Skip to comments.Game's third team upstaged Steelers, Hawks
Posted on 02/06/2006 8:53:10 AM PST by highlander_UW
DETROIT -- Three weeks ago, after the Steelers held on to upset Indianapolis, Joey Porter was unhappy about the overturning of Troy Polamalu's fourth-quarter interception that could have sealed the win much earlier. Believing that deep down the league preferred Peyton Manning and the Colts to win, Porter publicly criticized the game officials, asking them not to "take the game from us."
Well, the Steelers can call it even now, as the officials who performed well enough throughout the season to earn the privilege of working Super Bowl XL performed Sunday as though they were trying to make it up to the Steelers by giving them the game -- not just any game, but the biggest game. And, yes, this time the other guys, the Seahawks, cried conspiracy, only not quite as loudly as Porter.
"You know, that's what happens when the world is against you," one Seahawk said after the 21-10 loss at Ford/Heinz Field. "No one wanted us to win. They wanted Jerome Bettis to win and go out a hero, and they got it."
Seattle had its share of goats: in particular, tight end Jerramy Stevens, who dropped four balls, and kicker Josh Brown, who missed two field-goal attempts. Almost to a man, the Seahawks pointed the blame finger at themselves for converting only one of three red zone attempts (when they had been the best in the league in that area, scoring a touchdown on 71.7 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard line); for allowing Ben Roethlisberger to improvise and complete a 37-yard pass to game MVP Hines Ward to the 1; for giving up a 75-yard touchdown run to Willie Parker; and for getting beaten by a trick play on Antwaan Randle El's pass to fellow receiver Ward for a touchdown, a first in Super Bowl history. If you read between the lines, though, they pretty much spelled out in bold letters that they had plenty of help in handing Pittsburgh its fifth Lombardi Trophy.
Namely, the boys in black and white.
"Those things are out of our control," Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said of the three major penalties that helped change the game completely. Not saying the outcome of the game would have been any different, but for sure it would have been a different game. "That's the way [the officials] called them," Hasselbeck continued. "The Steelers played well enough to win tonight, and we didn't. They should get credit. It's disappointing, it's hard, but what are you going to do?"
Here's what referee Bill Leavy's crew did, point blank: It robbed Seattle. The Seahawks could have played better, sure. They could have done more to overcome the poor officiating. We understand that those things happen and all, but even with all the points Seattle left on the field, there's a good chance the Seahawks would have scored more than the Steelers if the officials had let the players play.
In the biggest game of the year, the biggest game in sports, even, the officials were just a little too visible. In that regard, the Super Bowl provided a fitting conclusion to a postseason packed with pitiful performances by the game's third team. There were incorrect down-by-contact rulings in both NFC wild-card games; a touchdown that could have gone either way and should have gone the other way -- in favor of Tampa Bay -- in the Bucs' loss to the Redskins; the Patriots got no love in Denver in being hit with a bogus pass interference penalty and not catching a break on Champ Bailey's fumble at the goal line that looked as though it could have been a touchback; and, of course, the Polamalu play.
Still, what happened to the Seahawks wasn't the same as, say, New England going into Denver and playing badly (five turnovers) on top of the bad calls. Seattle gained almost 400 yards and turned it over just once.
You see, you can spend weeks -- and we did; two, in fact -- analyzing and dissecting matchups and giving each team the edge in certain areas and trying to figure out how the game is going to play out, but the two things you can't account for are turnovers and officials. The latter were the X-factor Sunday. Edge: Steelers.
It actually was a fairly clean game from a penalty standpoint, without a whole lot of yellow on the field -- 10 accepted penalties between the teams. Seven were against the Seahawks, though, a team that tied with Indianapolis for the second-fewest penalties (94) in the regular season. But those calls against the Seahawks stuck out like the Space Needle on the Seattle skyline.
Consider: The Seahawks lost 161 yards to penalties when you combine the penalty yards (70) and the plays the flags wiped out (91). By halftime alone, when it trailed 7-3, Seattle had had 73 hard-earned yards and a touchdown eliminated.
Hasselbeck hit Darrell Jackson with an apparent 16-yard scoring pass in the first quarter, but the play came back when Jackson was called for offensive pass interference. It was a touch foul. Jackson extended his arm, yes, but both players were fighting for position, and he didn't create any separation by doing so. It was like a referee calling a hand-check in a key moment of Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The Seahawks had to settle for three instead of seven.
Still, that was early, and that one didn't change the game as much as did a holding call against Sean Locklear early in the fourth quarter with Pittsburgh leading 14-10. That one wiped out an 18-yard catch by Stevens that would have taken the ball to the 1. Locklear supposedly held Clark Haggans, so instead of first-and-goal at the 1 and the chance to complete a 98-yard touchdown drive and take a three-point lead, Seattle faced first-and-20 at the 29.
