Pereira: We've finally rounded out the NFL's final four
However, our NFL rules expert isn't a big fan of how the Chargers-Broncos games was officiated and his grade reflects that.
Clete Blakeman's crew had a rough time out there.
Doug Pensinger / Getty Images North America
By Mike Pereira
The NFL's Final Four ... the best of the best. And that's exactly what we got -- all four favorites making it to the championship round for the first time since 2004 -- after Denver defeated San Diego 24-17 Sunday in the final game of the divisional round.
A valiant comeback by Philip Rivers and the Chargers in the fourth quarter wasn't enough to win the game.
Officiating-wise, since I've been giving out grades for the playoffs, I'll continue on. I don't think this was necessarily as bad as it might have looked.
However, the grade for referee Clete Blakeman, his crew and the replay official: C.
I can't give them more than a C and I say that for the following reasons:
1. You had a play that was ruled a Broncos catch and a fumble recovered by San Diego, but from what I saw it should have been called an incomplete pass. There was no question the receiver had not completed the process of the catch. The ball was knocked loose and then came loose again when he hit the ground.
2. There was a Broncos play that included multiple fouls against San Diego, a pass interference and a defensive holding. The Broncos took the pass interference penalty, but the officials lost the spot. All of the sudden, the supervisor got involved through the alternate and they adjusted the spot to the 45-yard line, but the officials spotted it at the wrong 45. Then the supervisor had to call back down again and have the ball put to the proper 45. It was very questionable whether it was pass interference in the first place, but there were tangled feet, and technically by the rule since the feet tangled when the receiver was looking for the ball and the defender wasn't, that makes it pass interference if the pass was catchable. But I just think there were too many "ifs" to make that call.
3. There was a San Diego touchdown that was reviewed that didn't have to be reviewed. It was a waste of time. The replay official could have confirmed that the ruling on the field was correct and moved on, but he sent it down for a review and added three minutes to the game that was unnecessary. The replay official had plenty of evidence to show that was a catch and a touchdown.
This isn't the level of officiating you expect to have in the playoffs and I hate to say that, being that I've been so involved in officiating. These types of things shouldn't be happening at any time, especially when you reach the playoffs.
But back to the four finalists. We have two of the best young guns in the game in Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson squaring off in the NFC championship game, while two of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game -- Tom Brady and Peyton Manning -- battle it out in the AFC title game.
Like I said before, the best of the best.
UNDER FURTHER REVIEW: THE FINAL STATS
TOTAL FOULS: 15 TOTAL FOULS ACCEPTED: 14 PENALTY BREAKDOWN: San Diego 8-63, Denver 6-50 REPLAY REVIEWS: 3 (2 stands, 1 confirmed)