The Zebra Giveth and the Zebra Taketh Away

The zebras, or for the normal educated readers, the referees have again shifted the attention off the players and on to themselves. As if they didn’t get enough pub when they held out for more money last year.  I didn’t even know refs could hold out like that!  Freaking divas these refs! Anyways getting on with my rant, we saw two of the biggest games in the NFL outside the Broncos Chiefs game this week decided on terrible calls.  Can we say maybe the NFC South is paying the refs quite a bit of money?  The Saints had a penalty given to extend a drive late in the fourth versus the 49ers, and the Panthers have one picked up to end the game to beat the Patriots.  Let me note now, both the teams who were the beneficiary of the calls were home teams.  So spare me the notion that home field advantage doesn’t mean anything. I agree with that argument if you’re talking strictly about playing the game of football. But clearly that’s not the case when taking the human element of the game “The Zebras” into account when making judgment calls.

Lets start with the most recent, the call, and then non-call against Gronkowski in the end zone to end the game.  Let me start by saying I really don’t want to try and defend Tom Brady and the Patriots because they have gotten so many calls its ridiculous.  Eventually the calls have to even out and unfortunately for the Patriots it evened out partially tonight. But I have to call it like I see it and I personally don’t like games being decided by referees.  So some of you may be saying “well Hambino technically the game wasn’t decided by the referee because they picked up the flag!” Well I get it but you cant throw a flag because you clearly see pass interference, which lets be honest it was, and then pick it up. Kuechly never made an attempt on the ball, never turned his head around and simply pushed Gronk out of the play.  If thats not pass interference I dont know what is.   You threw the flag for a reason!  Because you saw something that your brain registered in real time that was against the rules of the game.  Instead what happens is you start to think about it, the crowd boos you, the longer you take to make a decision the more the pressure build up around you. You start to think about stuff that is outside the frame of the play and it impairs your judgment.  I like refs that if they see a foul in front of them and sticks to his call.  Although when making a call their view cant be impeded by a player or weird angle that affects what they see, which in this call wasn’t the case. Referees all the time huddle up and discuss calls when they aren’t entirely sure.  Sometimes they had the same view as the other referee they are conferring with, but in this case he looks to a referee that could not possibly have had a better or even similar view as the referee who threw the flag originally.  People will say it wasn’t catchable, and to them I say “well of course it wasn’t catchable!!” How is the guy supposed to catch the ball when he’s being draped all over by his opposition? In this case Luke Kuechly. I guess what I’m trying to say is you either call it and stick to it or you don’t call it at all.  I wouldn’t have any issue if there weren’t a flag and the game simply ended.  But it didn’t.   And for that, you lovely viewers can thank for this rant.

The other big call took place in New Orleans in crunch time in the Saints game tying drive.  It was third and two on the San Francisco 35 with three minutes left.  Ahmad Brooks came around the right tackle and close lined Drew Brees who fumbled and the 49ers recovered.  Now when I say close lined it sounds vicious and illegal but in the context of the game it was entirely legal.  He initially hit Brees just under the neck on his chest and his momentum led him up toward the neck.  But because it looked so bad to the eye and with the rules in place to protect the quarterback, the referee threw the flag.  If you look at the play the referee really cant see where Brooks is hitting Brees because of the angle he’s at.  Again see above rant about discussing calls ONLY IF you don’t have the proper angle.  But unlike the Panthers game the referee didn’t consult his counterparts and he didn’t have the proper angle to see the penalty but instead stuck with his call and extended the drive for the Saints, which ultimately led to the 49ers demise.  What makes this call even worse to me is how long it took the referee to throw the flag.  It wasn’t until the 49ers recovered the fumble and the referee saw Drew Brees lying motionless on the ground until he threw the flag.  Sure it’s a bang-bang play and it does take the referee some time to reach for his flag, but note the quickness in decision to throw the flag in the Monday Night game versus the delay in this game.  It’s just a bit odd to me.

There will always be some sort of human error in every game and I understand that its part of the game.  But its just frustrating as a fan, or non-fan in my case seeing a game decided by terrible calls or non-calls for that matter in the closing minutes of a game.  You asked for the big dollars last year, its time you start making the right calls in crunch time and justify the pay raise.  Come week 17 in the NFL season you could have just decided a division winner with all four teams, because they’re definitely going to be there come week 17 barring injuries.  You could have decided a team earning a bye week in the playoffs.  Shoot, maybe you just kept a team out of the playoffs that should be in it.  Inexcusable at this level.

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