Late For Work 1/23: League Stands By Non-Review Of Non-Catch

Just remember Flacco got job done, why Ravens didn’t take timeout, most heart-breaking loss ever?

Posted by Sarah Ellison on Monday, January 23rd, 2012 at 9:14 am | Categories: Late For Work, Sarah Ellison

League Stands By Non-Review Of Non-Catch

Let me be clear before we jump into this one.

Nobody in the Ravens organization is blaming the officiating for their loss.

Sure, Head Coach John Harbaugh said he was “surprised” there wasn’t a review of Lee Evans’ non-catch in the end zone with just seconds remaining, but he was classy in his post-game press conference and knows the entire team could have played better to secure a victory.

That said, several independent news organizations believe the referees should have at least reviewed the play to make absolutely certain that Evans didn’t have control of the ball with two feet in the end zone before Patriots defensive back Sterling Moore knocked the ball out of his hands.

The decision to review the play has to be initiated by the replay assistant in the booth.

“Even though the slow-motion angle shown by CBS seemed to suggest that it may have been a catch, the replay assistant didn’t instruct referee Alberto Riveron to take a look via the on-field portable TV on wheels,” wrote PFT.com’s Mike Florio. “So why didn’t the replay assistant direct Riveron to take another look?  Absent indisputable visual evidence that the call on the field was correct, the replay assistant must tell the referee to look for indisputable visual evidence to overturn it.”

However, the league disagrees with Florio.

“The ruling on the field of an incomplete pass was confirmed by the Instant Replay assistant, correctly, and as a result, there was no need to stop the game,” the league said in a statement given to PFT.  “The receiver did not get his second foot down in the end zone with possession, and as a result, it was an incomplete pass.”

Former vice president of officiating and current FoxSports.com analyst Mike Pereira agreed with the league saying it “clearly” wasn’t a catch.

“But where’s the harm in taking a look at the play?” asks Florio. ”The left foot may have been down a nanosecond before the ball was dislodged.  Why not have Riveron decide whether or not that was the case?  Moreover, a different camera angle may have shown that Evans had the ball before his left foot previously left the ground.  (There’s no doubt that the right foot was down while Evans had the ball.)

“Either way, under the league’s standard for initiating a booth review, we think a booth review should have been initiated.  And if it had been initiated, Riveron would have been faced with a decision that wouldn’t have been quite as easy as the league seems to think it would have been.”

Banks agrees with Florio, saying its “more than a little surprising” they didn’t just make certain the call was accurate.

“I mean, all that was at stake was a trip to the Super Bowl for Baltimore on the play,” wrote Banks. “That’s all. We tend to get seven minutes of reviews for a relatively meaningless spot of a third down run in the second quarter, but then the Evans’ play doesn’t warrant another look or three? I don’t really get that, even if the correct call was made.”

Just Remember, Flacco Got The Job Done

Greg Couch’s final analysis of quarterback Joe Flacco’s performance in the AFC championship is certainly an outlier.

“Flacco goes back to being a joke,” wrote the FoxSports.com columnist, citing an underthrown (but complete) 42-yard pass to Torrey Smith, a late interception and failed scoring attempts in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps it’s people like Couch to whom CSNBaltimore.com’s John Eisenberg and safety Bernard Pollard were talking.

“The people who continually criticize him should be quiet,” wrote Eisenberg.

“He played his butt off,” said Pollard. “For the people that keep dogging him, if you ain’t never played this game, shut up.”

The overall consensus is that the oft-criticized, fourth-year quarterback outplayed a three-time Super Bowl winner in Tom Brady.

Flacco threw for more yards (306 to 239), more touchdowns (2 to 0), less interceptions (1 to 2), notched the same completion percentage (61) and turned in a better quarterback rating (95.4 to 57.5) than Brady.

He also put his team in a position to beat Brady, if not at least tie the game and send it to overtime.

Thus, if there’s one takeaway for people to hold on to it’s this:

Just remember, Flacco got the job done,” tweeted NFL analyst Ross Tucker.

Here’s a roundup of what’s being said about Flacco:

Flacco was brilliant: “After a week of scrutiny and a slow start, Flacco had one of his best games, repeatedly finding open receivers, and often slinging passes into tight coverage for completions. … The Ravens played well enough to win. Joe Flacco was brilliant. The people who continually criticize him should be quiet. He made plays all day with his arm and his legs. He put the winning touchdown in Lee Evans’ hands in the final seconds. A Patriot defender knocked it out. Great play.” – Eisenberg

Flacco did himself proud: “No matter what you thought of his pre-postseason rant about being disrespected, Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco did himself proud Sunday. His Ravens aren’t Super Bowl-bound, but No. 5 isn’t the reason. Flacco out-played Brady … and if Evans had held onto Flacco’s perfect touchdown pass with 22 seconds remaining, Flacco would have been the hero of the game, with a career-defining comeback in the AFC title game to his credit.” – SI.com’s Don Banks

You can’t blame Flacco:Don’t blame Baltimore’s Joe Flacco. He didn’t lose the AFC Championship Game. Billy Cundiff did. Or maybe it was Lee Evans. Take your pick. All I know is that Flacco did not. I know, he threw a costly interception that killed one fourth-quarter scoring drive. He underthrew a wide-open Torrey Smith, too, costing the Ravens a sure first-quarter touchdown.  But I measure quarterbacks by how they operate under pressure, and there was no more pressure on Flacco than on the Ravens’ last drive … and he responded by pushing them 65 yards in under two minutes to put them in perfect position to tie or win the ballgame.” – CBSSports.com’s Clark Judge

Nobody was better than Flacco Sunday: “Thus ended arguably the most impressive — but also the most disappointing — football game of Joseph Vincent Flacco’s professional career. If anyone envisioned a scenario where Flacco would have played better than Tom Brady prior to Sunday, they didn’t have the guts to say it publicly. But that’s exactly what happened. Flacco completed 22-of-36 passes for 306 yards and two touchdowns, and it’s not a stretch to say he was the best player on the field the entire day. (Vince Wilform is the only man who could offer a counter argument.) But somehow, it still wasn’t enough.” – The Baltimore Sun’s Kevin Van Valkenburg

Most Heart-Breaking Loss In Ravens History?

