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02 Feb 2009

Audibles at the Line: Super Bowl XLIII

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 will.i.am? 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%

Posted by: Doug Farrar on 02 Feb 2009

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


by Anon E Jero (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:17pm

Did they let Joe Nammath speak? Or, did Goodell fear that Broadway Joe would hit on him?

by Jungle Jim (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:45pm

My favorite part of the game was seeing The Boss teabag the camera... That was worth the price of admission.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:56pm

That was the most painful hit of the game.

by Anon E Jero (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:10pm

At least it wasn't in 3-D?

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:20pm

Is this the end of the running game? After a fun year for running the football we get a Superbowl filled with one dimensional pass oriented offenses. The game was great, but I sure hope teams don't use these two teams as blue prints for the future.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:44pm

I'm sure the other teams in the league are aware that having a washed up veteran or a swiss-cheese-oline isn't the best way to go.

Besides the 49'ers are 18-2 when Gore is given the ball 30 or more times... NOONE DENIES THIS!

by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:56pm

The NFL is a copy cat league. If I'm a QB, wide receiver or safety in this years draft I'm feeling pretty good right about now. If I'm a running back I'm feeling a little nervous about my draft position. Of course had the Giants not had a soap opera end to the season, every team would be looking for a big bruising running back come draft day:)

by tuluse :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:54pm

The Titans, Giants, Panthers, Falcons, and Ravens all used a power running game to get to the playoffs. I don't think NFL general managers have tunnel vision the way you think.

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:21pm

Rules question - on the Harrison interception return, if he had not gotten into the end zone, would the Steelers have gotten another play because of the personal foul penalty on Arizona? I know the half can't end on a defensive penalty, but I'm not clear as to whether the Cardinals were considered the defensive team at that point, especially because the referee referred to the them as the offensive team when he made the call.

And part 2 - if they had called the block in the back, would it have mattered, or would the penalties have offset?

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:43pm

I'm not sure on part 1, but for part 2 the penalties would have offset, I believe, and they would have placed the ball at the spot of the second foul (the block in the back). But with no time left, I think that would have been it.
Side note: Is that really a block in the back? Yes, his hands were on the guy's back but only because Hightower is twisting his body. Woodley was between Harrison and Hightower when he made the block. For a real missed block in the back, check out Breaston's job on Polamalu during Arrington's catch with just under 10 minutes to go in the fourth.

by Anonymous111 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:48pm

The Steelers would have declined the penalty because if they accepted it Arizona would have the ball, so the half could have ended.
And with offsetting penalties (if those penalties could offset), Arizona would get the ball back. I was wondering what would have happened if they called a hold and Harrison went down with time still on the clock. Would those two penalties offset and give Arizona the ball back, or is it different because on e penalty was after change of possession?

by MurphyZero :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 8:54pm

With both the penalties occurring after the interception, the ball would have been the Steelers. As mentioned by others, if Woodley was between Hightower and Harrison, there should be no block in the back (you don't get a free penalty by turning your back to the blocker.)

by Travis :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:07pm

To part 1: The Steelers would have gotten 1 untimed down.

Rule 4, Section 8, Article 2: At the election of the opponent, a period may be extended for one untimed down, if any of the following occurs during a down during which time in the period expires: ... (4) a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct foul committed prior to an interception of a forward pass or the recovery of a backward pass or fumble.

Grabbing the face mask is considered a personal foul.

To part 2: The half would have ended.

(e) If a double foul occurs during the last down of either half, the period shall be extended by an untimed down. Exceptions: The half is not extended if ... (3) if there is a double foul with a change of possession ... that does not involve a replay of the down.

by Anonymous111 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:07pm

If that's true, that does away with the "touchdown or nothing" talk which I'm sure will be part of the lore of the play for eternity.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 7:49pm

Didn't the personal foul occur after the interception? In which case, the rules say that you would not get an additional untimed down.

by DGL :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:41am

No - when McAulay announces the penalty, he says, "Prior to the pass, Personal Foul..."

by SirKev (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:29pm

An additional point on the return? Did anyone see Fitzgerald on the return before he made the tackle. He ran 40+ yds out of bounds before making the tackle. Is that legal? If not, what is the penalty?

by luvrhino :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:49pm

It's a 15 yard personal foul penalty. I think i've only seen this called on punt returns when the gunner gets shoved out and gains an advantage by not attempting to immediately get back into play.

An interesting part you didn't mention was that while running out-of-bounds, Fitzgerald was slowed down a bit because a Cardinal spectator (Rolle?) got in his way. He would have easily caught Harrison had this not occurred. Of course, had he not run out of bounds, I'm not sure that Fitzgerald would have avoided all the traffic to get to Harrison in the first place.

Those plays are really hard to officiate, given that the majority of the officials start in the defensive backfield and aren't nearly as fast as the players. My guess is that a majority of the time, no flags would have been thrown on that play against either team.

by Travis :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:34pm

It's only a penalty if it occurs on a kicking play, I think. (At least it's not specifically in the rulebook for other circumstances.)

Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1: [Unsportsmanlike conduct] specifically includes, among others: ... (u) A member of the kicking team who goes out of bounds, whether forced out or voluntarily, must attempt to return inbounds in a reasonable amount of time.

After all, in what other situation would going out of bounds for an extended period of time be advantageous? (Receivers on pass plays can go out of bounds and come back in, but are forbidden from being the first to touch a forward pass.)

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:59pm

I think if he ran 40 yards out of bounds he'd be in the 23rd row, wouldn't he?

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:21pm

Mike Pereira said this morning that Pittsburgh would have been awarded a play had Harrison ruled down at the one. He did not address your other hypothetical.

by jimm (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:32pm

I was surprised how well Arizona played. It certainly seems to me now that weeks 13-16 are the aberration. I would expect them to be a very competitive team next year barring a bunch of injuries.

by S.K. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:49pm

Unless Warner retires, which is a real possibility.

Leinart may still have a future but for him to approach the level Warner played at this year is pretty unlikely. This team needs a precision QB or a running game, and without Warner they have neither.

by Anonymous111 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:33pm

I've seen a couple of pictures (http://www.newsday.com/services/newspaper/printedition/ny-todays-covers,..., and one one SI.com last night) where Holmes' right foot is clearly not down. Of course, it might have been down at a different point (although Holmes says he had it down all along. I think the officials made the right call based on what they saw but based on the pictures I'm not sure it was a TD.

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:37pm

I don't think pictures are a good way to judge a catch since his feet have to be down for an instant once he gets possession. NBC showed some pretty definitive replays confirming the catch.

by Anonymous111 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:41pm

I'm not saying it's not a touchdown, but the replays are definitely playing a bit of a trick based on the angles because they seem to show a TD the entire way and his right foot was clearly not on the ground at some point relatively early in the process.

by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:17pm

Why does it have to be a touchdown for an extended period of time? If one angle shows it correct then it is indeed the correct call and vice versa. Great throw and catch to end a great game. Epic play by a guy who had a bad regular season then got caught with weed then had a great postseason. I wish the media would talk more about holmes instead of fitzgerald for 99% of their coverage. The guy is great we get it. Hes not the best ever. Hes not even that close yet. 2 months ago he wasnt even considered the hands down best receiver on his fucking team!

So am i the only one that thinks arizona was gonna win that challenge on the last play fairly easily? I dont think the booth purposely wanted the steelers to win as much as i think they deserve to split james harrisons superbowl ring. He doesnt deserve it. He should have gotten kicked out for throwing multiple punches. I cant wait till he gets tested for roids

by JD (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:39pm

Holmes' great play is all due to yes-I-cannabis!

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:44pm

Please, this is ridiculous. The picture shows Holmes right as he caught the ball, at which point he came slightly up off his feet to get it. The replays showed, conclusively, from every angle, that his right foot then tapped down (watch the replay where his right foot hits and his right foot is kind of hooked around behind his left with the toe touching) before he fell forward out of the end zone. Absolutely no one watching the play live or on the replay thought he didn't get his feet down. It's only after the fact that this still picture from the part of the catch where he had to jump slightly to get it (cause that happens sometimes, right?) is published all over the place that there's any doubt.

