers with great passing games. As was noted above, there are some routes which ARE more likely to be returned for tds, even very long tds, if the returner and his blockers do exceptional jobs, as was the case here.

It'll be interesitng to see if the cards beat the Lose the Super Bowl Curse next year. Given that Old Man Bidwell may have completely turned things over to his progeny as of now, and given their cap space and revenues, I think they have a pretty good chance of winning 11 or more games next year. Give Warner and Boldin large checks, improve the offensive line and defensive front, and go try to get home field advantage.

252 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Couldn't agree with you more, Will.

Warner's a great QB who had a great performance except for one play. Roethlisberger did exactly what he does best, and while he didn't have the stats, made a large number of plays that no one else in the league, except perhaps the 2004 version of Donovan McNabb, can make.

Except that no one has ever trusted McNabb to make such plays; people expect Ben to make those plays. I don't have a problem with a stat machine spitting out that Warner had a better game. I honestly think Ben played one of the best games of his career on the biggest stage. He was working with Holmes and a banged-up Ward and a horrible O-line, while Warner was working with Boldin, Fitzgerald, Breaston, James and Arrington. Warner's numbers were so gaudy; from just having watched the game, I think both QBs had great games. No need to say which one was better in my mind.

259 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Context works both ways...

I don't think Ben would do very well in Arizona or Indy. He seems to have his bad habits regardless of the rush and his escapability would be of less value. The point wasn't to ignore context it was to try to generalize it. Do you really think he is a better QB than Warner right now? Perhaps you are right, I don't see it.

That said is is very good and young, and on a team that is a perfect match for his strengths.

267 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Good point--it is hard to tell whether Roethlisberger would be any good if he weren't allowed to run around headless chicken-style and find open guys. But who knows ... maybe if they had a better O-line they'd just run more bootlegs to get him out of the pocket and on the move anyway.

As for the whole Warner v. Roethlisberger debate, I'm not sure why we're comparing them at all. Warner's had basically his full career at this point, but it's just far too early to know what's going to happen with Roethlisberger from here on out. Given Roethlisberger's tendency to get injured, I wouldn't be surprised if his career ends abruptly a la Terrell Davis, and we end up having the same debate we did with Davis (except that Roethlisberger hasn't been the best player at his position yet as Davis was for a few years). If he keeps going at the rate he's going, I'm inclined to say he should make the Hall. Warner, on the other hand, deserves to get in with ease in my opinion--even given all his flaws, he was the perfect QB for the all-time great Rams offense and for this Cardinals offense, two units that combined to make three Super Bowls and win one. Warner played great in his first Super Bowl (what was it, 414 yards?), well in his second (over 350 yards, but couldn't punch it in enough), and great in his third (yesterday's loss was not his fault). That, combined with his astronomical career QB rating, should be enough for the Hall voters.

280 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Ben certainly isn't the "perfect" QB and may not do quite as well in Arizona. On the other hand, I doubt Pittsburgh would have won the Super Bowl without Ben.

Maybe I just feel this way after watching the likes of Tommy Maddox, Kordell Stewart, Mike Tomczak, et al, but as Will Allen mentioned, I'd like to see Warner, great as he is, survive behind this Steelers "offensive line".

220 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

A large chunk of the Cardinals' penalty yards were due to the fact that their left offensive tackle was completely physically outmatched by the league's defensive MVP. When this happens, the team with the completely physically outmatched left offensive tackle will almost always have many more penalty yards.

No, most qbs, if they were put under center in Pittsburgh, would not win a Super Bowl. That is a baseless assertion, and quite illogical, if one concedes that Roethlisberger is a good qb. Most qbs, by definition, are not good.

221 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I dont believe in conspiracies. I do believe the steelers got the better of the calls in both super bowls, and both games' outcome was effected by the dubious calls.
Human error? Undoubtably. But I do believe the humans in question may have been influenced by the apparant inevititability of a steelers victory (and the throng of towel waving supporters at each game). You see it in every sport - the favourites get the benefit of the doubt.

That said, they deserved this one a lot more than the last one.

227 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

One thing that I think has been missed is that Pittsburgh went to Hines early to be able to use him as a decoy the rest of the night. If you watched Hines on his first catch he was definitely hobbled. And it didn't get any better as the evening progressed.

I have read that the Jets went deep to Don Maynard despite his injury to keep the Colts honest. I think the Steelers did the same thing.

