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Saturday’s divisional playoff officiating



Packers at Falcons

John Parry is the referee.

3rd Quarter, 7:41 remaining. Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged a 23-yard reception by Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins. When Jenkins gets both feet down following a catch, there must be a recognizable amount of time that he holds possession of the ball. In this case, because he is hit right away on the second foot going down, and the ball is sliding around just after the hit, Jenkins did not hold the ball long enough. In replay, an official is to look at this type of catch-and-control call in real speed, rather than slow-motion video.

2nd Quarter, 12:12 remaining (video). Jordy Nelson, while going for the end zone contacted the pylon on the goal line. While the pylon is technically fully out of bounds, a touchdown counts because as soon as the ball (and not a player’s body part) contacts the pylon, it has broken the plane of the end zone. If Nelson contacted the pylon with a part of his body before extending the ball over the goal line, a touchdown is not scored.

Pregame. The Packers were apparently disadvantaged in Week 12 when they played at the Falcons because the Georgia Dome’s video feed to the coaches’ box was allegedly delayed. This could have cost the Packers a chance at a replay challenge. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the NFL found the equipment to be operating properly.

Ravens at Steelers

Jeff Triplette is heading up a mixed crew: three of Ed Hochuli’s officials are on the squad.

3rd Quarter, 11:37 remaining. Odd explanation of a call by Triplette, because a Steelers’ punt was first touched by one of the Steelers before Webb grabbed the ball and ran with it. Triplette called it “illegal touching,” which is technically correct, even if it implies there was a penalty. Because the Steelers touched the ball first, the Ravens had the option of taking the ball at the spot of the touch or at the spot of Webb’s runback.

End of first half. Busy, busy half for the officiating crew. That Ravens touchdown could have easily been nullified if one of the officials blew his whistle inadvertently. Despite the fact that it is a mixed crew, the officials are working well communicating with each other. Two replay reviews so far: one upheld, one reversal. Ravens 3 penalties for 52 yards, Steelers 6 for 68. (Ravens also committed a double foul on one play, so the Steelers declined one of them.)

2nd Quarter, 15:00 remaining. A CBS graphic showed that this is one of the most penalized quarters in the postseason for 20 years. The officials gained 106 yards on both teams.

1st Quarter, 1:07 remaining (video). Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger lost the ball after pump faking twice. Most players assumed it to be an incomplete pass, but Ravens defensive end Cory Redding picked the ball up, playing it as a fumble, and scored an easy touchdown. It was hard to tell, but Triplette did throw a beanbag to indicate a fumble. Also of note, this is the second play in the first quarter that involved a player continuing the play in absence of a whistle.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin challenged the fumble, but it was confirmed correctly by replay review. (Roethlisberger did not protest the call, as was noted by CBS commentator Greg Gumble, but unnoticed by Roethlisberger’s coach.) Before the first quarter ended, the Steelers exhausted their ability to challenge any plays through the duration of the game.

1st Quarter, 3:00 remaining. Ravens receiver T.J. Houshmandzedeh was lobbying unsuccessfully for a roughness penalty on Ike Taylor. Both players exchanged headbutts. At this point both teams are playing like division rivals, but the officials need to make sure they have control of this game. So far, many more penalties than any of the wild card games at this point.

1st Quarter, 12:10 remaining. Steelers receiver Hines Ward received an unnecessary roughness penalty, however in that exchange,Ed Reed of the Ravens grabbed his facemask. There should have been an offsetting facemask foul.

1st Quarter, 15:00 remaining. Right out of the chute, a replay review. This was hard to discern at full speed, so the officials do get credit for making a good call with a replay assist. The opening kickoff was returned by the Ravens’ Lardarius Webb, who was tackled by kicker Sean Suisham. Webb got up, not hearing a whistle, and ran for an additional14 yards. The original ruling was that Webb rolled over Suisham, without a part of his body other than his hand touching the ground. Webb’s elbow did graze the ground, so the ball was returned to the spot of that tackle.

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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