Van Valkenburg and ESPN’s Jamison Hensley agree that Sunday’s AFC championship loss will go down as the most heart-breaking in Ravens history.

Hensley even believes the final two botched plays – a non-game-winning touchdown catch and a shanked 32-yard field goal – will even take its place in NFL history.

Both plays could have and should have been made.

“That’s why this is the most devastating loss in the Ravens’ 273-game existence,” wrote Hensley. “Nothing comes close. There have been other crushing blows, but the Ravens have never had a ticket to the Super Bowl taken away from them twice in the final 22 seconds of a game.”

Answers To Two Questions Weighing On Fans’ Minds

Some of you are wondering why the Ravens didn’t try a 51-yard field goal in the fourth quarter when they trailed by three points.

“We just felt like, from a percentage standpoint, we probably had a better chance of getting the first down,” John Harbaugh said. “That’s a long field goal there, under those conditions on a cold day like this. So we liked our chances to convert on fourth down.”

The “percentage standpoint” Harbs may be referring to Cundiff, who was 1 of 6 on kicks from 50 and beyond this season.

There’s a second special-teams question swirling.

Why not call a time out for Cundiff before his final failed attempt? To some, he looked rushed.

“That never occurred to me,” said Harbaugh. “I didn’t think that. You know, looking back at it now, maybe there was something we could have done. But in the situation, it didn’t seem like we were that rushed on the field. [I] thought we were in pretty good shape.”

Another interesting question would be whether taking the timeout was up to Cundiff.

Cardinals kicker Jay Feely tweeted that it’s a kicker’s job to take the timeout if needed.

“If you feel rushed, you call a time out,” he wrote. “I’ve done it before. That is your job, can’t blame the coach.”

Cundiff Didn’t Run From Heat

CBSSports.com points out that Cundiff didn’t run from reporters when they came seeking questions.

Some guys run and hide (Marion Barber, anyone?) after committing game-changing mistakes, but not Cundiff. In fact, he stood before a battery of reporters and offered no excuses for his mistake. As he said, he should’ve made the kick.

“But this is what I liked most: ‘It’s one of those things that will strengthen me in the end. Throughout my career, I’ve had challenging situations and I’m still standing here today. So it’s something that will be tough for a little while. But I’ve got two kids. There are some lessons I need to teach them. First and foremost is to stand up and face the music and move on.’ Nice, Billy. Very nice.”

Cameron’s Contract Set To Expire

There are several contract questions the Ravens will have to address this offseason.

The list includes big names like Flacco, Ray Rice and Ben Grubbs.

Prior to Sunday’s game, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen pointed out that Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron is also on that list.

“OC Cam Cameron’s contract set to expire; no extension on table,” Mortensen tweeted.

Pats Happy To Say Goodbye To Pollard

It was Pollard who busted up Brady’s knee in 2008 and ended his season in Week 1.

It was Pollard who tackled Wes Welker when he blew out his knee in the final game of 2009.

It was Pollard who knocked Rob Gronkowski out of Sunday’s game for a brief period (twisted ankle), and was the first to even come close to slowing down the tight end this season.

And finally, it was Pollard who tipped a Brady touchdown attempt in the final quarter to teammate Jimmy Smith, who intercepted it and returned it 39 yards.

Talk about a nemesis,” wrote Banks. “New England survived Pollard, but just barely. And if Gronkowski is slowed in the Super Bowl by his ankle sprain, the Curse of Pollard will strike once again in Foxboro.”

Quick Hits

    • “Well, at least the tension created by the offense versus defense debate in Baltimore just got shoved to the back burner,” wrote Banks. “Now its defense versus special teams, thanks to Cundiff’s almost unforgivable gaffe. And maybe even offense versus special teams.” [SI.com]
    • I definitely thought he caught the ball,” admitted Moore, who swiped the ball from Evans’ hands. “But I just tried to get my hand in there and get the ball out. That’s what we’re always doing in practice and in games. I just kept fighting, trying to get the ball out as good as I could. I’m always going to try to scratch at the ball until the whistle blows.” [ESPN]
    • The Patriots won despite an ineffective day from Tom Brady. Baltimore was effective when sending four or fewer pass rushers, holding Brady to season-low totals in completion percentage, yards per attempt, TD-Int differential, and NFL passer rating. [ESPN Stats and Information]
    • Even though the refs missed it, Vince Wilfork’s helmet removal would not have given Cundiff another shot at a field goal. [PFT.com]
    • While Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Bruce Arians announced his retirement Friday, team sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that the Steelers chose not to retain Arians, against the wishes of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The sources said the move was made in order to shift the offense back toward its blue-collar identity of years past, in line with the desires of Steelers president Art Rooney II. [ESPN]
    • SI_PeterKing: 1. Should have been a booth review on the Evans end-zone drop. 2. Ravens should have used third TO before Cundiff miss. [Twitter]
    • RealJimmySmith: Nothing describes the feeling in my stomach right now. It’s hard to find a positive in this one [Twitter]

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