I'm so sick of feeling like I need to defend my team's legitimacy (yes, I'm a Steelers fan) every time they win a game. It takes some of the fun out of it, because instead of being allowed to feel giddy that my team has won in an improbable fashion (they really deserved to lose, but two or three great plays by Harrison, Roethlisberger, and Holmes saved it), the first thing I encounter when I try to talk to folks about the fact that I'm happy my team won is a bunch of people trying to put the outcome in doubt that it never was in to begin with.

Sorry, Anonymous111, you don't seem to be a d*$# about this like, say, RickD or morganja, and you do say that it could well be a touchdown anyway. But I honestly don't see why this play is being debated, and the cumulative effect of all this bitterness and bitching about every call in the game (mostly by Ravens fans and RickD, who just needs to chill the hell out in general) is bumming me out.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:16pm

Here's a compromise for you, then (from a non-Cards, non-Steelers fan): the outcome of this one is less in doubt than the outcome of Super Bowl XL. Where the Seahawks, as Holmgren said, did appear to be battling both the refs and the Steelers.

And yes, we were all quite aware that 'Jerome Bettis is from Detroit'.

I'd say there was one drive, in particular, where the refs were handing a lot of yardage to the Steelers on quiestionable calls. And I don't think that one can argue that the Ike Taylor UP call was a 'make-up', because it was clearly... unsportsmanlike conduct, and clearly instigated by Ike Taylor.

So, there you go. It was a more earned victory than their last Super Bowl.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:00pm

OMG. Whatever. The Seahawks are the whiniest babies in the world. Holmgren cursed his team by blaming the officials for two straight years. Get a grip.

Steelers won both fair and square. Chippiness induced touch calls both ways in TB. Close defensible judgement calls in DET. God the Seahawks were the most insufferable losers.

by Some guy with an opinion (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:09pm

Most insufferable losers? I suppose that makes you the most insufferable winners. Especially the guy who posted before you, complaining about not getting to fully enjoy 2 Super Bowl wins in the last 5 years because not everyone thinks they won completely on merit. Being defensive about 2005 at this point makes you a far bigger whiner than any Seahawks fan.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:17pm

I'm not a Steelers fan. I'm a Vikings fan. I didn't care who won either game. I'm just sick of whiny ass Seahawks fans. I watched both games and enjoyed them. In 2005 I was informed by the losers what I'd witnessed was a fraud on the order of the faked moon landing.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:31pm

I'm a Vikings fan as well, crack. Although apparently I'm a 'whiny-ass' Vikings fan.

by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 2:11am

This years postseason was full of whiney asses. If a team loses i know i am gonna go online and find atleast 100 people whining about the calls. Want examples?

Superbowl Pit vs Ari (right now)
Pit vs chargers (Harrison is getting held EVERY PLAY. Mcneil tackles him one play! oh and san diego had more penalty yards against them, never been brought up though)
Ten vs Balt (1 play clock play lost the WHOLE game for tennessee! really? that wasnt even in their control. 1 misstep by 2 seconds and it lost your whole season? what happened if they snapped it 1 second earlier? do we stop talking about something that ridiculous?
Chargers vs Indy (let them play! at the end of the game the defense SHOULD be allowed to play against the rules. If they want to twist facemasks and hold receivers on routes they should be able to! but only at the end of the game when its the team im rooting for! should offenses get an unfair advantage too? 1 free cutblock per play in the last 3 minutes? maybe half a twist of the facemask or an illegal block in the back.)

im sure i am missing some "controversial" games too. lets all make crying not a part of football.

by crack (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 9:34am

I agree, there was precisely one team screwed out of a game this year. The Chargers. Karma came back and bailed Hochuli out.

However, these were in the moment just post complaints. The Seahawks thing was 4 years ago!

by RugbyRuss (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:48pm

So true and did we ever hear the outrage from the SD fans! :-)

I feel compelled to ask you to check your math. The Seahawks played in SB XL. This was SB XLIII. That makes it less than 4 years ago.

by RugbyRuss (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:44pm

Too funny. I love how the passing of time has mellowed blatant and indefensible calls against the Seahawks into "Close defensible judgement calls". Perhaps one day Idi Amin will not be a cannibal but rather a lover of his fellow man.

I am a Seahawks fan. I don't care anymore about SB XL. It was a travesty but life ain't fair. Yes, some Seahawks fans still like to dwell on it but the OP stated he was sick of having to defend it. Don't bother then. Enjoy this one. Pittsburgh won it, the refs called a decent, not perfect, but decent game. How many refs would have called holding in the end zone for a safety in a regular season game, much less the Super Bowl?

This SB was a good game that I felt both teams could say they deserved to win. Pittsburgh dominated early on, Arizona came back, it was a nail biter at the end. That's what a Super Bowl should be but too often it turns into a crap game.

As a Seahawks fan, I am more concerned right now about whether Bidwell will keep the Cardinals together or get cheap again and watch them sink back into mediocrity.

by Bobman :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 4:26am

Dunbar, All I have to say on this matter is Kordell Stewart was out of the back of the endzone in 1995 before he came back in and scored the game winner over the Colts in the AFCCG.

MY team should have lost to the Cowboys in the subsequent SB, not YOURS.

Hmmm, I had a good start, but that suddenly sounds much less macho....

And I guess that was karmically reversed by the Polamalu non-INT three years ago.

Okay, never mind. Hey, did you know Jerome Bettis is from Detroit?

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 8:06am

I refuse to take the bait on the Bettis-from-Detroit crack. I'm better than tha--aw, crap.

You're probably right about the Stewart TD, although it's not clear whether Stewart was forced out by the Colts defender. He definitely went out of bounds because the DB cut him off from the route he wanted to run across the back of the endzone, but he was only cut off in one direction. He could have gone the other way without being forced out. So yeah, he wasn't REALLY forced out, which means that shouldn't have been a touchdown, although no instant replay at the time means that it doesn't matter if the ref didn't see it. Hmmm ... if only there had been instant replay, that would have solved everything.... :)

Anyway, I don't feel too guilty, since the Colts would have won anyway if they'd blocked Willie Williams on 3rd and 1, or had the cajones to go for it on 4th and 1 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the game, or stopped the immortal Neil O'Donnell on the ensuing drive (they almost did pick O'Donnell off, but the LB dropped the game-winning pick), or ... you get the point.

Relevant clips:

What a great game. This is another one of my favorites, partly for nostalgia value--I was 7 at the time, and it's the first playoff game I actually remember--and partly because it was just a great game. It's kind of hard to believe that it WAS such a classic, given that the quarterbacks were Neil O'Donnell and Jim Harbaugh and that the announcers were Dick Enberg, Paul Maguire, and Phil Simms.

by Temo :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:35pm

Great game, and although the Cards did play better, it doesn't necessarily mean they should have won.

I hate the Steelers, but damn if I'm going to cry about officiating in this game. It was a pretty well officiated game overall.

by David Frizzell (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:36pm

Glad my kids didn't talk like that when they were four.

by Keith (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:39pm

Even without opponent adjustments, Arizona dominated. And the best team won? I giggled something fierce.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:40pm

Barnwell: Photos from around the web, have very much confirmed that Santonio Holmes is indeed a man...

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:09pm

Hm - looks like Visanthe Shiancoe might have some competition.

by t.d. :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:40pm

I think Warner is Terrell Davis with a better back-story. I hope he goes in, but then I have odd taste on those questions, and I think the whole God thing will hurt him with some voters.

