League Admits One Blown Call in AFC Championship

Injustice For All, Part II
Replay Ref: Hobbs Penalty Was Wrong

As first reported on the Jacksonville Jaguars website by senior editor Vic Ketchman, the pass interference call on Ellis Hobbs in the AFC Championship game was completely wrong.

That penalty gave the Indianapolis Colts a 1st-and-goal at the New England Patriots 1-yard line instead of a 3rd-and-long from the 19. It amounted to free points for the Colts who were nearly out of the game and was a major cog in the Indy's comeback.

To give credit where credit is due, the Boston Herald's Albert Breer mentioned Ketchman's posting in his own blog and The Boston Globe's Mike Reiss has a more extensive piece in today's Boston Globe.

From Reiss:

"There is no such thing as face-guarding," Greg Aiello, the NFL's vice president of communications e-mailed yesterday. "There must be contact to have a foul."
While referee Bill Carollo did not mention face-guarding in his on-field announcement, there can be no question that was the call. Replays showed Hobbs jumped straight up, never touched Reggie Wayne, and the ball drilled him in the back.

"Face-guarding," said CBS color "analyst" and well-documented Patriots-hater Phil Simms. "Easy call."

After the game, Hobbs told it like it was.

"I never touched him and the ball hit me in the back of the arm," Hobbs said, as reported by Reiss.

Pass interference? Easy call?

Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

Ketchman posted his comments on Jan. 25, and that came only after Ketchman called the game's replay official, Dean Blandino, who works in the league office, and that came only after "Jacob from Weymouth, Mass." called Ketchman on it.

My question to you: Where the heck was the Globe and Herald before that? (Not to mention Bob Lobel, Butch Stearns and the rest of the TV sloths.) Why weren't the local newspaper guys calling the league the day (or two) after the game?

And just because the league has only now admitted that one call was wrong doesn't mean that many of the others were wrong, too.

And for those of you who question the impact these calls have on the game, I refer you to Protrade.com and a post by Mark Kamal, Colts vs. Pats: 5 Game-Changing Plays. Kamal provides a statistical probability analysis of those plays and how they impacted the odds of either team's impending victory.

After the five plays, Kamal delves into "What Could Have Been ..." where all his examples are based on the calls by the officials.

Kamal also charted the entire game and referenced specific points on the chart where key plays occurred. It's easy enough to locate the "questionable" calls and figure things out for yourselves from there.

Graphic courtesy of Protrade.com

As for the contention that the Patriots still needed to make plays, that's true. But they had just made a cross-country trip to face a brutal San Deigo squad the week before, made another trip to play the Colts, and several key players had the flu. It was crystal clear in the fourth quarter that they were utterly spent. How long do you think the defense could hold back Indy when ball calls by the game officials were keeping the defense on the field?

But there are larger questions now in light of Ketchman's revelation.

Not pass interference?

Photo Courtesy: boston.com

If face-guarding hasn't been a penalty for several years -- some say six or seven -- how can an "all-star" official still be calling it in the conference championship? (You could ask why Simms doesn't know it's not a penalty either, but I think his intentions are clear enough.)

Why do we have to find out about this from the Jaguars team website? Why didn't the league offer a public apology, as they have several times this season to other teams (and remember the uproar over Troy Polamalu's overturned interception last conference championship)?

Where was ESPN, ESPN.com, SI.com, CBS Sportsline, USA Today and the rest of the national media in reporting this?

Will the replay ref (Blandino) be reprimanded for disclosing the league's dirty little secret, as, clearly, the league had no intention of making a public admission?

* * * * * * * *

Do I think the league instructed the game officials to help the Colts win? No. At 21-3, it didn't look like there was much they could do. But no rational person can dismiss the evidence that the league instructed the officials to give "special consideration" to some things over others, and those things all benefited the Colts.

The players ultimately are responsible for the play on the field. The referees, as their name implies, are responsible for making sure that play is fair.

In the first half, those referees assessed three penalties against Indianapolis and two against New England. In the second half, they called just one against the Colts and six against New England, most of them questionable, and many directly affecting the outcome of the game. Where is the fairness in that?

How the Colts get their calls.

Photo Courtesy: boston.com

Alas, were it the first time we saw lopsided calls, even preferential treatment given to one team on the same type of call. Patriots fans will remember a similar fiasco against the other Super Bowl team in Week 12 when New England was called for several questionable defensive penalties, and the other got away with mugging. Fortunately then, the Patriots were able to persevere.

But I'd gladly swap that game for this one now.

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