And Will is right. Gandy got abused last night and his counterpart at right tackle didn't fare much better. I know there are many here who think holding should never be called or insist that nobody really knows what constitutes holding. But the Cardinals offensive tackles held a clinic on how to hold and have it called. It was ridiculously bad.

And boy does Mitch Berger stink.

229 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

The Steelers went to Ward early because he was wide-ass open. The LB to that side bit on the slide route into the flat leaving the deep out by Ward open (the 3rd WR ran off the corner and safety). The route combination was a basic flood pattern.

228 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

As a contrast, the key holding penalty called against the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, negating a completion to within the Steelers' five yard line, was marginal in nature, in that similar actions frequently result in no penalty. Last night, the holds by Gandy appeared to me to be very obvious and flagrant.

230 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Gandy could have been called for holding on just about every play. I'm sick of seeing Harrison getting mauled with that semi chokehold armbar on every rush.

232 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Why has nobody noticed that there were a full TWO seconds on the clock when Harrison was tackled at the goal line? Crank up the DVRs and pause it when he hits the ground. I'm not sure if that is reviewable, but if it is they would have HAD to put at least a second back on the clock if they ruled he was short of the goal line.

238 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Full disclosure: I'm a Steeler fan. I was the only Steeler fan in the room last night.

We all felt Pittsburgh absolutely creamed Arizona for the first three quarters. Pittsburgh had a lot of failed plays near the goal line, but I think in this case DVOA gives Arizona's defense too much credit for making goal line stops, while not penalizing them enough for allowing them to get to the goal line so easily in the first place (the inverse is true for Pittsburgh). Those drives all resulted in points -- either 3 or 7. I have to vehemently disagree with DVOA's analysis of the game in this case. As much as I like DVOA, am a math/stats geek, all of us to a man/woman were completely dumbfounded that Arizona had a late 4th quarter lead.

At best, this is Exhibit A showing that DVOA is not meant to show who played better in a particular game.

242 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

At one point the penalties were 8 for close to a 100 yards against Arizona, and 2 for 15 against Pittsburgh.

This could be because the Cardinals committed more penalties than the Steelers (and that reversed itself late in the game). Nowhere is it written that penalties have to be called equally.

At the end of the first drive, Roethlisberger ran in for the game's opening touchdown. Upon review it does appear that he did indeed make it into the endzone for the score. Even if you disagree with that, there is certainly no incontrovetible video evidence that he did not make it in.

Sorry, but it's extremely clear he didn't make it in. Knee's down, ball's short, it was a trivial overturn IMO.

Fitzgerald's first touchdown reception was not a catch. He was still trying to gain control of the ball as he went to the ground, and the ball itself hit the ground.

Ike Taylor committed textbook pass interference on the play and it wasn't called. It seems sometimes like on plays like this the official will wait and see if the receiver catches the ball before he throws the flag, and doesn't throw it if the receiver makes the catch. (I don't *think* pass interference on a touchdown catch can be tacked onto the kickoff. Can anyone confirm/deny this?)

The holding call that erased a first down in favor of a safety was questionable at best.

No, it wasn't. Hartwig was knocked flat on his ass, and did the smart thing (Hartwig has a lot of experience getting knocked on his ass): grabbed the defender and pulled him down with him to prevent the safety, and hope the ref doesn't see it. Roethlisberger would have gotten the ball off just fine anyway, but Hartwig has no way of knowing that.

As a contrast, the key holding penalty called against the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, negating a completion to within the Steelers' five yard line, was marginal in nature, in that similar actions frequently result in no penalty. Last night, the holds by Gandy appeared to me to be very obvious and flagrant.

Actually, if you watch the replay on one of the Gandy holds, he was pretty clearly facemasking Harrison, but only got called for the 10 yard hold rather than the 15 yard personal foul.

All and all, nothing listed here really had a big impact on the outcome of the game. The officials had a lot to do, under an intense spotlight, and acquitted themselves pretty well.

245 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

That was a great game. That being said, I'm surprised that no one has mentioned that Harrison should have been ejected from the game.

I'm also curious as to why the Cardinals didnt throw the fade to Fitzgerald before the end of the first half when they were in the redzone. I just dont think a slant was the right call based on the formation they came out in.

Also why were the Cardinals blitzing almost the entire time on the last Steelers drive. You just went up by 3 with 2:37 left. Go into prevent and make them dink and dunk their way down the field.