Last year's game was better, because of the historic elements to it, and the fact that the first 2.5 hours of this game were boring. Last year was taught throughout. Still, crappy non-review notwithstanding, this goes on the very short list for best SBs ever, and it had more incredible moments than last year's game. I still can't help feeling bad for the Cards, but the Steelers earned it.

by Joexxx (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:48pm

What was boring about Arizona driving for a go-ahead TD at halftime only to have a 100-yard interception return for a TD on the last play of the half? If you thought that was boring, you have some pretty high standards.

by t.d. :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 3:20am

I guess I do. As someone who didn't give a sh*t either way, there were only about five minutes in the first half when it didn't look like the Steelers would win easily. They had dominated the game more thoroughly than the score reflected (at least before the taint)

by JD (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:45pm

I think it's tough to say that Warner is Terrell Davis with a better back story. Warner has now led two different franchises to the Super Bowl, both of which were mediocre-to-awful before he arrived (and the Rams cratered fairly quickly after his departure). Meanwhile, while Davis' production was extraordinary, quite a few Broncos RBs since him have approached his levels of production. It isn't necessarily fair, but these facts seem to indicate that Warner is a truly special player, while Davis was a very good player in an excellent system.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:18pm

I don't disagree with your overall point, but the fact is that the Rams cratered while Warner was still there, and then rebounded with Bulger, leading to Warner's departure. Check out 2002 and 2003 for evidence.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by t.d. :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 7:23am


by Kenneth (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:45pm

I doubt "the God thing" will hurt him more than it helps him.

by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:44pm

I think playing the "what if" game is really unhelpful. The INT return was completely non-predictive, but that 10-point swing would have completely changed the defensive playcalling in the second half, including (an extremely likely) lack of cover 2, the set that essentially destroyed them in the second half.

I will say, Arizona by 60%? Absurd. I guess it's because the TD was non-predictive and the steelers went into a garbage time defense (yay cover 2!) that turned out to be not-so garbage time, because Arizona was able to retake the lead on two quick drives, so the fact that the defense was playing a soft set is counted as simply a complete defensive meltdown.

Also, is this what we've come to? Debating over whether something should be reviewed, even if you don't believe it'll be overturned? Are we rooting for processes now?

by sss (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:49pm


by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:02pm

"Consistency" is a pretty meaningless talisman. Half the time it's about different calls, ignoring that the refs don't always see the same angles and aren't always looking for the same things.

But consistency in review? What does that even mean? The booth thought it wouldn't be overturned. The procedure is just like a coach challenging; the booth looks over the play, decides if it has any likelihood of getting reversed, if so they call down to have the referee look at it. "Consistency" seems to be a stand-in for "mandatory reviews for anything remotely close," which would not only be disastrous from a viewing perspective, but is what the system was specifically designed to avoid. The idea behind replay is to fix calls that were called incorrectly on the field. These mechanisms were put in to make sure that replay didn't take over the game. The process worked for both teams (arizona got incorrect calls reversed, the steelers didn't have to wade through a symbolic trip to the hood) pretty much exactly as it was intended.

I'm beginning to think that there is no possible game, officiating-wise, that FO and its readership could look at and be satisfied with. People are outraged by the penalties where the ref has no discretion. They're angry when the refs exercise their discretion (both in review and with live penalties). There is no possible way for the refs to win.

by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:23pm

if the booth knows a call is wrong they will review it. if the booth knows a call is right they wont review it. if the booth is unsure about a call they should review it.

by Seattleite (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 9:47pm

But in this case the booth was unsure about the call, and it was reviewed. But the reviews so quickly revealed that the correct call was made on the field that they were able to continue without interrupting the flow of the game with a delay or even an announcement of the review.

by sss (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:34pm

By consistency, I mean that based on the way booth review has been handled over the years, wouldn't you expect them to review this play? I'm not really up-in-arms over this, but I really really expected them to review it because they virtually always do. This time they didn't. Seemed inconsistent to me.

by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 8:27pm

yes i agree the call shoulda been reviewed. i even thought it shoulda been reversed! This shouldnt take away from the steelers win because even if it gets reversed its such a small percentage of working that we can assume the outcome.

by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:17pm

You'd know better than I would as a Steeler fan, but was that fourth quarter defense them playing prevent with what they perceived to be a big lead or them just playing conservative regardless of the situation?

by Mike Kurtz :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:34pm

I could, of course, be wrong, but my impression is that it was a prevent scheme. I think LeBeau got overconfident in his coverage after the first quarter and thought that all he really had to do was take away the long plays and just bleed them out. If it were merely conservative playcalling, I think they would have gone with a cover 3 look instead, because it's a much more flexible scheme that plays closer to polamalu's strengths. He's a good coverage safety, but sticking him deep handcuffs his game (which, granted, wasn't all that great yesterday) and plays completely against his strengths, his ability to play short to mid coverage off the line at snap, to read the defense, etc. Putting him out as just help on the deep zone takes all that away, and exacerbates his pursuit problems (which were present in force last night). I honestly think LeBeau thought that he had the game won, just had to make sure there were no huge deep plays. I think his error was in assuming that a play has to be a deep throw- that he didn't account for warner's precision and fitzgerald's speed, just Fitzthulu's jump ball skills.

by Lou :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:09pm

most of the country thought it looked like an incomplete pass. even if by rule it was a fumble they needed to do an official review on that play so that the ref could explain to the millions of people watching why it wasnt an incomplete pass.

And given the number of other reviews we've seen in instances where the result is pretty clear t's simply unbelievable that the replay official believed that play was unworthy of the refs time. because of his failure lots of people are talking about the officiating today rather than the steelers.

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:55pm

Most of the country? Based on what?

by t.d. :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 7:29am

The NFL opened this can of worms with the 'tuck rule' game. Now, strict, letter-of-the-law enforcement is expected in the interest of fairness.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:45pm

This was a frustrating game to watch if you were pulling for the Cardinals, and the VOAf certainly confirms that -- but not only did they lose despite outplaying the Steelers, but all the announcers seemed pro-Steelers. It felt like good old boys pulling for good old boys -- the Cardinals have certainly never been a part of that club.

Kurt Warner is thinking about retiring? He announces right after the Super Bowl and no one at the time even notices. See what happens when you're not as sexy as Brett Favre?

Thanks, Vince, for pointing out that the key play in the game -- Harrison's touchdown return -- should have been called back. I'll have another reason to hate Super Bowl officiating.

There was one penalty that is probably legal but that drove me nuts at the time. The Cardinal DB and the Steelers WR drove each other out of bounds, and both had their hands on each other's face masks. The result? 15-yard penalty against the DB. Why? Because the WR having his hand on the DB's facemask is a "straight arm" and protected under hallowed football tradition. Heck, it's on the Heisman trophy. You can't make Mr. Heisman committing a penalty, right? But watching it seemed unfair, because both players were doing the exact same thing.

Rrrr...frustrating Super Bowl to watch.

by Don (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:50pm

Woodley shoved Hightower on the shoulder, there was no missed penalty there. He was turning to face Harrison as it happened, and he landed on his back. But apparently any time the Steelers cross the goal line there has to be some sort of government investigation.

by TomKelso :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 8:00am

Well, Ben hasn't yet, Holmes may have but we're not sure about the ball against Baltimore, and there appears to be open question about Harrison....

Too bad I can't insert a poll here and figure out which of those examples is going to ignite the most whining from Steeler fans.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:32pm

Yeah, I've read that elsewhere, that the "block in the back" had extenuating circumstances. Actually that's a relief.

Anyway -- no need to take it personally. Every strange and close call gets examined in the Super Bowl. That's one of the burdens of being the winner. Enjoy it!

by beargoggles :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:00am

"There was one penalty that is probably legal but that drove me nuts at the time. The Cardinal DB and the Steelers WR drove each other out of bounds, and both had their hands on each other's face masks. The result? 15-yard penalty against the DB. Why? Because the WR having his hand on the DB's facemask is a "straight arm" and protected under hallowed football tradition. Heck, it's on the Heisman trophy. You can't make Mr. Heisman committing a penalty, right? But watching it seemed unfair, because both players were doing the exact same thing."

I Agree that that's a very strange rule. And never did it look more ridiculous than then. If I were ref, I'd be inclined to not see the DB's facemask.

BTW, the Card corners were horrible tacklers. If I were the Steelers, I would have used quick wide tosses like during that play instead of a running game.

by sss (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:46pm

The fumble at the end of the game is a really tough call. The defender gets to Warner as the ball is all the way back and jars the ball loose a bit. However, Warner's hand is still fully on the ball as he pushes it forward. Yeah, it's probably a fumble, but you could make the opposing case. Really, Warner did a pretty poor job as moved right into that defender. The Steelers only brought 3 -- you would hope he would be able to get the heave away.

