Football Zebras
ControversyNo further review on Cards’ last play

No further review on Cards’ last play

Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh vs. Cardinals

Video from NFL.com
Video from NFL.com

Officials don’t win or lose games. The Cardinals had a three-point lead with 2:47 remaining in the fourth quarter. So, rather the defense is mostly responsible for the outcome, rather than the denial of a last-second desperation play.

Kurt Warner’s last ditch effort did, however, deserve more than a cursory look at three angles. It is hard to believe that the evidence is conclusive enough to confirm whether or not Warner fumbled the ball. The New York Times’ Fifth Down blog has sequential photos of the play, suggesting this could be the Tuck Rule II.

In this case, the on-field officiating crew had done everything correct. The replay official, Bob McGrath, was the sole decider on whether a last-minute play gets a review by Terry McAulay, the head referee.

The league’s vice president of officiating, Mike Pereira, backed up McGrath’s assessment to NBC:

We confirmed it was a fumble. The replay assistant in the replay booth saw it was clearly a fumble. The ball got knocked loose and was rolling in his hand before it started forward. He has to have total control.

Well, yeah, but sometimes you have to think that the magnitude of the call requires another look-see. And especially since there already was a fumble-to-incomplete reversal on the first drive of the third quarter.

This is an odd situation in the world of refereedom. If any one official makes an incorrect call, and it is not corrected, the bad call is pinned on all seven officials. However, the decision of the replay official has no on-field intervention.

Further frustrating the Cardinals sideline was the fact that they were a perfect 2-for-2 on red-flag challenges, being awarded the rare third challenge for being correct on the first two. However, that challenge disappears from the ledger once the two-minute warning is called in the fourth quarter.

Ben Austro
Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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