248 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I used to post an awful lot on this site but the fact of the matter is the commenteriat has become largely a band of shrill arm chair officials. Yes, people that claim to enjoy football spend a preponderance of their time kvetching about the calls that one team got or the other team didn't. I was actually at the game waving my Terrible Towel (egads!) and not breathing for the last 10 minutes of the fourth quarter. I didn't get to see any replays as I think per NFL mandate no controversial replays (save one, Ben's overturned TD run/pull) were shown. What I saw was a game that looked like it was turning into a beatdown become too close for my comfort. I can think of 5 great stories that don't involve officiating, at all.

1) The Dash and Drive: Just over 2 minutes left, Steelers have the ball, down by 3 and have to drive 88 yards (after a holding call on the first play from scrimmage on said drive).

2) Lazarus Fitzgerald: Bottled up for the first 50 minutes of the game, a player that was having a post season for the ages, explodes and changes the game. What happened? What was the adjustment and why wasn't it made earlier?

3) The Runback: The Cards are on the one yard line and looking to at least go into the half tied. Instead a bad read by a likely future HOF QB leads to the longest play in SB history. It was a linebacker that ran it back BTW.

4) Checkout Line to Canton: Putting up the second most yards in Superbowl history against a defense that was lights out all season and in the playoffs. Is that enough to get Kurt in?

5th bonus for Steeler Fans Only) Mitch Berger does not totally suck. Shocking as hell, I almost thought we traded punters with the Cards right before the coin flip.

Instead, we're here treated to the whining, conspiracy theories and alleged football wisdom of a bunch of football fans who can't understand how perfect accuracy is not achievable in a game played by 22 men that are bigger faster and stronger than 99.99% of the people on the planet. Just for the record I tend to blame some of the editorial bent here for promoting this view. I know he audibles are off the cuff so don't really care too much there, but it's been pervasive in actual articles as well. We get it Seattle, you're still upset. You're probably still pissed they canceled Frasier too, but that show totally sucked.

254 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Amen, brother. I'm in such a habit of reading the FO message boards, but they unfortunately have effectively sucked a lot of the joy of seeing my team win an incredible Super Bowl. I wish I had stayed away. Thanks for being positive and reminding me/us of the good stuff about the game!

269 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I need a Terrible Towel. My only consolation for not having one is that I have a Troy Polamalu jersey that I got for Christmas from a family friend a few years ago, and it matches my Polamalu-esque long hair perfectly. The jersey has brought me luck, too--I put it on at the end of the Ravens game, let my hair loose, and watched as Polamalu immediately picked off Flacco and returned it for a touchdown. I got a little chill up my leg when that happened, to paraphrase Chris Matthews.

1) That was a hell of a drive, although Holmes and Roethlisberger were the only two guys who were any good on it. I was completely convinced Arizona had won at this point, and the offensive line tried its best to prove me right. But the fact that the drive completely surprised me made it better, in my opinion.

2) Fitzgerald deserved to be MVP. He was double and triple covered all game, disrupting the Steelers' defensive schemes (remember, it should have been 14-10 Cards going into the half, with every completion being a result of someone left open by the rolled coverage, but of course you remember), then as soon as the Steelers' coverage showed some chinks, he struck. He was incredible. I tend to think of the Super Bowl MVP as the player who would be selected first if the two teams played again and had to pick up teams, and Fitzgerald would have been picked first by either coach.

3) Just came out of nowhere. I could barely cheer him down the sideline, as it's hard to talk when your jaw is resting in your lap. What a play.

4) If it's not enough to get Kurt in, it's the voters' faults, not his.

5) Berger was surprisingly un-horrible, you're right, though that line-drive 40-yard punt that Breaston returned for 34 yards had me cursing him out.

Last paragraph: Hey, that's not fair to Frasier. I've seen the earlier seasons, and it was a good show before it went the way of all old sitcoms and ran out of ideas.

260 Re: Penalty Splits

I enjoy when people cite the numbers and total yardage of penalties as clear evidence of officiating bias.
Because teams always make sure they commit the same number of penalties as each other.

How dare you suggest that the Cardinals were committing more fouls than the Steelers in the early part of the game when they were playing terrible football!

273 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Few more thoughts:

1) I didn't expect to see this much complaining about the officiating. The poster that said "at one point the Cards had 100 yards of penalties..." Well, look at the penalties. Three holds by Gandy (?) that were all blatant because Harrison owned him = 30 yards. A facemask where the defender clearly grabbed on and held it all the way to the ground = 15 yards. A roughing pass that was maybe a little questionable, but is called that way almost every time = 15 yards. Blatantly running over the holder on a FG try = 15 yards. There's 75 yards right there. You can't argue any of these, except perhaps the roughing call, and that's more an issue with the league overprotecting QB's and less with the officiating in this game, becasue it was consistent with what is usually called.