It's pretty funny that as our ability to see a play in finer detail (zoomed-in, slo-mo) improves, it really only serves to increase controversy.

by Anonymous111 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:53pm

That's how I saw it. It looked like that by the laws of physics the ball should have been knocked out before the arm went forward, but Warner somehow managed to to hold onto it until he brought his arm forward. I don't think they would have overturned it but I also don't think they would have overturned a forward-pass call, which shows how close it was.

by Floyd (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:40pm

What if an Arizona player had picked up the fumble/incomplete pass and made a miracle run for a touchdown?

That would be the NFL's nightmare scenario. The Super Bowl would've been decided on a play in which no "correct" call could be made. Steeler fans would be screaming that it should've been an incomplete pass. Cardinal fans would say that the ball was coming loose when he threw it. Steeler fans would counter that he had enough control of it to throw it forward and that any reasonable person would consider that a pass.

I suspect that if that scenario had happened, the officials would have ruled it an incomplete pass. But then again I've been spending time in the fever swamps with some disgruntled Seahawk fans.

by Travis :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:47pm

Fumbles in the last 2 minutes can only be advanced (by the offense; any defender could advance it) by the fumbling player himself. So, unless Warner was the one recovering the fumble, the ball would have been returned to the point of the fumble, and this scenario is moot.

by Robo-Hochuli (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:12pm

Isn't that the Holy Roller rule (i.e. the rules are equipped to handle it)?

I thought that last turnover should have been reviewed, but I do see it as a no-win situation for the refs. The possibility of reversing a borderline call and giving the Cardinals one last play to end the game...invites even more controversy than we're seeing now.

by Anonymous111 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:08pm

Unfortunately we didn't get the ending the game deserved - a hail mary coming down in the direction of Fitzgerald would have been an awesome moment.

by Mike Kurtz :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:31am

And the way that it essentially ended (a great individual defensive effort that sealed the game) wasn't as good as a completely random pass to 4 cardinals and 5 steelers? Hail Mary throws are ugly, messy, desperate things. Woodley's strip was a thing of beauty. How, again, did we get robbed? Do we just not like defense anymore?

by DGL :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:48am

No, we do not.

Signed, the NFL Competition Committee

by Anonimous (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:50pm

yeah i don't really see it.

through 3+ quarters of play, the steelers have 1 punt, one INT, and three scoring drives. cards have 3 punts, one int, one fumble, and one score.

that should be a fairly dominant VOA performance. the steeler O didn't do much in the 4th Q with a lead, but they didn't expect to need to. when they needed to score again, they had no problem. cards had two full scoring drives (one against mid-4th quarter-up-by-two-TDs style prevent D), and one busted play that went the distance.

I hear the "if you ignore the Harrison TD (and we do!), then the Cards win by 3, because the Steelers still would have been basically taking a knee all 4th Q and Warner still would have been slinging in 5-wide at the same time" argument,

but even with all that, I don't see how 23-20 should be a 65% VOA differential.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:58pm

I imagine those dozen plays from the 5-yard line without a touchdown hurt the Steelers VOA.

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:10pm

VOA/DVOA is play based not drive based.


by JD (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:48pm

Still, that means that over a fifth of their 58 offensive plays were unsuccessful.

by nat :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:51pm

You can think of VOA as "how good they played, if you assume their opponent played like an average team". So 65% VOA overstates the difference, since both teams can't have played like an average team. The correct difference is somewhere between 31% and 34%.

The "ratio of success" on offense is something like 145% to 113%, about 6.5 to 5. But the ratio of scoring would have been (ignoring the TD return) 23 to 20, or about 6 to 5. Chalk up the rest to situational stuff: Arizona wasted a long drive at the end of the half, for example, even if you discount the TD return.

VOA tells the story pretty well. Arizona had more success on a play-by-play basis, but Pittsburgh put the plays together better, and got a huge advantage on the TD return - in essence a 7 point value that doesn't show up on VOA.

One last thought: VOA assumes that teams are trying to do the same thing: effectively gain field position and points. Pittsburgh (unwisely, as it turned out) switched to a clock-killing strategy, hoping to trade lower effectiveness for lower risk and better clock management. VOA can't take that into account. That's not a dig against VOA. VOA was right, and Pittsburgh needed a heroic comeback to make up for their strategic mistake.

by Ryan (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:52pm

Re: Penalties. I must be going nuts. Am I the only person in the world who saw Kurt Warner take his helmet off to yell at the refs (after the ruled fumble that was overturned and ruled incomplete) and not get a penalty?

He walked right up to the ref and yelled at him. Without his helmet. How is THAT penalty missed?

by Temo :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:57pm

Because it's the super bowl and they're not going to call stuff like that. Just like they let Santonio Holmes use the ball as a prop without calling a 15 yard penalty on the ensuing kick off.

by DGL :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:05pm

Except for the Unsportsmanlike Conduct on Woodley for... taking off his helmet after the Warner fumble with five seconds left.

by JasonK :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:20pm

I'm not certain, but think that a player is allowed to remove his helmet when the result of the play (as called on the field) is a change of possession.

by Travis :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:33pm

Not exactly. If NBC had gone/was in the process of going to commercial, it wouldn't have been a penalty.

Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1, (h) [Exceptions to the helmet-removal personal foul]: The player is not in the game or he is in or has returned to his bench area; or, the player is in the game and a time out has been called for reasons of injury, television break, charged team time out, or it is between periods.

by Cliff Claven (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:04pm

Wait. Isn't that the same thing that happened on the Woodley play, which was a fumble/turnover by Warner?

by Israel P. - Jerusalem (not verified) :: Wed, 02/04/2009 - 12:43pm

Vanderjagt was called for taking off his helmet after missing the FG in the 21-18 playoff game three years ago. That was certainly a change of possession.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:07pm

Maybe because on a change of possession, the clock stops. Pretty sure you can take your helmet off during a time out, especially if you have the "C" on your uniform, to talk to the ref.

by DGL :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:32pm

You mean like the clock stopped after the change of possession with five seconds left, and Woodley got called for Unsportsmanlike Conduct for removing his helmet?

by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 7:47pm

enjoy your superbowl win DGL. if you cant enjoy a season where your team wins it I wouldnt want to talk to you when your team looks like the lions or last years dolphins. The game is over at the point of the penalty. Its like in basketball when one team gets a lot of free throws late game cause the other team is kicking their ass. that penalty called on woodley had the same affect as me farting out my cheetoes midway through the second quarter. That is unless u believe in the butterfly effect. then my farting escapade actually had MORE say on the outcome of the game than his penalty.

by DGL :: Wed, 02/04/2009 - 1:56pm

You know, I was enjoying the Super Bowl win, and I'm trying hard to continue to enjoy it. But I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I'd never read Audibles, and I know I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I'd never read the comments.

As others have noted, the noise level with regard to officiating complaints has increased to the point where it's drowning out the signal. Which is a shame, because a lot of the commenters - Bobman, Pat, Will Allen, others - contribute a lot to the conversation, with comments that are insightful, smart, and funny. But honestly, it's starting to not be worth the effort.

As to how I am when my team is like the Lions, well, suffice to say I'm also a Pirates fan...

by RickD :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 12:56pm

Your problem with DVOA is that it does not have a way to apply a numerical value to a 100-yard interception return at the end of a half. Consider this: if it was a 99-yard interception return, it would have been the same as Warner taking a knee. Sometimes you guys just need to accept the fact that any statistic is inherently an information-losing tool. That's what statistics are for: they take a large set of information and derive from it a small amount of information in a way that is repeatable for a large number of data sets.

by Geronimo (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:01pm

The argument that the Cardinals outplayed Pittsburgh is focused on stats without context. For whatever reason, the Steelers got real conservative on offense after the half until the middle of the 4th quarter. They did a Bill Cowher -- trying to run out the clock long before the game was decided.

As I watched, I think it's clear tht Ben could have thrown for 400 yards if he'd been allowed to throw.

by Anonimous (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:26pm

really, they did great in the 3rd quarter as well. forced two punts, one long scoring drive.

The Cardinals outplayed the Steelers only in a 9 minute stretch from 12 minutes left in the 4th to just after 3 minutes left in the 4th.

