Another Seattle Controversy
For the second time in just a few years, a Monday Night Football game has ended in controversy in Seattle. In the waning minutes of last night’s game between the Seahawks and the Detroit Lions, a Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson pass near the goalline was stopped a foot short of the end zone when Seattle defensive back Kam Chancellor stripped the ball away from Johnson, as he apparently tried to stretch his arm out to get the touchdown.
The ball rolled into the end zone, and Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright was the only person capable of recovering the ball as it slowly rolled toward the back line. The only problem was that Wright encouraged the ball to leave the playing field by batting it with a gentle but definite push.
As the back judge stared from just a few feet away, the ball left the playing field and resulted in a touchback, giving Seattle the ball at their 20-yard line and effectively ending the game.
There is one catch. A ball cannot be batted in the end zone. It is a 10-yard penalty for illegal batting of the ball. The correct call would have been to award Detroit the ball half the distance to the goalline from where the fumble occurred, or basically about 6-8 inches away from the goalline, plus an automatic first down.
The NFL later admitted that the referees had erred. Speculation amongst ESPN personnel was that the officials refused to make a call that would obviously change the outcome of the game, because the ball was headed out of bounds and would have never been recovered by Detroit. However, the rules are the rules, and officials have no business interpreting which rules should be enforced and which should be ignored.
This is not the first time a game in Seattle has been heavily scrutinized. The “Fail Mary” play on Monday Night Football three years ago where Golden Tate pushed M.D. Jennings away and then stole the ball from Jennings when Jennings intercepted the ball at the end of the game. Ironically, last night’s play occurred in the very spot where the 2012 play occurred.
As if that is not enough, the officiating of NFL games in Seattle has been called into question in a more blatant fashion by other bloggers. Check out this supposed evidence.
The accusations of games being rigged are not a recent phenomenon. Former Baltimore Colt star defensive end Bubba Smith went to his grave claiming that Super Bowl III was fixed in order to give the New York market a Super Bowl Champion and to give the American Football League credibility so that the upcoming merger would look better. Smith supplied no evidence, but many sports fans believed him then and have believed him ever since.
We here at the PiRate Ratings do not believe all the accusations, but we also are not naive to understand that hundreds of millions of dollars are wagered on NFL games, and there are people in this world that potentially have the power to “get” to personnel and encourage a game to be called a certain way. Many people believe that organized crime once murdered a President to get rid of the Attorney General trying to end their reign of terror, so fixing a football game would be a walk in the park.
We pondered other games from the past that were nationally televised and ended in controversy, games that most likely had more money wagered on the outcome than the average game. These are just games that one of the five of us saw live on TV and can remember. In reverse chronological order, and excluding the Seattle games already mentioned, here is what we came up with.
A caveat to begin: we did not see any controversy in the 2014-15 Dallas-Green Bay playoff game. Dez Bryant did not maintain control of the ball, and thus the correct call was made without controversy.
1999-2000 NFC Championship Game: The St. Louis Rams were the most exciting team in the NFL with their “Greatest Show on Turf” offense directed by offensive coordinator Mike Martz. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the most boring team in the NFL, leading the league in defense and low-scoring games. Entering the fourth quarter in the game that would decide who would play another boring team in the AFC Champion Tennessee Titans, the Bucs led the Rams 6-5. Kurt Warner drove the Rams for the go-ahead touchdown and led 11-6, but the Bucs responded with a nice drive of their own. Quarterback Shaun King threw a bullet pass to receiver Bert Emanuel who clearly caught the ball for a nice gain to set up a third and short inside Rams’ territory.
The officials were slow to stop the play and check the replay. In the Fox Sports Booth, announcer Pat Summerall and analyst John Madden were perplexed at why there was a stoppage of play since Emanuel’s catch was obvious to everybody. After booth review, the referee ruled the play an incomplete pass, and two plays later, the Rams were the NFC Champions. The ruling was that the point of the football touched the ground when Emanuel fell after making the catch. At the time, that rule was correct, but replay did not confirm that the ball actually touched the ground. It should have been an inconclusive replay resulting in the play standing. As a result, the most exciting team advanced to the Super Bowl over the most boring team in the NFL.