I thought the refs were really good, given what they had to deal with. The game had a lot of close calls. They either got all of the right the first time, or corrected them on replay, with the possible exception of the last play of the game (and even that's debatable). The refs can't help it if a call is close...they have to make their best guess, and either way they're going to be scrutinized, and there will always be fans of the other team that are sure they got it wrong. If Holmes loses control of the ball in the endzone and drops it, and the Cards win, I bet a lot of Steelers fans are up in arms about the bad officiating.

2). I disagree with people who say "The Steelers dominated for the first three quarters". By scoreboard, yes, because of one critical play that created a 10-14 point swing. But by performance? I don't think either team dominated, which is why the fourth quarter was exciting.

In the first half, each team had two drives stuffed and two long sustained drives down the field to the other team's one yard line. The Steelers got a FG and a TD on theirs. The Cards got a TD and then threw a pick-6 on theirs. Barring that one play, the first half play was almost equal, and it all came down to a handful of plays in the red zone.

In the third quarter, the Steelers stuffed both the Cardinals's drives, and had one long drive of their own, but were held to a FG. So the Steelers slightly outplayed the Cards here...except that the stuffed Cards drives and the Steelers FG drive were all contributed to by flagrant Cards' penalties. So maybe it's more accurate to say that the Cards hurt themselves and the Steelers capitalized.

For the first twelve minutes of the fourth quarter, the Steelers had three drives utterly stuffed. 3-out punt, 3-out punt, and safety. In that same amount of time, the Cards had one long TD drive to get back into the game, and a medium length drive that ended in a punt but changed field position. So the Cards dominantly outplayed the Steelers for most of the fourth quarter.

Then in the final minutes, the Cards had one long bomb TD, and the Steelers a methodical game-winning drive. Pretty even again...the Steelers just happened to be ahead when time ran out.

This was an evenly matched game. And, hence, one of the most exciting Superbowls ever.

274 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Congratulations to the Steelers and their fans. I have one officiating question and one comment. (If these were addressed earlier in the thread I apologize).

1. What was the difference between the two unnecessary roughness penalties on special teams plays? When Wilson ran into the Pitt holder the penalty resulted in an automatic first down. When Harrison was flagged on the Cards punt the Cards didn't get to keep the ball. Both penalties were clearly after the kick. I'm guessing the difference is that kickers/holders are special cases but would have thought in that case that the penalty would be roughing the "kicker". Both were simply announced as unnecessary roughness (and are shown that way in the play by play).

2. The NFL may as well wipe that "aiding the runner" penalty off the books. It occurs in almost every game and they never call it.

276 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

You can't wipe "aiding the runner" off the books. Jerry Markbreit (sp?) addressed that in one of his columns. Right now they don't call it when O-linemen slam into the pile to help push the runner forward because they decided it would lead to too many judgement calls by the officials about when someone was "blocking" and when they were "aiding the runner"...yes it's sometimes obvious, but sometimes less if the O-lineman is doing anything that could be construed as blocking, they let it slide. However, the rule has to stay on the books because it prevents things like giving the runner a leg up and allowing him to vault off a lineman over the line...or being picked up and carried like a battering ram.

277 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

1: I think it depends on if the ball has already been kicked if it is a change of possession play. FGs are not so a different standard are used.

2: Things like that they keep on the books to stop really egregious cases, and let all the minor ones go. That way no one even attempts the egregious ones.

287 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

1. How is a FG attempt not a change of possession? If it lands in the field of play it can be returned like a punt.

2. I guess what I would like to see is a change similar to what they did last year for the 'force out' rule. They eliminated the force out rule but still left language that prohibits extreme cases (i.e. a defender carrying a receiver out of bounds).