Though I'm sure in between mocking gaining 7 yards on 3rd and 8 for the eight millionth and eight millionth and first times, DVOA had a chance to give Warner tons of credit for driving 40 yards in the last 35 seconds, needing an 80 yard TD drive.

by deep64blue :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:01pm

>>>"what the heck happened in Weeks 13 to 16?" Other than snow in one game, of course. <<<

One of the other games was a short week cross country trip to play a pretty good Eagles team ...

by DMC (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:01pm

Can we see DVOA by quarter? I think this will tell a radically different story. This was a similar game to Arizona-Eagles last week. The Steelers were dominant much of the game, Arizona came back on some quick strikes and a safety set up by special teams.

Anyone claiming Arizone was dominant did not watch the game.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:06pm

It looked to me like the steelers dominated the first 20 minutes, then got outplayed the next 10 (until the pick6).

The Cardinals outplayed them for most of the second half.

by DMC (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:15pm

I'll conceed the 4th quarter, but I think AZ had 2 drives with 2 punts in the 3rd. Steelers had one loooong drive with a field goal.

I'm a big fan of DVOA, but this just seems to run completely counter to the game I watched.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:02pm

"And if Ben Roethlisberger gets close to the goal-line, we know the refs will give him the score."

Yeah, I'm getting really sick of having to see teams waste challenges on Roethlisberger not getting into the endzone. It seems to happen atleast once every time I watch the steelers.

by sss (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:09pm

Speaking of replay...

It's really surprising to me that at this point, we don't have access to simultaneous time-synced replays from different angles. That is, take two or more different shots and view them simultaneously so they are time-synced. It really wouldn't have helped in any instance in this game, but it was just something I thought of when they were reviewing the Roethlisberger non-TD. Too often we have a good shot of the knee but we can't see the ball, and a shot of the ball when we can't see the knee. Simultaneous replays would solve this problem, as you could determine when the knee went down in replay A and then look at replay B to see where the ball is.

by DJ Any Reason (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:24pm

This is actually more different than it sounds. Every time one camera stops all of them would have to be re-synched, and odds are the cameras aren't constantly rolling as they move down the field between plays. This would require either a massive re-tooling of the way games are shot, with increased costs to the nets and possible danger to people on the sidelines as cables to trip over get lugged back and forth, or delays between plays as the cameras have to sync up.

by technology guy (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:16am

not really that hard - you are really talking about streaming video that is stamped with a time signature from a common source by the camera, then being able to cull through the data to get all the data in the right sequence for an arbitrary time.

While I won't claim any knowledge of how the TV guys do their thing, I do know a lot about IPTV and also streaming audio and video from network connected cameras and this is pretty much the table stakes to be in the game.

Each camera receives its time continuously from a common source, and when it is taking pictures, that time is encoded into the video frame, which is then sent to the video processing unit - basically a big computer that delivers the video to both the viewer and the archives simultaneously.

The same technology could be used to have fixed cameras on the sidelines, goal lines, and end lines to get something like what pro tennis has so every incident at the edge of the playing field or end zone would have at least, for example, two cameras at 1 foot, two at 8 feet, and two at 20 feet, plus the TV cameras to draw upon for replay.

Basically, there aren't technological barriers to this, only political ones.

by Ben Stuplisberger :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:56pm

Perhaps we don't, but do the replay officials? It would take very little effort to accomplish.

by Robo-Pope :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 2:47am

Either Madden or Michaels actually said during the Roethlisberger review that the officials have access to, and are allowed to use, composites from the cameras to make a decision.
So yes, they are allowed to, and do, use the video syncing.

by The Anti-Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:27pm

In fairness to Michaels, I think he called the Harrison penalty "huge" because he initially thought it was before the kick and gave Arizona an automatic first down. At least he tapdanced out of it, as opposed to Phil Simms, who would probably try to find additional justifications for his initial reaction.

by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:32pm

I know I'll be accused of being a DVOA homer for saying this, but even if there's a disconnect between reality and how VOA saw this game, it shouldn't be a surprise or a sign that there's something wrong with it theoretically. A lot of failed attempts close to the goal line don't do wonders for your VOA, and the reason why the Steelers were so close to the goal line on some of those plays had a lot to do with penalties. On the other hand, DVOA doesn't factor in James Harrison drawing three holding penalties, which contributes to our perception based from watching the game that the Steelers were better than their stats. (Of course, it doesn't realize that Dockett pretty much had a free pass to Roethlisberger all night, too.)

I think that Fnor's probably right in how the game changes if Harrison doesn't return the INT for a pick-six because the Steelers don't start playing Cover-2 in the fourth, and that's something that inherently affects any analysis of the game, statistical or not. Playing the "what if" game isn't designed to (and shouldn't) render those facts irrelevant; it just elucidates how thin the line is between what we saw and what we could have seen, and why an analysis of 50 or 60 plays in a game is more relevant in judging team quality than judging one or two.

by DMC (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:38pm

You have every right to be a VOA homer, I am a fan of it also. But, I'm taking my favorite stats with a grain of salt today. VOA is trying to say that if this game were played again, the majority of the time AZ would win. I don't debate that it was a close game, but it seems that the relatively quick 16 point swing in the fourth quarter is being somehow overvalued. When I see someone say "according to VOA the Steelers were clearly outplayed" I envision that they put up a few unsustainable hail mary passes or benifited from short field. That was clearly not the case with drives by Pittsburgh through the end of the third quarter.

What I really think is that the Steelers contained that offense for the majority of the game. They could not hope to contain lower case g for 100% of the game and there had to be an occanional breakdown. This was made worse by playing the clock instead of the opponent (sort of how the Eagles crawled back into the game against AZ two weeks ago). If the Steelers had any ability to run in short yardage (they have struggled all year), this game would have had an ugly swing in VOA and score.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:49pm

Also, these are stats that are designed and useful for looking ahead, not analyzing a past game. That's why it can do things like discount a pick 6, when obviously that's an important part of the game.

It's an argument that a tool designed to do X isn't very good at task Y

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:09pm

I don't recall, does DVOA count hurries in favor of the defense? If not, maybe it should. I don't know if that would be too difficult to implement or some such. Similarly, is there a roadblock in front of counting offensive holds as positive defensive plays?

In general, I think DVOA is right that the Cardinals outplayed/outcoached the Steelers, but not by as great a margin as it "claims." The sticking point is probably the INT return, which probably shouldn't be counted past the interception in the formula since plays like that are very unusual and not very predictive events, but it was a true showcase of skill (not luck) by the Steelers' best defensive player.

by DMC (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:30pm

The time and place that it happened was a bit shocking, but the number one scoring defense scored. That makes it a bit less unusual.

by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:34pm

The PIT defense played a mostly terrible game, except for the lucky touchdown return and a couple of key pressures on Warner. I think I saw Polamalu make about one tackle - the rest of the time, I just saw him flying across the screen, completely whiffing on every tackle he tried to make.

It's nice to see that the DVOA numbers confirm that Arizona was clearly the better team on the field yesterday, on both offense and defense, because that's certainly what I thought based on an admittedly half-interested viewing.

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:35pm

What exactly was lucky about the TD return? The play call was perfect for the situation as Warner was fooled into throwing into coverage and was pressured. Harrison caught the ball; it didn't luckily stick to his hands. He returned the ball 100 yards without going down despite several opportunities to be tackled. He got a bunch of good blocks and outran/outmaneuvered a handful of players. Where's the element of luck?

by DGL :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:04pm

"Lucky" is the wrong word; "non-predictive" is the correct term. If one of the Outsiders used the word "lucky" they were lapsing into shorthand that isn't precisely correct. Interception returns do not contribute to DVOA because they are non-predictive, not because they are "lucky".

The interception does contribute to DVOA, so the Steelers' D gets credit for the playcall, Harrison's reaction, and Harrison catching the ball. The Cardinals' O loses credit for Warner (described by one talking head as having "the best eye-discipline in the NFL...") staring down Boldin and enabling Harrison to read his eyes and not drift out into the flat zone.

