Before you get all in a huff over this, hear me out. I'm not just saying this because in last night's Super Bowl every close call went in the direction of one team, Pittsburgh, and it was up to the booth or the Cardinals to challenge the play and overturn it, this is something I have been working on for years. I had the Cardinals +7 actually as well so that doesn't come into play either.
While the following is by no means a complete list of my findings, they are all pretty solid examples that something has gone amuck in the NFL and something has been wrong for a very long time. While it is said "a holding penalty can be called on any play", why is it usually called at a seemingly "generic" time when few people will notice the impact it has on a game. While others perceive it as just a call in the middle of a game, these seemingly innocent second down calls become drive stoppers and move teams out of field goal range changing point differentials and game plans.
We see coaching maneuvers which make no sense, we see referee calls who seemingly conveniently forget the rules. We aren't just talking about newbies either, we're talking about men who have spent their entire lives around the game. While I could easily write a very large book on this subject alone, here are some examples of some odd things that have given me this conclusion.
October 8, 2006 Cleveland at Carolina
Here is a game that set up perfectly for a fix and something very strange happened that I don't remember much attention being called to it. The point spread in this game was Cleveland +8 1/2, this is an important fact to remember.
With 1:27 left in the game Cleveland gets the ball trailing by 11, 20-9. Browns QB Charlie Frye moves the team down the field to the Carolina 15 where he is met with a fourth down and time ticking away. Romeo Crennel makes a decision to go for a FG seemingly to set up and eight-point deficit leaving time for an onside kick and a Hail Mary, and a two point conversion, while far fetched it happens and that's why the games are a full 60 minutes.
With this being the Browns only chance aside from going for the TD first, maybe get a play in after an onside kick and kicking a long FG, I can almost by it. What happened instead was the Browns hit the FG making it an eight-point deficit and a cover, they kicked it away to Carolina who took a knee and the clock expired. Crennel certainly wasn't playing to win, those actions reek of a man getting eight-and-a-half and was happy when the final gun sounded and he got a smooth cover. Look it up, these facts are all out there.
January 21,2007 New England at Indianapolis AFC Championship
New England came out like gang busters and were scoring on just about every drive. They also were getting to Indy QB Peyton Manning who was throwing balls to the wrong team that were going for sic. late in the second quarter the Patriots were at it again, carving up the Colts secondary and having a chance to put the game out of reach early. The Patriots were at the Colts 28 with four minutes left to go into the half. Brady threw a ball to Troy Brown which took every bit of life out of the Indianapolis sideline, but wait, a flag on the field, offensive pass interference? Huh?
Even so, this moved it back to the 38, but an illegal motion on Ben Watson later, the Pats were out of FG range. Of course they punted, Indy drove the field and got a FG. The result was a six-point swing, less than the margin of the final score of the game. The face and voice of the NFL, Peyton Manning got his Super Bowl ring and was on every TV commercial for the next 365 days.
February 5, 2006 Seattle-Pittsburgh The Super Bowl
This is arguably the worst officiated game of all time as it wasn't even subtle calls going the Steelers way all night long, it was every call and every chance Seattle had to gain momentum. While we could easily site calls from the 2/1/09 Super Bowl, the San Diego-Pittsburgh game earlier this season, or the Kordell Stewart "catch-no catch" several years earlier which finally brought upon instant replay, this peach of a game works just fine. There were three calls which didn't just affect this game, there were three calls which decided this game.
First, was Ben in or not in? While replays clearly showed Pittsburgh QB Ben Rothlesberger wasn't in the endzone, they awarded him a touchdown anyways. Pittsburgh would have had another chance to score from the one-inch line so we could maybe even forgive this as it could have just been a blunder, but wait, there's more.
Near the end of the first quarter Matt Hasselbeck hit Darrell Jackson in the endzone for a seemingly generic touchdown, at least as generic as Super Bowl TDs can be. Apparently this wasn't ok with the NFL as the play was flagged with an offensive pass interference call. This play was shown from no less than 15 angles and revealed not only no offensive pass interference, it wasn't even questionable as there was little to no contact on the play. Seattle ended up settling for a FG.
Early in the fourth quarter Seattle was very much in this game and was diving. Hasselbeck hit Jeremy Stevens on the Pittsburgh one-yard line to seemingly set up a Seattle scoring opportunity and a chance for the Seahawks to take the lead as the score at the time was 14-10. Upon further review, a flag was thrown on Seattle lineman Shawn Locklear for offensive holding. Seeing as Super Bowls have about 200 TV cameras these days, the play was re shown at every possible angle, no of which showed anything resembling a hold. While they say holding can be called on any play, this wasn't one of them.
What followed was a Pittsburgh interception, a few runs and then a razzle dazzle flea flicker touchdown pass that made a lot of people forget about the 35 replays they had just seen, none of which revealed a hold. This put the game out of reach instead of at the very least giving Seattle a chance as they had earned. This was not just a sad day for football, just a sad day for sports altogether.
I have many more examples I can throw out here, these are just blatant. I didn't even mention the Denver-San Diego game this year where I'm still not sure what happened. I have no interest in any of these teams and there is no sour grapes angle to take in trying to dismantle anything presented here. These are just a few of my many observations which tell me something is very wrong with the biggest money making sports empire in the United States.