282 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII



It turns out that officials in Sunday night's Super Bowl XVIII had some missed calls and some mistaken calls. Hell, there was even a twenty-one post thread debating the validity of Santanio Holmes' TD (and, of course, the Ref's innappropriately calling it as such). This is to be expected, as there is one blurry, zoomed-in picture that incontrevertibly shows the two hundred thousand plus pieces of photographic evidence showing possession inbounds to be undeniably false. A source in the NFL commissioner's office says "the commisioner is trying to get a hold of this picture, in order to doctor it, and thus cover up the last trace of pro-steeler bias.
Naturally, it is obvious to see that the calls against the Cardinals were completely manufactured, as there is no way a team playing in the Super Bowl for the first time could possibly be wound tighter than a muumy, and be affected by nerves in any way while appearing on the world's biggest stage. Also, no one in their right mind would rough a holder. Of course, the Steelers flagrant penalties were overlooked, in spite of them occuring right in front of the officials face (especially the "penalties" occuring on the one hundred yard interception runback, where it is obvious to see that all the officials out ran the players, and were in perfect position to see the Steelers just flagrantly break every rule in the book, which, in this case, as in most others, was overlooked). Now, one could argue that the penalties called against the Steelers were justified, but another source, familiar with the officiating crew stated that they were "just token calls." The source further said that "Yeah, they were under orders from the commissioner to throw the game to the Steelers,... and were to make a few calls so that it didn't look so one-sided."
As to the lack of review at the end of the game, some are now calling for a more perfect solution. "Yeah, I think we need to have a twelve-ref panel that is able to review each play at its conclusion (this being precipitated on the fact that there is a three hundred sixty degree view of the field of play). They would review each play and note every penalty and call, and they would then decide the outcome of the play. Naturally, they would take a minute to review every single play of a game, in order to ensure complete fairness and accuracy" posted a disgruntled lifetime Cardinals fan, whose blog had been online since the beginning of the playoffs. Sources close coachesGMs on the competition commitee say that they are going to oppose this at all costs, in order to assure that the Steelers can continue to "dominate the living hell out of us." Bill Polian is quoted as saying that "while I would prefer to have the Colts win, I realize that the success of the league necessitates that we all take one for the team in order to assure long term success."
It should be apparently obvious by now that the Super Bowl should be replayed in lieu of the Pro Bowl, although some have suggested that the Steelers be stripped of their title, since it was "totally gotten through cheating," at least according to the only unbiased Cardinals fan in Nebraska. Only time will tell if League will overcome its obvious pro-Steelers bias, but it looks likely since there likely going to be a senate hearing on the matter (courtesy of John McCain, who, according to an anonymous aide, "will be using this to gear up for his 2012 presdiential bid, providing he is still alive").

If you couldn't tell, this is satire. In answer to your questions, no I am actually a Colts fan (you will be missed, Coach Dungy), and no, I do not write for Sports Pickle.

284 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

I keep hearing the argument that Harrison's pass rush was just too much for Gandy and that's why holding was called so often on the Cardinals. Let's leave aside the obvious which is that exactly that type of holding on pass rushers has not been called all season, why suddenly here on one team? But the argument of course misses the fact that the holding was called on running plays.

There was no twisting of the helmet on the 15 yard facemask play and please, tell me, has anyone ever seen a 15 yard running into the holder call? Ever? On any level? The three personal fouls call, one on fourth down, on that drive was what broke the back of all of us hoping for a fairly called game.

There were very few calls that were made that should have been called. Yet they all went against Arizona. And there were at least two automatic calls that have to be made, yet weren't. I refer specifically to Homes using the ball as a prop, and hand to the helmet of Warner, definitely stupid rules, but there you go. If you are going to to call ticky tack non-existent fouls, you have to call the automatic fouls. Hell, the refs weren't even going to throw a flag on the false start until Arizona forced them to.

I'm not thinking that the refs were purposely trying to throw the game. But the outcome of whatever their prejudices must have been were obvious in the results. They were eagle-eyed on Arizona, seeing things that didn't really happen, yet oddly blind to Pittsburgh players committing the same or much more egregious offenses.

289 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

There was no twisting of the helmet on the 15 yard facemask play

There is no longer a 5 yard option and the AZ guy used the facemask to force the steeler out of bounds. Get a grip.

Has anyone ever seen a 15 yard running into the holder call? Ever? On any level?

No. I've never seen anyone run over the holder though, so good job finding a new way to cheat.

The three personal fouls call, one on fourth down, on that drive was what broke the back of all of us hoping for a fairly called game.

And the back of all of us who hoped we could avoid WATB. Give up homer, if your team cheats and gets caught it's a penalty. Deal with it.

288 Re: Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

Hi everyone,

Feel free to comment about whether DVOA and DYAR are getting the game wrong, whether the refereeing sucked, or whatever else.

Just cool the ad hominem attacks on other commenters.