No call the right call to end Super Bowl
I guess it's only fitting that a great season end with a great game.
In, arguably, the NFL's most popular season ever, Green Bay and Pittsburgh dueled to the end, with the Packers holding off the Steelers 31-25 to win Super Bowl XLV on Sunday night.
It was a well-played — and well-officiated — game. Let's get to a couple of the key calls:
THE SITUATION: Trailing 31-25, the Steelers had the ball, fourth-and-5 from their own 33-yard line with 56 seconds left in the game.
THE PLAY: Ben Roethlisberger's pass to receiver Mike Wallace was broken up by Tramon Williams, allowing the Packers to take over on downs and sealing the Super Bowl for Green Bay.
MY TAKE: In recent seasons, the Super Bowl has almost always boiled down to one big play at the end. And this game was no exception. Williams’ coverage on Roethlisberger's pass to Wallace initially looked to the world like pass interference. I sure thought it was. Replays, however, showed that Williams went to the side of Wallace and did not make enough contact to consider this interference. Many, many times, it is much harder to pass on making a call than it is to actually make one. Kudos to John Hussey, Doug Rosenbuam and Scott Helverson for not making an inappropriate call that could have changed the outcome of this great game.
THE SITUATION: The Packers had the ball, fourth-and-5 from their own 25-yard line with 12:51 to play in the third quarter. The Packers led, 21-10.
THE PLAY: Green Bay's Tim Masthay punted the ball to Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown. The Packers' Tom Crabtree was called for a 15-yard face-mask penalty while making the tackle, giving the Steelers the ball at midfield. Five plays later, the Steelers scored to cut the Packers’ lead to 21-17.
MY TAKE: My buddy Bruce Allen, general manager of the Washington Redskins, will call me this week to tell me that face-mask penalties should be reviewable. This call was incorrect as Crabtree had his hand below the mask and on the front collar of the jersey. In real time, these really do look like face masks. If you wanted to make this play reviewable, you could only review whether the mask was grabbed. You could not review whether there was a twist, turn or pull. Better off not making it reviewable.
THE SITUATION: The Packers had the ball, third-and-10 from their own 13-yard line with 37 seconds left in the third quarter, holding a 21-17 lead.
THE PLAY: Aaron Rogers’ pass to Brett Swain was ruled incomplete on the field. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy challenged call, arguing it was a catch.
MY TAKE: Don't get swayed by looking at a play like this in slow motion. When referee Walt Anderson went under the hood, I am sure the first thing the replay assistant did was show him the play at regular speed. It was a bang-bang play and Swain did not maintain control long enough for this to be considered a catch. The fact his knee was on the ground when the ball came loose is meaningless. You have to control the ball long enough to be awarded a catch. Period.
THE SITUATION: The Steelers had the ball, first-and-10 from their own 7-yard line with 3:34 left in the first quarter. The Packers had just scored to go up 7-0.
THE PLAY: Roethlisberger's pass to Wallace was intercepted by Nick Collins and returned 37 yards for a touchdown. When Collins went to his knees, he drew an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for excessive celebration.
MY TAKE: While it is not a foul to go to your knees and pray, that is not what happened here. Collins got up off the ground and then ran forward and slid down on both knees. This was an act of celebration and not prayer. Since you can't go to the ground to celebrate, this was correctly called unsportsmanlike conduct. When the Packers' Greg Jennings later scored a touchdown and went to his knees, he did so in an allowable fashion and no penalty was called. That was a legitimate prayer.