But the 100-yard return is non-predictive of future events. I recall a short study that FO did - though I can't remember the details to try to link to it - when a particular defense had a reputation for having exceptional interception returns (maybe Reed and the Ravens in 07? The Bears a couple years ago? Not sure). They basically concluded that while defenses may devote practice time to runbacks and there may be some defenses that are anecdotally better at running back interceptions or fumble recoveries, there's no statistical evidence that it's a "repeatable skill".

So the TD return wasn't "lucky"; it showed remarkable speed (and stamina) from a linebacker and great teamwork by his teammates running interference on the pursuit. But there's nothing to predict that if the same play happened again, Fitz isn't going to get another step and bring him down at the five, or Warner won't pull a Roethlisberger and manage to slow him down at the 25, or that in traffic his foot doesn't hit the sideline somewhere along the line.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:36pm

I think it was the GB defense this year, which had a large number of runback scores in the first half of the season and then either 1 or 0 (I forget which) in the second half.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:02pm

I agree with you 100%. My comment was a response to Jeremiah's in which he claimed the Steelers D played a bad game where their only contribution was discarded as "lucky." Beyond that, however, is the point, which others may have made in this thread, that it doesn't really matter if the return isn't predictive. It happened; we know it happened; it was a huge part of the game. Discarding makes sense in terms of DVOA, which is trying to figure out what makes teams win and lose in general, but discarding that play in any analysis of the actual game that took place is ludicrous.

by DGL :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:48pm

OK, next time I'll read the context instead of just the comment...

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:50pm

You're right. Pittsburgh's performance was not an indication that they would beat Arizona again if they both played at the same level, but that does not equate to their performance being bad. It means they were successful at things which don't indicate repeated success in the future, and unsuccessful at things which are likely to be repeated. But success is success, and a good performance is good even if it hinges on some serendipity.

To wit: Let's say (purely for example) that Pitt sucked on 3rd and 4th downs, but converted a couple of critical ones which were the key plays of the game. We'd say that doesn't mean they will be good in the future, but they still got the job done when they needed to and that means they were successful in this one particular game.

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

by greybeard (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 8:51pm

When a 100 yard interception return is ever not lucky? They had 100 yards of field to tackle him.
And there were only 15 seconds left on the clock. He barely made it, he could as easily have landed 1 foot shorter.
That does not take away anything from the Steelers. A lot of events on football field is a combination of luck and effort.
Effort matters a lot more over the long term.

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:53pm

Other than Polamalu and Ike Taylor, who really did look terrible whenever we could see them on screen, I don't think the Steelers' D played that badly. They were getting as much pressure as always, but they were facing a team that had the receiving corps to force them to cover all the receivers and leave the running backs open. They were getting gashed for 8 yards or more on, essentially, long handoffs to the flats, which is why the Cards were moving the ball so effectively. Of course, the second they pulled someone off Fitzgerald to cover a running back or a short out or whatever, Fitz made them pay for it dearly. The Steelers' defensive performance was more about the Cardinals' offense then the Steelers' defense.

As for the touchdown return ... I agree with the guy above me (forgot to check the name before replying :p) that there wasn't much luck involved. Harrison saw the screen coming a mile away, read it perfectly, and rode good blocks plus a combination of speed, strength, and agility that no man should have to the end zone. It isn't going to happen again next time the Steelers play, or maybe ever, but the individual play was more about Harrison's utterly insane talent than any sort of luck.

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:57pm

Mistakes in above post--it was a slant, obviously, and I didn't really make it clear that I considered the Steelers to be "getting as much pressure as always" not because they were getting to Warner, but because they were moving toward him at the usual rate and just couldn't get there before he flicked it out to a RB.

by DGL :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:11pm

Of course, we didn't see Taylor and Polamalu on the screen much for the first 50 minutes or so of the game, because they were over-under on Fitz and the ball didn't even get thrown in their direction.

by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:35pm

I really enjoyed the game. You had great players play great. You had players of little note play great. You had some truly outstanding individual plays that will make the highlight reel for years to come.

The halftime show stunk. That's about the only clunker.

I thought the refs did a great job. The teams were clearly trying to get the edge on each other from the standpoint of "being the aggressor" and the ref's only recourse in a situation like that is to throw some flags to get folks to be a bit restrained. Otherwise it degenerates into a melee/scrum.

I was especially pleased that somebody in the league office decided that yes, maybe calling blatant holds is appropriate.

Gotta give it up to Pittsburgh to WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP with such a sh*tty offensive line. Sure the Cardinals have some players with Dockett being a crazy man but C'MON already. That second half was sad. And the repeated failures at the goal line because not only can the line not get ANY type of movement but protection breakdowns when passing almost seem mandatory. Ben's concussions are showing if he compliments those sad sacks.

Congrats to the Steelers!!

by AnonymousXLIII (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 2:57am

Sometimes it is nice to disagree with someone completely, totally and without reservation. Bruce rules and the refs didn't call the same game from drive to drive.

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:39pm

Entertaining Super Bowl. Looks like Arizona did "deserve" to be in it after all (which was always a silly argument). Nice scheming from both coaching staffs, game changing plays. The commercials were a bit too numerous and most of them were trying way too hard as compared with their quality. Only 3 or 4 seemed worth noting.

I think assuming the teams play at the same relative levels Arizona wins that game more often than Pittsburgh does, a lot of the more random things went Pittsburgh's way. Of course overall I think Pittsburgh is probably the better team so i doubt they would play at those same levels over the course of several match ups.

You have got to love the Gary Russell TD after Cousin made such a big deal about him not scoring, made my day almost. Sal is always funnier when he is down.

This ARI offense is everything people thought it was going to be when Boldin broke out and they drafted Fitzgerald. I hope Warner returns, I would hate to see Lienart return it to underachiever status.

by Mystyc :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:07pm


by Double Yoi!! (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:40pm

You guys are a bunch of f*@!ing whiners. Seriously. At least I respect that the Cardinals haven't cried about officiating even as other chronic whiners like you continue to carp. The game was decided on something far less tangible than your geek numbers (no offense to Nate Silver), but you wouldn't know anything about that. Are the Eagles still the best team in the league? Why do you still feel compelled to qualify the Steelers success even as they celebrate a hard earned if imperfectly executed SB victory? Whatever you want to quantify about Harrison's run, what value do you place on making the last few yards totally gassed with 7 points in the balance? This is a lineback not a DB and he lines up on ST too. That's a lion hearted play that goes beyond the record or even the point swing. Just serious heart, but VV would rather focus on some imaginary penalty on the runback. Are you serious?!? Let's not forget Ben's final drive, and Holmes' TD catch. I guess they just weren't up to Warner's level and really don't deserve those rings.

You guys must be trying to keep up with Peter King on spewing stupid s@*!

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:44pm

I think you are at the wrong websites, try foxsports!

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:31pm

Tell raiderjoe we say 'hi', and we miss his grammar lessons.

by Mystyc :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:10pm

You are a disgrace to that username.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:40pm

So are you saying that if Holmes drops that last ball, that would mean that the Steelers didn't have 'heart' and the Cardinals suddenly would have?

by FootballFan100000 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:43pm

Stats are for fantasy football fans. Anybody who doesn't think Ben Roethlisberger is a top 5 QB in this league doesn't know football. Get away from the spreadsheets and go watch the games.

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 1:51pm

I don't think it is really that clear cut at all.

Then Warner/Romo/Rivers/McNabb/Rothlisberger/Cutler/Manning/Rodgers

Looks like he is in the 5-11 pack somewhere, I don't think he is clearly top5 at all. He is great for PIT with its lack of an offensive line, but there are some definite holes in his game. Luckily for him he is still youngish and may yet improve. Personally I would think he is maybe 7 or 8? I know I would rather have McNabb or Romo.

Of course going forward a lot of those guys are getting a bit old, but this isn't Madden this is the NFL.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:50pm

Don't feed the troll.

by Easy Like Sunday Morning (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:00pm

Romo over Ben? I didn't know Matt Millen posted on FO!

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:41pm

Lemme guess - right up there with Favre?

by FootballFan100000 (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:06pm

Brees is a better fantasy QB than Big Ben. I was talking about real football. Tony Romo can't carry Roethlisberger's jock.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:23pm

If you don't think Drew Brees is a better QB than Roethlisberger, you've obviously never seen Brees play. Try to tune down the homerism just a bit before typing. Suggesting that Roethlisberger is only a top 10 QB (as most people would) isn't a slight.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:45pm

Hey now - you're forgetting Fan100000's hidden stats: 'heart' and 'intangibles'.

