Ref taking Super mistakes too hard

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Mike Pereira

Mike Pereira was the NFL's Vice President of Officiating from 2004-09, having spent the five seasons previous to that as the league's Director of Officiating. He also served as an NFL game official when he acted as a side judge for two seasons (1997-98). Follow him on Twitter.


The recent remarks by referee Bill Leavy admitting to the Seattle Seahawks that he made two bad calls during their Super Bowl XL loss have rekindled the strong emotions of so many: those who are Seattle Seahawks fans, those who don't like the Pittsburgh Steelers, and even many Steelers fans and Steelers players who are insulted that Leavy's calls may have tainted their Super Bowl victory.

I have to admit that I was bit surprised when I read that Leavy addressed the calls with the media. Surprised, but not shocked.

Distant replay

Super Bowl XL referee Bill Leavy apologized to Seattle media publicly for botching two fourth-quarter calls. The calls:
  • Early in fourth quarter, Seahawks tackle Sean Locklear was called for holding on a completion that would have put the Seahawks at the Pittsburgh 1, poised for the go-ahead touchdown.
  • After the penalty, Matt Hasselbeck threw an INT, then was called for a mysterious low block on a play that ended with him tackling Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor on the defensive back's return. The penalty moved the Steelers from their 29 to the 44, giving Pittsburgh better field position to score the clinching TD four plays later.

Bill is one of the best referees we have in the NFL. He is a great communicator with players and coaches and has always been very accurate in his decision making. Ask most all of the coaches in the league and they will tell you they respect him. Even Mike Holmgren liked him before Super Bowl XL.

Like the other referees in the NFL, Leavy hates it when he makes a mistake and to make one in the Super Bowl makes it worse. It has been eating at him for four years. He wasn't kidding when he said he lost sleep and was miserable. We had many conversations about this. You live with that negative feeling as an official and it is hard to shake. Last week in Seattle, he found an opportunity to get it off his chest and admit that he had made mistakes. In my opinion, he was too hard on himself.

First, he didn't "kick" two calls in the fourth quarter. He was clearly incorrect when he called Matt Hasselbeck for a low block after the interception when Hasselbeck attempted to go low through a blocker in an attempt to make the tackle. It would only have been a foul if Matt would have made contact with the blocker, but he didn't, so it should not have been called.

Leavy piled on himself by saying that his holding call on Sean Locklear was incorrect. That is not true. It was a hold and should have been called. If anything, you could have made a case that the Steelers were offside and, if the play had been officiated correctly, the penalties would have offset and the down replayed. In any case, the reception would not have been allowed to stand.

Did Leavy's calls and the officiating, in general, have an impact in that game? Sure they did. Officiating has an impact in every game that is played, whether calls are made or not made, whether they are correct or incorrect.

Did Leavy's calls determine the winner of Super Bowl XL? Absolutely not! In truth, there were missed calls that went against both teams. Let's all put aside our allegiances and go back four years and look at the game objectively. If we do, we will see that the Seahawks did not play well and neither, actually, did the Steelers.

The officials also did not have a great game. In the end, however, the team that deserved to win won. That, in my opinion, is the bottom line.

Tagged: Seahawks, Matt Hasselbeck

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