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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Pittsburgh - One for the Thumb!

The Pittsburgh win is a great story. Bill Cowher, hometown (Pittsburgh) boy leads his team to the Super Bowl win the Steeler fans have awaited since the days of Terry and Swannie and Mean Joe Green. Jerome Bettis, hometown (Detroit) hero comes back to play for the champs in (likely) his final game ever. Mr Rooney gets a much-deserved thrill in the twilight of his life.

Pittsburgh took advantage of opportunities. They won on three big plays: Roethlisberger's tiptoe up to the line of scrimmage and away, then heaving the ball to Hines Ward near the goal line; A fantastic team blocking effort on Willie Parker's 75-yard sprint to the end zone, and then the pass-off-the-reverse from wide receiver Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward that wound up sealing the victory. Three plays that were more than half of the Steeler offense for the game was enough.

Hines Ward won the MVP and Matt Hasselbeck was even better, but in a losing cause.

That being said, the worst team on the field and the villains of the plot are the officiating crew. Super Bowl XL may have been the worst-officiated game in Super Bowl history. Consider what happened:

1) Seattle's first quarter 16-yard touchdown pass from Hasselbeck to Jackson was nullfied by a terrible offensive pass interference penalty. Chris Hope, the Steeler back, had been touching and pushing Jackson during the route and when Jackson turned into the post he pushed back, lightly. It had no effect on the play and was in response to Hope's actions. Hope might have been called for illegal contact on the play if any call should have been made at all. But he screamed at the official, who then pulled out his flag and nullified the TD. It was a terrible call that even mystified my wife (a Pittsburgh fan ever since Big Ben came along). Seattle settled for a field goal.

2)Pittsburgh's touchdown at the end of the second quarter was a phantom TD. Roethlisberger was stopped short, and the side judge came running in to spot for fourth down, then changed his call to touchdown when an already-downed Big Ben scooted the ball over the goal The referee reviewed and had ample evidence to overturn the call and certainly should have. But he allowed the touchdown. The normally calm Mike Holmgren was angry and amazed and loudly confronted the referee at halftime about his judgement.

3) Seattle, down 14-10, completed a long pass down near the goal line but holding was called on Shane Lockyear to negate the pass and move Seattle way back. TV replays showed that there was no hold, as even John Madden was willing to point out.

4) Finally, Matt Hasselbeck makes a mistake and the Steelers intercept. The officiating crew strangely called an offensive block penalty on Hasselbeck, who was now on defense and trying to make the tackle! These officials not only blew calls, they didn't even know the rules of the game! The additional yardage put the Steelers in position to score and win the game, which they then did.

Take away the bad officiating and the Pittsburgh 21-10 victory turns into probably a a 21-17 loss. Hard to know what might have been. Would Seattle, which was dominating early, have taken that first touchdown and used it as a springboard to dominate the game? Would Pittsburgh, after Ben was stopped, gone for it on fourth down? If they made it, might the game have been 21-21 and we would have been enjoying a great overtime period? We'll never know.

We know that Seattle's offensive line was winning the battles most of the day. That Hasselbeck was on and Big Ben was very shaky. That two other big penalties were called during the game to negate big Seattle gains, one of which was questionable and the other (a holding on a return) was never seen on either the play or the replay.

Bill Leavy's crew blew the game. If the officiating had been good, and fair, we would have seen a close game, a nail-biter, rather than the run-the-clock-out finish we wound up with instead. It is disgraceful that such a terrible job of officiating marred football's Championship event.


Dorkydad said...

Agreed. I really am indifferent as to who won the game, but the officials gave the game away to Pittsburgh. If I was Holmgren, you'd need to tranquilize me I'd be so wicked-pissed.

cranky old fart said...

The eternal cry of the loser; "We wuz robbed"!

The holding call was correct. The hold prevented a sack.

The pass interference was correct. That call gets made every time under those circumstances. You can't make that move and put your hand on the defender without expecting a call.

The football crossed the plane by a lovely millimeter on Rothlisberger's TD. I swear it did.

All that said, I'd be be "wicked-pissed" (great phrase dorky dad) if the shoe were on the other foot.


radar said...

Cranky, I disagree on the penalties. But congrats on the Steeler's win anyway!