1979-80 AFC Championship Game: Trailing 17-10 in the fourth quarter at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsbugrh, the Houston Oilers are driving for the game-tying touchdown. Near the goalline, quarterback Dan Pastorini throws the fade pass to receiver Mike Renfro in the back of the endzone. Renfro makes the catch and slides to get both feet inbounds, which replay clearly showed he did. Official Don Orr fails to make a call on the play. According to Renfro, Orr looks like a ghost, as he “swallows his whistle.” It takes what seems like several minutes, but more accurately is about 45 seconds for the officials to huddle and rule the pass incomplete, greatly affecting the outcome of the game, and maybe more importantly changing the betting side winner. The Steelers were 9 1/2-point favorites and covered when they scored a late touchdown to win by 14. There was no instant replay rule in football then.
1976 AFC Playoffs First Round: The New England Patriots had come of age in 1976. With a stable full of great running backs, including quarterback Steve Grogan, New England made its first NFL Playoff and first overall playoff since they were the Boston Patriots in 1963. Included in this 11-3 season, they blew Oakland off the field in the regular season 48-17, the only loss the Raiders suffered.
In the first round of the AFC playoffs, the game was close and could have gone either way, but in the closing stages of the fourth quarter, it appeared that New England would pen loss number two on Oakland. The Pats led 21-17 late in the final stanza, when Oakland had one last possession to try to score the winning touchdown. All appeared lost for the Raiders, as they faced a 3rd and 18 from inside their own 30-yard line. Quarterback Ken Stabler dropped back and looked long as the Raiders typically tried in this situation. Patriot defensive tackle Ray Hamilton broke through the blocking containment and headed straight for Stabler. As Stabler released the ball, Hamilton got a finger or two on the ball slightly altering the spiral and course of the flight. At the same time, he dropped Stabler to the turf, for what should have been 4th and 18 with 70+ yards to go for the win and about 75 seconds remaining in the game.
The official failed to see the deflected pass, and he threw his yellow handkerchief signalling roughing the passer. There should have been no roughing on two counts. The ball was deflected, and Hamilton hit Stabler as he was finishing his release. The 15-yard penalty and automatic first down. The Patriots’ defense lost its composure over the blatant bad call, and Stabler led the Raiders to paydirt with 10 seconds left in the game.
1975 NFC Playoffs First Round: The Minnesota Vikings led the Dallas Cowboys 14-10 with 32 seconds remaining in the opening playoff game at cold, blustery Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington. Roger Staubach has guided the Cowboys to midfield, but time is running out, and a field goal will do Dallas no good. Staubach dropped back to pass and pumped to his left to draw Vikings’ free safety Paul Krausse away from the point of attack. He then heaved the ball far down the right sideline toward receiver Drew Pearson. Defensive back Nate Wright is on Pearson like a glove, and the pass is underthrown. Pearson sees that he will have to stop and even back up a half-step to catch the ball, but Wright is in his way. Pearson pushes Wright just enough to come back and catch the ball as Wright falls to the ground. Pearson then side-steps Wright into the end zone from the four yard line, and Dallas wins the game 17-14, giving birth to the “Hail Mary.”
There was actually a rules change as the result of this game, and it had nothing to do with pass interference. Two minutes after the touchdown and non-call of offensive interference, a half-full whiskey bottle was thrown with more accuracy than Staubach’s pass. The intended target, the field judge that failed to make the call, was hit directly on the back of his noggin by the bottle, causing brief unconsciousness and a contusion that required bandaging. After that day, no glass bottles were allowed in NFL venues.
This Week’s PiRate Ratings
|This Week’s Games|
|Date of Games:||October 8-12|
|Green Bay||St. Louis||15.2||12.9||16.2|
|NY Giants||San Francisco||8.4||10.9||9.2|
|Special Note About NFL Colors: We get questions at our sister site http://www.piratings.webs.com asking us how we get the colors for the NFL teams. We have a Pantone Matching System color-creator, and the official Pantone colors for the NFL teams. We choose omit any black or white colors from the teams, and occasionally, we choose an alternate color rather than the principle color. The same Navy pantone is used by six different teams, so we choose to use the Columbia blue for the Titans and Sky blue for the Chargers rather than repeat the Navy color.
Current NFL PiRate Ratings
|N F C|
|A F C|
|N. Y. Jets||101.4||101.9||102.1||101.8||3-1-0||95||55|