Three plays later, Ike Taylor picked off a Hasselbeck pass, and Hasselbeck went low to make the tackle on Taylor's return and was called for a 15-yard personal foul for a low block. The Steelers set up shop at their 44. That one right there made no sense.
Pittsburgh likes to run its trick plays in the middle of the field. Boom! Four plays later, from Seattle's 43, Randle El took a reverse and threw a sweet strike on the run to Ward. It was 21-10, and that was all she wrote. Everyone knows how important it is to play Pittsburgh with a lead or with the score tied. The Steelers don't lose when they're up by 11.
Eleven just so happens to be the total points taken away by bogus calls. Some penalties meant points; others meant field position. A holding call in the second quarter negated Peter Warrick's 34-yard punt return that would have started Seattle in Pittsburgh territory.
By contrast, the Steelers might have gotten a break on Roethlisberger's 1-yard touchdown plunge on third-and-goal in the second quarter. Leavy reviewed the play under the booth's orders, since it occurred inside the two-minute mark, and while still photos of an airborne Roethlisberger showed that the ball might have broken the plane of the goal line, he landed short of it and reached the ball over. It was close. Head linesman Mark Hittner didn't seem so sure of it, hesitating before signaling touchdown.
"I don't think he scored," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said.
It was that kind of evening for the Seahawks, who represent a town where residents know all too well that when it rains, it pours. If having what seemed like 90 percent of the 68,200 in attendance waving Terrible Towels wasn't enough to make Seattle feel as though it was playing on the road, the officials called it as though the Seahawks actually were.
Pittsburgh capitalized on its opportunities. And guys like Bill Cowher, Ward, Dan Rooney and The Bus are all very deserving of a championship -- and it's nice to see them win one -- but it would have been better had it not happened like this. It's like the Seahawks said: Not taking anything away from the Steelers, but keep it real.
"We had a touchdown taken away from us, the first one we scored," said Hasselbeck, who was measured in his words but clear in his frustration, "and then we had the ball at the 1-yard line, they called a penalty on us. That was unfortunate."
"I thought they were offside [on the play Locklear was called for holding]," center Robbie Tobeck said. "I thought we had a free play on because they had two guys come across. You know, that's the game. In a game, there's situations you have to overcome, and all night long we didn't do a good job of overcoming those things, and that's something we've done all year."
In the offseason, 31 teams will be back at the drawing board, evaluating what they need to do to knock off the Steelers in the fall. After the postseason they just had, Mike Pereira and the NFL's crew of officials would be wise to take a long, hard look at themselves. It's a real shame when, on the game's biggest stage, the major players aren't players at all. We saw too much of the third team in Super Bowl XL and not enough Seahawks and Steelers.
Michael Smith is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
You want some cheese with that whine?
It was amazing how one of the Zebras actually put on a Pittsburgh uniform and snuck into the play to make that pass...-tinfoil
There's close and questionable calls in every game, but there's not usually this much whining about it.
Terrible job by the officating crew.
Taking away a TD over a push-off that didn't move the DB; calling a TD when the ball didn't break the plane; calling a hold on Locklear that negated a first and goal; and tacking on a call against the QB on the interception return.
The officials were horrendous. The NFL should jettison the entire crew. Inexcusable in a game of this magnitude.
No, this has never happened before...A ref hesitating on a call...can you say conspiracy?... - tinfoil
I was rooting for neither team, just trying to enjoy the game. But the officiating was ridiculously biased. On two different plays, including the one where they had a pass completed to the one yard line, the defensive end was offside. Then the 15-yard penalty against Hasselback for tackling the runner was unforgivable.
A lot of people must have bet the over and didn't think the Steelers would cover...
If you think the officiating job yesterday was no better or worse than normal, you weren't paying attention.
The Steelers made three big plays on offense. They deserved to win.
I still think the Seahawks could have won the game if they had only scored more points than the Steelers.
Pittsburgh got a few lucky breaks with calls that could have went either way. Pittsburgh played like crap and they certainly benefited from those calls.
Deny all you want chief, yes the Steelers won...but they won the worst officiated superbowl in the game's history. And were, heavily I met add, on the recieved end of beneficial calls.
Yep, the Steelers...lots to be proud of.
Agreed. The no-call on the clip on Roethlisberger during the run back of the interception and the interception that was clearly a reception and a fumble by Seattle were screwups by the zebras as well...
From everything I have heard and read, basically it is breaking down to 3 calls people either agreed with or dis-agreed with out of well over 100 calls.
No game with an 11 point spread comes down to three plays.
On the surface it looks that way, but I have a feeling that if the actual rule is looked up, it may be a good call.
when your team loses, blame the officials, when your candidate loses blame the ballot boxes.
do I sense a theme here?
LOL, COL. The officiating was horrible. That doesn't make it a conspiracy... except of dunces.
Seattle did not take advantage of any opportunities they were given during the entire first half. They should have been winning the game 14-0 when they went into the locker room.
