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SJ Hayes’ clutch call on Manningham catch

4th quarter | 3:46 remaining | Patriots 17-15 | Giants ball | 1st & 10 @ NYG 12 | video

A Super Bowl official is most content with going through an entire game without his name being mentioned once. To be singled out means that one has, at least, leveled a controversial ruling or, at worst, made a bad judgement call or error that affected the play of the game.

Side judge Laird Hayes, however, deserves specific mention for a difficult call on a pivotal play made more impressive with the circumstances in which he made the call.

On the drive when the Giants took the lead, quarterback Eli Manning connected on a 38-yard pass to receiver Mario Manningham along the sideline. Hayes had coverage on the play, and, while we watched from the comfort of our Super Bowl gathering, he had to do the following in the span of a few seconds:

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  • Run downfield to stay ahead of professional athletes who are decades younger than him
  • Turn his body while running to observe the catch behind him
  • Watch for pass interference
  • Observe two feet in bounds after the catch
  • Verify that Manningham completed the process of the catch according to the rules
  • Stay out of the way!

The contortion you see here is not while Hayes stopping to turn; he is still running full speed downfield. He made a decisive call on the play, relying on no one else to back him up. The Patriots challenged the call, and it was upheld on replay.

There is, perhaps, no better illustration of how an official is selected to the Super Bowl.

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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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