Did the officials cost the Titans a win?

From Ed Hochuli’s blown call in the Chargers-Broncos game to the conclusion of the San Diego-Pittsburgh contest, officials have made some huge blunders this season in the NFL.

Did they blow yet another call Saturday to aid the Ravens in their victory over the Titans?

Titans-RavensAnother game, another officiating error in the NFL. On a key 3rd and 2 with 2:52 remaining in today’s divisional playoff game between the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans, the play clock clearly expired well before Joe Flacco received the snap, but no delay of game call came from the officials.

The Ravens converted the first down on a long pass to Todd Heap, and ended up kicking the game winning field goal later in the drive.

It’s not uncommon for officials to miss the play clock hitting zero, but when they do the ball is snapped nearly immediately afterwards. On this play, the ball was snapped 1.35 seconds after the play clock expired (yes, I timed it). That might sound trivial, but it’s really, really not. It’s a long time. Watch the replay, it’s preposterous how long the back judge had to make the call.

This doesn’t excuse the Titans for giving up the first down on the 3rd and 2. Nor is it intended to suggest that the Ravens couldn’t have converted on 3rd and 7 after the penalty. The point is, they should have had to.

The game clock on the TV broadcast is not official, but it did look like the Ravens got away with one. Still, the Titans blew the game with their three turnovers, 12 penalties and inability to find the end zone without Chris Johnson. One play/call doesn’t make or break a game for a team.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Five worst officiating calls of 2008

Ed HochuliYeah, officials have blown a lot this year. But here are just five incidents in 2008 when they blew big time:

1. Washington vs. BYU, Sept. 6: Granted, Washington lost every game this season, but they clearly had a shot to beat BYU in September. The Huskies’ quarterback Jake Locker scored a touchdown with two seconds left to bring his team within one. After diving into the end zone, Locker threw his hands — and the ball — into the air in, what appeared to be, a natural reaction of pure excitement. The ref, however, ruled the ball-flipping and jumping up and down to be “excessive celebration.” As a result, kicker Ryan Perkins was placed an extra 15 yards back, his game-tying extra point was blocked and the Huskies lost.

2. 2008 World Series, Game 3: An error by the first base umpire in Game 3 of the Fall Classic nearly gave the Tampa Bay Rays a series-turning win over the Phillies. It was the top of seventh, Rays at bat. Carl Crawford led off and tapped a well-placed bunt up the first-base line. The Phillies near-46-year-old Jamie Moyer dashed down the line, dove to field the ball and, in one graceful motion, tossed it to Ryan Howard at first, who snatched out of the air bare-handed with his foot on the bag. It looked as though Howard — with ball in hand — stood on the base awaiting Crawford’s arrival. The umpire thought otherwise. Safe! The Rays scored two subsequent runs to come back within one, but the Phillies managed to hang on to their lead for the win and, well, you know the rest.

3. Georgetown vs. Villanova, Feb. 11: Like Holmes’ catch, this one was all about the line. With the score tied at 53 apiece and only a second left on the clock, Georgetown’s Jonathan Wallace sped up the floor, dodging Villanova defenders. Still 70-something feet from the basket, Wallace heard the ref blow the whistle and, thinking there was no way a foul would be called in such a tight situation, Wallace assumed he stepped out of bounds. And when you assume you … I won’t go there. In short, the ref did the unthinkable and called a foul on ‘Nova’s Corey Stokes, gave Wallace two freebies at the line and handed Georgetown a 55-53 win.

4. Heat vs. Clippers, Nov. 29: Sometimes a bad call is any call. With Miami trailing 97-96 and the clock reading 7.6 seconds, Los Angeles’ Baron Davis inbounded the ball after a Miami score. With none of his teammates open, he heaved the ball down court, hoping a Clipper would miraculously take control. Dwayne Wade got it instead. As he grabbed the ball out of mid-air and was falling onto the scorers’ table, Wade threw the ball toward the three lone Heat players near the basket. The ref thought Wade had stepped out of bounds but, after reviewing the play, the steal was upheld. Unfortunately, the breakaway play was cut off, and the Heat was forced to inbounds, which resulted in the Clippers fouling and, ultimately, the Heat losing.

5. Broncos vs. Chargers, Sept. 14: Here you go, Ravens fans. If you thought your call was bad, think about how the Chargers felt on this one. With less than two minutes remaining, the Broncos lined up on the Chargers 1-yard line with the chance to tie the game. As Jay Cutler dropped back, the ball slipped out of his hands and into those of San Diego linebacker Tim Dobbins. As soon as the ball touched the ground, referee Ed Hochuli quickly — too quickly — blew his whistle. Hochuli ruled an incomplete pass, though the replay clearly showed it was a fumble. So, Denver regrouped, scored a touchdown, followed with a two-point conversion and won 39-38. Hochuli later apologized for his error.