Is that how they determine winner/loser? Points? who knew? And when did they know it? Were the seahwaks informed?
Wrong. That was a terrible call. You mean you can't tackle the man with the ball now?
Yup, couldn't believe that call.
Yes you do...The Seahawks lost because Rush is a Steelers fan so its....BUSH'S FAULT!
I thought the officiating was par for the course; they aren't perfect.
It was no worse than normal, and Rothlesberger was in.
This was, no doubt, the worst officiated playoff season I've ever witnessed. But, officiating is also bad this season in the National Hockey League, and last year's major league baseball playoffs were also pitifully umpired.
Television brings out these glaring errors, true, but even full-time officials seem to be getting calls wrong a lot more often.
Let's compare basketball to football as to make the whole argument ridiculous. Plain Dumb. The Ref was standing right there!
At least the headline doesn't try to give any illusion of unbiased reporting.
My team wasn't playing.
But, the officiating was atrocious. I won't go so far as to say the Hawks were robbed, but four terrible calls all went against them or for the Steelers.
Seattle's whining reminds me of those folks in Ft Lauderdale whining about W's election. No substance, just desire and passion repeated over and over. Come to think of it, both are home to the liberal crowd that gets it their way or calls for a lawyer to get it for them. Now, the NFL better watch for lawsuits.
Tells me that there are alot more fans in this country than just Steelers fans who were watching the game objectively and saw quite a few bad calls. Coupled with about 3 to 5% biased Seahawk fans that feel strongly that they were robbed, and you get quite a few complaints. Thusly, it appears that the other 5% of the fans in the country who happen to have a strong Steeler bias somehow, didn't notice the lousy officiating. Funny how that happens, huh?
If you're Michael Smith, you "read between the lines" to gin up a B.S. story.
What about the calls against the Steelers? Do you ignore them as well?
It's a fact that the ref hesitated...in fact, it looked like he was calling it short...then as he ran closer, at the same point where Roethlisberger had moved the ball over the line while lying on the ground the ref called it a TD. Replay was inconclusive, I would agree...but what you call "tinfoil" is a fact, the ref hesitated. Yes, that happens fairly often, and personally, I think it was a bad call, but it was a very close call, not like many of the much worse calls. Tell me, how can you do a low block when you're actually making a tackle? Was Hasselbeck suppose to just do 2 hand touch or something?
Smith nails it.
This game would have been different without the bad calls.
The band was too old and so were the refs. The first wasn't much of a show, and the second were too much of the show.
Too bad. It could have been a good game.
You seem to have confused me with Michael Smith, I'm not the author of the article. It does, however, reflect that it's not just Seahawk fans that saw how bad the officiating was in the game.
Amen to that. I've got the Center Ice package and I can't believe some of what I'm seeing every night. There isn't a referee in the NHL that has any idea what hooking is - and that's just one example.
The push-off may not have "moved" the DB, but it did help the receiver move backwards to reach the ball and kept the DB from following - the receiver may not have reached the ball if he hadn't pushed off. Don't forget the "incomplete pass" call after the Seattle receiver caught the ball, put both feet on the ground, and turned before being hit and coughing it up - A Steeler was pursuing the ball, with no opposition in the area, when the ref. blew it dead as incomplete. There were some bad calls, but the bad calls didn't change the game results. Seattle didn't bring their "A" game and a struggling Steeler team managed to pull one out.
Your mathematics is astounding...do you work for the DNC balancing the books?
Worse and more obviously bad calls were made in the PIT-IND playoff game. Famously the one on Troy Polo-the hair guy, which was still wrongly called after review.
3 of those represented 11 points and the difference between having the ball on the 1 yd line vs the other team outside the 40.
I think Rothelsberger got the debatable touchdown as well, but I think he clinched it with those pleading puppy eyes he flashed at the ref as he was stretching the ball back over the line.
It was nice watching the Steelers win last night. The big trophy is in Pittsburgh where it belongs. The Steelers now have five Super Bowl wins and only one loss, as good as any team in NFL history and better than most. It gives me a great feeling and warms my heart. Steeler fans are celebrating and joyful everywhere.
All the moaning and whining in the world can't take the joy of winning away from Steeler fans. We won, they lost. End of story.
i was thinking of the typical democrat - they'll participate in the open arena as long as they win. when they lose they always go whining to someone else and blaming everyone and everything BUT their candidate.
the officiating wasn't perfect, but then again it never is. the idea of having the sportscasters decide issues is ludicrous.
I wasn't sure that that steeler's touchdown was the right call or not, but I didn't see enough evidence that the ref was wrong to overturn his call. it's very possible that he was correct. you don't overturn a calll simply because there might be another side to it, you need a clear and compellign reason, absolute proof that the call was in error. it looked like the ball might have broken the plane - as the ref said it did.
there's no such thing as perfect officiating. I do find it amusing how many fans of the losing side carp about it tho. bet they wouldn't say peep had their side won.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.