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Under Review: The Super Bowl Officiating

I?m home after a wonderfully exciting trip to Detroit, and it?s time to dig in to the details of the Super Bowl. Let?s start with the story that?s dominating coverage of the big game: the officials.

Offensive Pass Interference

Did Darrell Jackson push off? Absolutely. Should it have been called in the Super Bowl? Debatable, but probably not. Let's put it this way. Had the ball been thrown another three or four feet to the right, the separation Jackson got would have been key in keeping the defender from the ball. But Hasselbeck's ball was thrown to Jackson's inside, away from the defender. Jackson was the only guy who had a chance at that ball, and he didn't really need the push to get there. The ref probably should have left the flag in his pants, and that gets to what (I think) really irked people. He missed the flag on his first pull, and by the time he got it out of his pants, it looked like he was cowering to the defender's protests. It made the call look "delayed," which always makes people wonder if it really was a penalty.

The Hold

The holding penalty that negated the Hasselbeck completion to the one yard line is being complained about because it "killed the Seattle momentum." While it may or may not have been a hold, it's pretty much beside the point. Seattle ran two miserable running plays right after that, ensuring their drive would die a slow and painful death. It was the story of the night for Seattle.

The Goal Line Touchdown

I'm still looking for the video evidence showing that Roethlisberger crossed the plane, but I know there's a picture out there that shows it. If anyone has it, please post. Anyway, he was in the end zone, if only by a centimeter. And if he wasn't, I have no doubt he would have scored on a QB sneak from the one inch line the next play. This is another of the complaints that needs to just disappear. Ugh.

The Hasselbeck Blocking Penalty

Following Hasselbeck's interception, he was called for an illegal dive at a blocker's knees. While the call may have been a misinterpretation of what he was doing, it was hardly the decisive blow that some are making it out to be. Pittsburgh got a measly fifteen yards of additional space to work with, at a time when their offense was picking up momentum anyway. Are we really to say that had the penalty not been called, the trick play never would have materialized? Talk about grasping at thin air. This complaint is the most mysterious to me.

The Bottom Line

In the final analysis, I think it's fair to say that the officials didn't do a great job Sunday night. I think it's also fair to say that most of the poor officiating came at Seattle's expense. But to make the officiating the -story- of the game is to fail to see the forest for the trees. Seattle didn't lose because of a few bad penalties. Seattle lost because they couldn't make any big plays. Between the thirty yard lines, they had a great offensive game plan. Once they moved into Pittsburgh territory, they fell apart. They were 5-17 on third down. They dropped a lot of passes. And they gave up three home runs to Pittsburgh. That is the real story.

Make no mistake about it: Seattle had Pittsburgh on the ropes in the first half. I liken it to a pitcher that gets ahead in the count with no balls and two strikes, then starts to nibble away at the corner trying to get the third strike. Sure, the umpire made it tough on them, but the fact is that they never attacked and got that third strike. It was nibble, nibble, nibble, and finally, after hanging around for a while, Pittsburgh hit it out of the park. You can talk about the officiating all you want; the fact is that Seattle didn't make the big plays they needed to when they had a chance to put Pittsburgh in a big hole. If you'd prefer a boxing analogy, they had the Steelers on the ropes, but couldn't deliver a knockout punch. And the tough, resilient Steelers, given the chance to hang around, eventually got it done. End of story.

So the next time you hear some disgruntled Seahawk fan complain about the officiating in the Super Bowl, or talk about who won the time of possession, or had more total yards, just ask them: how many big plays, exactly, did the Seahawks have? Uh-huh. And the Steelers? Willie Parker's long run, the Randle El touchdown, and the 3rd and 28 heave to Ward from Roethlisberger were the difference in the game. No complaints. Shut up, or I'm calling a penalty.