For example, Roethlisberger's stats from SUper Bowl XL: 9/21, 123 yards, 2 INT, Intangibles +5, 80 Heart

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:07pm

Don't feed the troll.

by LittleNeddyKnickers (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:07pm

Well, as far as the block in the back goes, wasn't it actually illegal for Fitzgerald to have been making the attempted tackle from out of bounds? There was a lot happening on that entire run. I actually wasn't too excited during the runback itself, because I didn't think it would count, because I assumed the flag back near the goal line was going to be a penalty on the runback. I wonder how many players thought the same, as the whole play had a somewhat slow-motion feel to it.

by Keith (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:17pm

As many mentioned, the penalty would occur on being the first person to touch the ball, not the would-be tackler. There is, as far as I know at least, no penalty for coming out of bounds for a tackle. If there was, they would look to see if he was forced out, which probably makes the tackler legal anyway.

by LittleNeddyKnickers (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:24pm

Thanks for the clarification. I wasn't sure of the rule.

by luvrhino :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:58pm

There's no penalty for coming out-of-bounds for a tackle. There is a 15-yard personal foul penalty if a player goes out-of-bounds and doesn't make an attempt to immediately return to the field of play.

You'd normally see this on punt returns when the gunner gets shoved out and gains an advantage by continuing to run out-of-bounds. I'm not surprised that this didn't get flagged given that there's no way the officials could be in position to anticipate this play and get a clean look at what Fitzgerald did while everyone's sprinting down the field.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:14pm

Not reviewing the final play is an abomination. And I don't give a crap what Pereira claims the booth did. It takes atleast 2 minutes to review every other replay challenge ever made, but you don't even stop the game for a second to review a very questionable Super Bowl deciding call?!? Bullshit. And I bet the fact that if it had been overturned would have meant that the 'removing your helmet' penalty would have had to be enforce giving Warner probably 2 shots at the endzone from the 35 yard line didn't have anything to do with the decision not to take a closer look at the play. Riiight. The Steelers are gifted one Super Bowl by the refs and then the next time they're in it they just so happen to run into the most penalized opponent in Super Bowl history and the game ends like that?!? If that had been NE you damn well know that would have been looked at closer. That seemed way closer to an incomplete forward pass than the tuck rule game (that rule was never changed, right?!?).

Listen, that was a great game. I was thoroughly entertained. And I'm not even saying that the Steelers didn't deserve to win this time. And I don't even have much of a problem with how the first 59 minutes and 30 seconds of the game was officiated (there were a small handful questionable calls, but nothing too egregious and certainly nothing to get worked up about). But you just can't let a game end like that. And worrying that you won't get the camera shot of the Steelers celebrating immediately after "apparently" winning is probably the worst thing I've ever heard. You have replay for a reason. The final 2 minutes of the halves are turned over to booth review for a reason. If you're not going to take the time to look at that play you might as well scrap instant replay all together.

by LittleNeddyKnickers (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:21pm

Warner would have gotten two end-zone shots with five seconds left (the end of the fumble play wouldn't have changed the time remaining, or maybe only by two or three seconds)? Wow, those Cards receivers ARE fast, considering a 4.3 40 sprinting straight to the endzone (with no bumps or routes to run) would be considered godlike.

by Wanker79 :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:28pm

I'm sorry, I thought it was closer to 10 seconds. But with Pittsburgh's hurry up kneel down to avoid the replay review I would hope that a simple mistake like that wouldn't render the entirety of my post moot. So I guess that would have meant that Warner would have only had the opportunity for a single 35 yard jump ball to the best WR in the game. Yeah, you're right. That changes EVERYTHING.

by LittleNeddyKnickers (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:32pm

I'm just saying, let's not overestimate how much it would have benefited Zona for it to be called an incomplete. Most likely, it gave them one shot at a jump ball in the end zone (granted, with Fitzgerald, that's not negligible). There's a big difference between having time for two plays and time for one - and I think with no timeouts, the Cards only get one shot if that's ruled incomplete.

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:35pm

I agree with you that it was very stupid not to stop the game to review that, and that the Tuck Rule is incredibly confusing. I completely agree. But bringing up conspiracy theories from a Super Bowl three years ago and acting like the outcome of this game would have been any different had Warner had one play left to launch a Hail Mary accomplishes diddly squat. (And yeah, that was one grand conspiracy to get the Steelers to win, even way back to that Colts game where the Steelers would have lost because of the crappy call on the Polamalu interception had Vanderjagt not missed. I'm sure the refs swapped out Vanderjagt's cleats for a narrower pair so he'd slice it.) I also agree that replay should be scrapped if they aren't going to learn to use it any better than they do now. Right now all it does is put the microscope on borderline calls and gives fans more excuses to bemoan their team's terrible fate. It decreases everyone's enjoyment of the game. But there's no need for the histrionics, and no need for the tin-foil hat crap. Give it a rest.

by Wanker79 :: Wed, 02/04/2009 - 10:37am

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.

by mekong :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:20pm

I agree. That was a B...S.. ending. What was the big hurry ? Best defensive play of the game Harrison int. Cheapest shot of the game-Harrison punch

by GeoffS (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:18pm

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?

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:33pm

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.

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:43pm

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.

by Mystyc :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:17pm

Three yards and a cloud of dust can be very valuable. The Steelers might have benefited from a fit of that plague yesterday.

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 7:06pm

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

by MarkV :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:39pm

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.

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 2:43pm

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....

by DGL :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:27pm

"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.

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 7:14pm

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.

by justme_cd :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 3:36pm

Beautiful (:

by Geronimo (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:00pm

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!

by MJK :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:05pm

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...

by sss (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:26pm

Question about safeties: does the entire ball have to make it out of the endzone, or is it a 'break the plane' situation?

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:45pm

The entire ball has to come out for it not to be a safety. If any part of the ball is touching or on the endzone side of the plane, then it is in the endzone.

by Travis :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:54pm

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.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:55pm

Entire ball has to be out - just like the 'if even the nose of the ball gets past' for a TD.

Otherwise, the 4-inch (or so) white strip in front of the endzone paint would be a no-man's land. A demilitarized zone.

by Dales :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:05pm

"Patriots obviously played better than the Giants"

In the third quarter, yes. The rest of the game they were getting beaten pretty badly.

by Double Yoi!! (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:25pm

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.

by deep64blue :: Wed, 02/04/2009 - 5:40am

The booth looked and saw it was clearly a fumble so no need for a review. End of story.

by DKNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:27pm

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

by Joe :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:45pm

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.

by DKNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:53pm

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.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:50pm

You can't use a still photo to show what happened there.

And yes, it was a catch.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:00pm

How many times have you reviewed the Zapruder film?

by deep64blue :: Wed, 02/04/2009 - 5:42am

You are watching a 2D replay of a 3D event - you can't prove anything by this.

by glengarry (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:27pm

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?

by Mystyc :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:26pm

How did that benefit the Steelers? If anything, had there been extra time on the clock, it would only have given the Steelers' offense a chance with the ball had Harrison been tackled on his return.

by bigsnack (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:31pm

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.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:07pm

Thanks, coach! And now that the varsity team has salted the game away, can I go in with the rest of the scrubs?

by DKNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:35pm

Here is an better link to the Newsday shot


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.

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:58pm

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.

by DKNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:32pm

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.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:05pm

Nitpick : It's unlikely that anyone there had a camera recording more than 11 fps. So perhaps the foot could have touched down in between frames even.

by DKNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:11pm

That is fair.

I agree that this can happen with an individual photag, but it would be highly unlikely that collectively an army of photags in that corner would miss the key moment.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:03pm

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

Wow. Pathetic? Really? That doesn't seem overblown to you? Based on a split second call?

by DKNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:16pm

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.

by Mogul (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:24pm

Here's a page showing a still shot of Holmes' feet conclusively touching the ground.


