Monday, December 04, 2006

I’m not a big conspiracy theorist. I usually ascribe people’s behavior to spur-of-the-moment bad judgment or just plain stupidity, but the refereeing in the Saints-49ers game yesterday was impossibly skewed in favor of the Saints.

Listen, I get it. New Orleans suffered a big-ass disaster last year. We all feel bad for the city. Even I sent money to relief efforts (which I’ve done exactly twice in 40+ years, for 9/11 and for Katrina).

But let’s not start handing them football games or overturning calls because the fans might get upset. No less than SIX crucial calls went against the 49ers, two of them had to be overturned to ensure the Saints would get the victory.

1. Pass interference in the first quarter – Alex Smith underthrew Antonio Bryant along the left sideline. The Saints DB turned to find the ball, and blocked Bryant’s path to the ball. The official correctly threw the flag for pass interference. Mike Carey (who is becoming the Don Denkinger of the NFL) came over, reminded the official that they were in New Orleans, pointed out the crowd reaction to the replay which was egregiously shown on the JumboTron, and picked up the flag. Asshole.

2. Reggie Bush = Rob Lyttle = Ben Rothlisberger. None of these guys need the ball to score touchdowns. Two of Bush’s touchdowns were scored when he extended the ball out trying to reach the goal line and got it punched away. One of the fumbles was recovered by the 49ers, the other went out of bounds around the one-yard line. Yeah, he’s an exciting back, but he should still have the fucking ball in his GRASP to score.

3. One play turned the game. 14-10 Saints. The 49ers had just recovered a surprise onside kick and had all the momentum. Antonio Bryant ran a deep dig at around 15 yards. Mike McKenzie (is he still around?) chucked him (penalty, unless you’re playing in a city that recently suffered a hurricane and floods). Bryant fell down (admittedly weak, but may have been trying to draw the penalty). McKenzie dove over him and picked the ball off. He appeared to clip Bryant while diving over him to catch the ball, meaning he should be marked down at around midfield. Again, the “NFL disaster relief rule” comes into effect and the play continued. McKenzie gets up and dances down the left sideline and cutting back at the ten, may or may not get clipped by Alex Smith. On his way down to the ground, he bobbles the ball, losing it completely when he hits the turf. The 49ers recover and the referees decide the play was too exciting to rule against the downtrodden Saints, and make a quintuply bad ruling.

a. No Pass Interference or Illegal Contact – Not horrible, but certainly arguable. Contact was made with Bryant. Whether or not he should have fallen is debatable.
b. Not down by contact at midfield – Partially Nolan’s fault for not making this call on the spot. If McKenzie didn’t touch Bryant while flying over the top, he should be in Cirque de Soleil.
c. Out of bounds? – From the spotty camera work, McKenzie comes awfully close to stepping on the line around the 20. Again, this is borderline.
d. Down by contact? – Again, the initial ruling was that Alex Smith whiffed, and Mike Carey overruled the official after looking at the instant replay of the flooding in the French Quarter.
e. Fumble? – Watch the replay. He’s losing control of the ball AS HE FALLS, which is why it popped out when he hit the ground. Even if Alex Smith clipped his foot, it should still be a fumble! Again, this is ignored for the sake of the children made homeless by the hurricane.

I’m not saying the 49ers would’ve won the game, but it’s irritating to have the referees taking such an active role in GIVING the game to the Saints. Once the first pass interference was waved off because of fan reaction to the instant replay, I knew the game would be biased in favor of the Saints.

I guess the NFL really wants the “feel-good story of the year” to make the playoffs this year.


At 10:15 AM, Blogger Gert said...

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