You’ll never get a Charger fan to say this but I still feel bad for Hochuli. That guy has been a great ref throughout his career but he’ll always be remembered for this one mistake. Albeit it was a massive mistake, but still…

End of Chargers-Steelers game a black eye for NFL

Troy PolamaluForget for a moment that gambling even exists. Take it out of the equation and focus on the reality of what transpired at the end of the Chargers-Steelers game, because it was a serious black eye for the National Football League.

By now, most of us know what happened, but I’ll set the scene again for those who have missed out on all the hoopla.

Down 11-10 with five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Chargers took possession at the 21-yard line. There, quarterback Philip Rivers threw a forward pass to LaDainian Tomlinson, who then flipped the ball backwards to teammate Chris Chambers, who then tossed the ball backwards to another teammate, but Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu intervened, knocked the ball out of the air and recovered it on the 11-yard line. From there, Polamalu returned the ball into the end zone, which referees signaled a touchdown. Pending review and an extra point, the Steelers should have won 18-10.

But that’s not what happened. Officials did review the play and determined that it was in fact a touchdown. However, after reconvening, they determined that one of the Chargers’ lateral passes (the one Tomlinson threw) was an illegal forward pass and therefore the touchdown didn’t count.

No harm no foul, right? The Steelers would have won the game regardless and everyone involved can rejoice at the fact that no game in the history of the NFL has ever ended with an 11-10 score.

But the call wasn’t right. Even if LT’s pass was deemed illegal, the ball never touched the ground and therefore the play continues. The result of the play was an illegal forward pass, which the Steelers would have declined, and the touchdown should have counted. Head official Scott Green even admitted after the game that he and his crew “misinterpreted” the rule and got it wrong.

Read the rest after the jump...

Refs blow crucial call in Falcons-Eagles game

Falcons-EaglesIt wasn’t anywhere near as crucial as Ed Hochuli’s gaff in the Broncos-Chargers game earlier this season, but the refs blew another call Sunday, this one costing the Falcons a chance to possibly drive for a late score and beat the Eagles.

The 27-14 final suggests that Philadelphia soundly handled Atlanta, but it doesn’t provide the full story. Rookie QB Matt Ryan connected with Roddy White for his second touchdown pass of the game to cut the Eagles’ lead to 20-14 with just under four minutes remaining in the game.

After forcing Philly to go three and out on their next possession, the Falcons were set to get the ball back with just over two minutes left and no timeouts. But after returner Adam Jennings let a punt bounce at his feet, the refs called a muff and awarded the Eagles the ball at that spot. Replays clearly showed that the ball never touched Jennings but because the Falcons had used all of their timeouts, they couldn’t review it. Brian Westbrook (who had a huge day coming back from injury) then broke off a 39-yard touchdown run to put the game away.

Granted, Atlanta might not have scored anyway, but they never got the opportunity either. And it seems that more than ever, refs are way too flag-happy and it has cost teams chances to win ballgames. Earlier in this game, Trent Cole was flagged for a 15-yard personal foul penalty for a hit on Ryan that couldn’t have been a worse call. Cole hit him square and it wasn’t head-to-head or malicious at all.

I hate to talk about blown calls because they happen to every team every week. But they’ve seemed especially bad this year and it looks like they’ll continue throughout the season.

Are NFL teams becoming too dependent on replay and referees?

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic has a beef with how fans and teams are becoming more and more dependent on instant replay (and technology in general) in sports.

Watch a significant amount of football, and the sheer volume of penalties in today’s games is guaranteed to drive you nuts. There are penalties for illegal shifts, illegal formations and illegal motion.

In 2007, there were 741 penalties called for a false start alone, and another 602 for holding.
The game has become prisoner to hyperactive officials with a great command of the rule book and no sense of restraint.

I believe the culture inside football is prompting officials to throw more and more flags. They are worried if they don’t catch every black-and-white infraction they will be downgraded. Additionally, the safety net of instant replay seems to make throwing the flag all that much easier. It has certainly made their walk to the parking lot a lot safer.

But the technology is failing everyone. Already this season, two crucial replay challenges couldn’t award fumbles to the team that recovered because the whistle had blown. In other words, if you actually mess up twice on the same play – blowing the call and the whistle – it can nullify all attempts at justice.

In another comical instance, Hochuli encountered a malfunctioning review booth. He couldn’t get any of the pictures within the allotted two minutes prescribed in the rule book, so he could not overturn the call.

Imagine that. These games become pumped full of commercials, bloating barges of programming, and we can’t wait another minute for the right call?

Bickley makes some solid points, but I’m going to go with the clichéd standby of, ‘it is what it is.’ As technology continues to grow, so does everyone’s desire to use it. And sports are no exception. If we have the technology to review a play to see if there was an infraction, then why shouldn’t we use it? Isn’t getting the calls right the most important thing at the end of the day? Sure, there are going to be times when technology fails us as it did in the Denver-San Diego game. But more times than not its going to be an aid.

And I’m not worried about referees calling a lot of penalties. Yeah, it gets annoying (especially when you feel that your team is getting the brunt of the calls), but if a team or player commits an infraction, throw the flag. It’s that simple. (Or at least, it should be that simple.)

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