I personally hate it when we fans blame the officials for games, especially in light of the replacement referee debacle we all had to live through earlier this year. While Pete Morelli and his crew are, indeed, not the sharpest of zebras out on the football field, I'll take them and their mistakes over the blind incompetence of the replacement refs.
Sunday's Titans v. Colts game featured some pretty piss poor officiating, and it was Morelli's crew that drew that game. In fact, it was so poor that many radio listeners tell me they heard Colts radio analyst, and former NFL offensive lineman, Will Wolford utter the word "bullshit!" when Antoine Bethea was called for an extremely questionable pass interference penalty in the third quarter. Wolford told me he didn't say that, and I'm not about to get into an argument with a former left tackle who, according to his Twitter handle, also provides financial advice.
If Wolford did curse on-air, I can't say I blame him, and it should give you a small indication of just how bad Morelli and his crew were. Wolford hardly ever gets angry like that on-air. That's usually reserved for radio pay-by-pay man Bob Lamey. Wolford is often the calm, rational voice of reason.
Still, even though Morelli and his clown troupe embarrassed themselves on Sunday, they were not the truly guilty party on the play that, if not for the now-infamous TOUCHCEPTION play in Seattle, could be one of the worst blown calls of the season: The Andrew Luck pick 6 in the second quarter.
No, the guilty party there was the replay booth.
You all know how the play developed. Luck scrambled up away from pressure coming from his right, and as he was getting tackled from behind, he threw the ball right to Titans linebacker Will Witherspoon who returned it for a touchdown. Dumb throw by Luck, no question. However, the issue with the play was Luck's knees. BOTH were clearly down before he released the football.
That means down by contact. No pick. No touchdown. Colts ball on on 38 yard line, 4th down.
Now, in fairness to Morelli and his on-the-field crew, it's understandable that they miss Luck's knees being down. The play happened lightening fast. What's inexcusable was the replay booth failing to provide the footage Morelli needed to reverse the call. Mike Florio and PFT gives further details:
So why wasn’t the touchdown overturned via replay review? NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos explained during Monday’s edition of Pro Football Talk that the replay assistant didn’t feed the conclusive video to the referee.
It’s unclear whether the failure was the result of CBS not serving up the video to the replay assistant or the replay assistant not getting it to the referee. However, CBS pumped the video through to the broadcast; it’s unlikely that the same angle wasn’t sent to the replay booth, for delivery to the portable replay apparatus at field level.
Either way, the system failed. And it’s a system that seems to be failing almost as often as it works the right way.
I don't know if you readers are aware, but replay assistants were working during the referee lockout. In fact, the NFL owners used them as justification for it, suggesting that modern technology and the "eye in the sky" gadgets the replay wizards up there have access to almost makes zebras on the field an after thought.
If the referee lockout didn't dispel that lie for you, Sunday's buffoonery should.
Thankfully for us, the play ended up not being the difference in the ballgame. The Colts came back in the fourth quarter and defeated the Titans.