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Super Bowl LII included more than a record number of yards and someone other than Tom Brady hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. It included non-stop play, too, with few penalties and fewer intrusions by Alberto Riveron and the NFL’s officiating department.
In particular, the Corey Clement touchdown catch — which NBC announcers Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels predicted would be overturned based on previous judgments — stood, and that had us wondering: Is that what we should expect in 2018 from the league office?
“To me,” said FOX rules analyst Mike Pereira, the league’s former head of officiating, on our latest podcast, “it was more a recognition of how they changed about two-thirds of the way through the season. I think that was what has everybody a bit confused. Because in the first two-thirds of the season they probably overturned six calls that they should not have overturned because there wasn’t the clear and obvious evidence to overturn them.
“And probably there was a meeting of some kind. I know that the public sentiment and the abuse that Alberto Riveron (the league’s senior VP of officiating) and Russell Yurk (VP of instant replay and Administration) were taking for making those decisions really led them back to where they should’ve have been in the first place. And that’s that it has to be 100 percent clear and obvious that the call on the field was wrong. So you look at the play, assuming the call on the field was right, and it should surprise no one when you reverse it to make the call that was basically wrong … and right that wrong.
“(The Clement catch) just wasn’t clear enough. So I said it would stand … and it did … and I do believe that is the new normal … and probably had been the new normal for the last five weeks or so of the regular season and throughout the playoffs.
“So I wasn’t surprised. But I don’t fault Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth because it’s certainly reasonable to assume, based on the first two-thirds of the season, that they would’ve reversed it.”
Obvious question, then: If we apply that standard to the Dez Bryant non-catch vs. Green Bay in the 2014 playoffs, would it stand as a reception?
“Under my proposal,” said Pereira, “and what I think the rule ought to change to be, then I think Dez Bryant’s catch was a catch. The rule got in trouble because they differentiated between a receiver who is upright and on his feet and a receiver who is going to the ground. Two different rules. And I think that is the mistake.
“To me, you treat them the same way. It’s control, two feet and time. Time is described in the book as turning upfield, taking extra steps, tucking the ball in … and where the rule really started to have problems is when replay started to make decisions as to what is the element of time. Replay can decide control. Replay can decide two feet like the Clement play. But element of time is subjective.”
One more item of interest, particularly to New England fans: According to Pereira, the “Philly Special” that produced a Nick Foles touchdown catch at the end of the first half and was the most memorable play of the Super Bowl should have been called back. Reason? The Eagles didn’t line up properly and should have been penalized.
“I know the league came out and said that it’s a judgment call, which it is.” Pereira said. “The down judge, who was the one that (the play) was on his side of the field … they felt that it was his judgment, and he (receiver Alshon Jeffrey) was close enough. Well, he wasn’t. They lined up wrong.
“Not only that, it’s a trick play. And if you’re going to run a trick-type play, then you have to be lined up properly. You could either have six men on the line, or you could have an ineligible number lined up at the end of the line, which was the case. I know what the league has said, but they would have been a lot more comfortable if they would have called an illegal formation.
“We always use a yard (within the line of scrimmage), maybe a yard-and-a-half. But that’s two. And even a little bit beyond two. It’s kind of one of those that has no effect on the play. I get it. But they didn’t line up properly. And it really should’ve been called.”
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