Lupica: Super Bowl foul up
Super time to foul up, fellas
DETROIT - The officials in Super Bowl XL didn't have as bad a game as the Seahawks did. The officials didn't have as bad a game as Ben Roethlisberger, because no winning quarterback ever had as bad a game as Roethlisberger did, just when everybody had him on a fast track to Canton. You can't say for sure that the zebras won it for Roethlisberger's team or lost it for Seattle.
What you can say is this: The officials still had a bad game. And when they do, and the game is the Super Bowl, everybody loses.
The officiating crew for Super Bowl XL wasn't the headline on game night. We had the Steelers, one of the game's proud old franchises, returning to glory, this time as a No. 6 seed. They were the story and so was their coach, Bill Cowher. So was Jerome Bettis of Detroit, Mich., even if he did hardly anything to help his team win the game, and Antwaan Randle El and Hines Ward. You look back at this game and have a right to think the Seahawks were always going to make enough mistakes and the Steelers were always going to make the big play they needed.
It doesn't change the fact that after a year of blown calls by Paul Tagliabue's finest - even though finest has become a rather relative notion with even Tagliabue's top officiating crews - there were more blown calls in the Super Bowl. Which figured.
I still don't think Roethlisberger has crossed the goal line at the end of the first half. I don't think Darrell Jackson extending his arm on Chris Hope - does Hope even flinch? - created the space Jackson needed to catch that touchdown pass that got flagged away because of offensive pass interference.
Maybe the biggest call of all against Seattle, when the Seahawks were driving in the fourth quarter and trying to make the game 17-14, came after tight end Jerramy Stevens actually held on to a Matt Hasselbeck pass just inside the 2-yard line. That one disappeared because of a phantom holding call against Sean Locklear.
Tagliabue's refs missed too many calls all year, kept missing them in the playoffs. They changed the Patriots-Broncos game with a bogus pass interference call against the Patriots. They nearly took a Super Bowl season from the Steelers by overruling a clear interception by Troy Polamalu against the Colts. They seem to be an issue, a controversy, all the time now. Anybody at the league office who thinks the refs being this kind of issue is good for business has rocks in his head.
"Garbage call," Locklear said afterward.
He was talking about the one against him. But in a season when the zebras struggled constantly to get things right, you really wanted to ask Locklear to be more specific. "Garbage call" covers more ground than Willie Parker did against the Seahawks on Sunday when he ran 75 yards on the second play of the second half.
Does this get the Seahawks off the hook for all the other mistakes they made in this game? Does not. The Seahawks seemed to hurt themselves with a mistake of their own every series. But were the calls we're still talking about important on Sunday? Did you watch the game? What do you think? Everything is important in a game like this, especially when the game is still close. Sometimes you wonder if replay has made these guys better, or worse. Or maybe a mediocre season in Tagliabue's league, once we got past the Colts at 13-0, got the officiating it deserved.
The pass interference against Jackson reminded me of the Knicks-Lakers game the other night. Kobe Bryant put up a three in the first half, missed. About the time the ball was hitting the floor at Madison Square Garden, Quentin Richardson got whistled for a foul.
When Richardson came to the bench, he said to Larry Brown, "Guy didn't blow the whistle till (Kobe) said. 'Ow.' "
Chris Hope pointed to the official closest to him, did the same thing at Ford Field. Roethlisberger, of course, ought to be thrilled we're still talking about the zebras today, because there is less conversation about him. If he doesn't complete one third-and-forever pass to Hines Ward, a 37-yard prayer to the Seahawks' 3-yard line, he would have had 86 passing yards in the Super Bowl and an even lower quarterback rating than the 22 he had. If the Seahawks had ever come back, he would have been remembered for one of the worst throws since Garo Yepremian, that volleyball that Kelly Herndon picked off when the Steelers had a chance to go ahead 21-3.
Trent Dilfer is the name you always hear when people talk about mediocre quarterbacking performances in the Super Bowl for the winning team. Dilfer was 12-for-25 and 153 yards when the Ravens beat the Giants, one touchdown, no interceptions. Roethlisberger was 9-for-21, 123 yards, no touchdown passes, two picks. Statistically, he was about as good as Eli Manning was against the Panthers.
I like Roethlisberger, by the way. He got on some run in the playoffs. He is the youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl. But maybe we can hold off now on making him the next Montana or Aikman or Brady. The Steelers didn't win because of him Sunday, they won despite him. Hasselbeck, even with the late pick he threw, outplayed Roethlisberger all day.
The one touchdown he got, the refs gave it to him. And the head ref, Bill Leavy, didn't have the stomach to overturn it. If that surprised you, you didn't watch the season.
Originally published on February 6, 2006
There is a poll at NLF.com in which you select the biggest play of the SB game, think there are 5 choices. The choice I selected was the overturning of Jackson's TD, and over 33% of folks taking the poll selected that (over 142000 votes). I went to NFL.com to see if there was any mention of officiating in the SB - there was zilch, but if their poll was a subtle way of gauging fan reaction re officiating then I sure hope they get the message. I hope some sports writer has the b@lls to ask Joey Porter what he thought of the officiating during the game....hehe....you know they won't.
What a great article by Mike Lupica. I hope he's one of the hosts of Sports Reporters this weekend because I will definitely be tuning in.
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