Now shut up, please!

by DKNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:37pm

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

by Mogul (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:45pm

The second picture in the article shows both feet clearly in bounds. You would do well to take the article's advice: "Let's not delay the recovery process by living in denial."

by DKNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:53pm

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.

by sss (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:03pm

dude... I was willing to let you string me along for a bit, but the 2nd picture pretty clearly shows -both- feet touching the ground. Both the left and the right feet are on display.

by DKNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:10pm

How do you get both feet out of one left leg? You are beyond lost here. I am open to evidence, but this isn't even close.

by sss (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:22pm

seriously, this picture involves two Santonio Holmes feet. They are both in the picture. The number of feet belonging to Santonio Holmes in the picture shown.... is two.

by JMM* (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:23pm

None are so blind as those who will not see.

by crack (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:26pm

You honestly can't see both of Holmes' feet in that picture? Srsly? Grass counts as ground, there are two feet. Get a grip.

by DKNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:37pm

I see it now. The one leg that is visible through me off. Still inconclusive to me. It is the best picture yet though that suggests a clean catch.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:52pm

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.

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:47pm

Why haven't this guy's posts been deleted? I had at least two posts deleted from the Super Bowl Preview page for no apparent reason, and this obvious troll is still going strong?

by armchair journe... :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 9:45pm

why even bother responding to a troll? don't get sucked in, man.
armchair journeyman quarterback

by JMM* (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:40pm

I am continually amazed how some people focus on officiating not on game-play.

While I'm not exactly sure what you mean by "good whistle," I don't think either Superbowl XL or XLIII were poorly officiated.

by Paulo Sanchotene, RS, Brazil (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:41pm

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.

by Cliff Claven (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:51pm

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?

by dbostedo :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:09pm

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.

by Paul-London UK :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 3:52pm

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

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:04pm

That depends on whether one thinks DVOA is a tool for one's understanding of the game, or whether one is a tool for misunderstanding DVOA.

by Paul-London UK :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:11pm

I was only joking but your response made me chuckle anyway.

by Fizzman :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:19pm

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).

by MCS :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:42pm

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

by mekong :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 4:57pm

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.

by Big-Hairy-Andy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:06pm

Time to roll out the new "NVOA" system - Network-adjusted Value Over Average - to determine how each network or commentary team affects viewers' chances of understanding and enjoying the game.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:14pm

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.

by Travis :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:32pm

The Raiders did the exact same thing when Brown got his 1,000 catch (a 6-yard reception on 2nd-and-16). After a surprise ceremony delayed the game for at least 10 minutes, the Raiders (who were huddling during the ceremony) threw a go-ahead 26-yard TD to Jerry Rice.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:07pm

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.

by Cream of Some Young Guy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:19pm

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.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:36pm

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 reviewed...in 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.

by Ramon (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 7:46pm

So are you a Steelers fan?

by Ramon (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 7:55pm

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.

by RowdyRoddyPiper :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:23am

responding to the wrong post

by RowdyRoddyPiper :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:27am

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.

by Subrata Sircar :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:37pm

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.")

by BroncosGuy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 5:49pm

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.


by Rob (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:01pm

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.

by Bionicman (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 11:43pm

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?

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:03pm

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.

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:09pm

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.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:10pm

That roughing-the-passer call was brutal. I'm an unabashed Steeler fan, and I hosted several other Steeler fans yesterday, and even we thought it was a ridiculous call.

by Fizzman :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 9:15pm

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.

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:12pm

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?

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:48pm

My first thought (okay, second thought after 'damn look at Fitzgerald go!') was that they were going to score waaay too soon. So...it 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).

by Eddo :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 7:02pm

I think you nailed it with the needing-a-TD-against-the-league's-best-defense comment. No way would I ever give up a sure TD; with a below average running game like the Cardinals have, scoring a TD from the one yard line was not a guarantee.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 2:46pm

They may have a below-average running game, but they also have one of the best red-zone offenses in the game (the best?)

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 9:35pm

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")

by DGL :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:58am

Yeah, cause first and goal at the one worked really well at the end of the first half.

by DGL :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:01am

Deleted - accidental duplicate post.

Move along, nothing to see here.

by troycapitated p... :: Thu, 02/05/2009 - 6:22am

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.

by D :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:24pm

Hey Aaron, any way you can give us 'Zona's final DVOA including their playoff run?

by Key19 :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:25pm

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.

by Illegal Shifting (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:31pm

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.

by oljb (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 6:54pm

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?

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 7:26pm

You may or may not be on crack--I don't know your life--but yes, it is hogwash.

by rk (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 7:51pm

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.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 9:45pm

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")

by Eddo :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 11:52pm

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.

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 7:15pm

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

Did you miss the end of the first half?

by DJ Any Reason (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 7:20pm

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.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 8:12pm

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

/Continue paranoia

by oljb (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 8:29pm

Tell that to the commenters who said this: "Once again, I feel like Pittsburgh stole another Super Bowl" and other similar sentiments throughout this thread.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 8:43pm

Black helicopters are manufactured from steel.

In Pittsburgh.

Coincidence? I think not!

And if someone can tell me what 'Huffman Biggy' means...they win today's Captcha award.

by Justin Zeth :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 8:28pm

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.

by bubqr :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 8:37pm

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 ?

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 8:50pm

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).

by DMC (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 9:43pm

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.

by William (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:55pm

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.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 10:48pm

"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.

by morganja :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 9:22pm

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.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 10:55pm

Perhaps you should look up the meaning of the word "projection."

by Seattleite (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 11:09pm

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?

by MCS :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 9:29am

I thought the booth review was only for the final 2 minutes of each half. If true, then the request for review of the first Fitzgerald TD must come from Tomlin.

aka Cheezer

by Seattleite (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 7:01pm

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.

by Key19 :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 7:05pm

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).

by SteveNC (not verified) :: Wed, 02/04/2009 - 3:37pm

What's the rule on blocking in the back when the guy is turning? Can someone twist their body in order to draw a block in the back penalty if they see they're about to be blocked?

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 9:25pm

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.

by Mikey Benny :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:57am

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.

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 3:26am

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.

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 8:37am

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.

by Balaji (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:44pm

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".

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 9:34pm

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.

by Luke :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 9:34pm

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.

by chubbypuppy (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 9:52pm

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.

by DoubleB (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 10:24pm

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.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 10:22pm

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.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 10:46pm

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.

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 3:18am

This happens to lots of other DL. This is the NFL. Points are what appeals to the casual fan, not 12-6 FG fests (apparently only I like those :( ).

by MJK :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:22pm

Nope. I love those too. And when someone breaks a TD in a 12-6 FG fest, it makes it that much more exciting...

by John (not verified) :: Mon, 02/02/2009 - 10:53pm

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.

by Mikey Benny :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:12am

Yes, I noticed that as well. They in all likelihood would have put :01 or :02 on the clock. But you never know how observant the refs are in instances like this.

by SteveNC (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:43am

I posted about the time (not) left on the clock at the end of the second quarter in the game commentary thread, although I put it conservatively at :01.

by Mikey Benny :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:10am

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.

by Justin Zeth :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:40am

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.

by @nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:50am

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.

by RowdyRoddyPiper :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:03am

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.

by Mikey Benny :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 2:15am

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!

by Dunbar (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 9:05am

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.

by Robo-Pope :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 4:22am

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!

by Theo :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 7:44am

I think that when you guys just had a 3 hour sex session with Carmen Electra, you start whining about the bed sheet color.

by Rocco :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 9:04am

So what are the odds on Doug "accidentally" calling them the Stealers again in PFP 2009?

by MJK :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:44pm

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.

by Mikey Benny :: Wed, 02/04/2009 - 12:29pm

I'm pretty sure I'm the one you disagreed with, and I can buy what you're saying.

by mawbrew :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 12:55pm

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.

by MJK :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:16pm

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 so...so 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.

by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 1:20pm

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.

by mawbrew :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 5:21pm

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).

by Machi (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 2:33pm



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.

by morganja :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 3:30pm

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.

by crack (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 5:50pm

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.

by Mister Asterisk (not verified) :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 3:53pm

Such as...oh...holding in the end zone?

by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 02/03/2009 - 5:45pm

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.