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5 observations from conference championship weekend

schuster ez conf champ

It was a great weekend of football, and the conference championship officiating crews did well by their respective games.

1. Umpire Bill Schuster had the game of his life

Number 129 was everywhere Sunday night.   He jumped in between potential combatants, dug to the bottom of fumble scrums, hustled to get the ball back in play, and knew when to be a diplomat and when to bark at players to maintain order.   If you officiate and are an umpire, watch the game by Schuster — that’s how you work the umpire position.

2. NFL will likely make fumble recoveries reviewable in the offseason

NaVorro Bowman forced a fumble in the field of play and suffered a gruesome injury in the process (article here with photo that is not for the squeamish).   As everyone piled on top of Bowman and his badly injured knee, the ball changed hands back into the Seahawks’ hands.   Replays clearly showed Bowman in possession of the ball and down by contact; however by rule, who recovers a fumble is not reviewable.   The NFL will most likely revise replay to make fumble recoveries reviewable especially for plays like the Bowman play.   Fortunately for today, the issue was moot as the Seahawks fumbled the ball to the 49ers on the next play.

3. Illegal picks not only in basketball

We all got an education in illegal picks in the AFC Conference Championship game.   The officials called the Patriots  for offensive pass interference when their tight end, Michael  Hoomanawanui, blocked his defender into another, freeing up another Patriots receiver for a long gainer.   Patriot fans were also calling for the same call on a few Broncos’ plays as well.   Let’s see if this call will be a point of emphasis next season, now that it was put in the spotlight this weekend.

4. The crazier it gets, the calmer the officials

Not once this weekend, did officials lose control of their emotions.   Sure we may have witnessed an official or two bark at two players about to square off, but the crazier it got, the louder the coaches (one in particular) yelled, the calmer the officials were.   The officials were the only ones this weekend paid to keep their cool, and they earned their money well.

5. Alternates are vital in the playoffs

Alternate officials don’t get paid just to watch the game in the playoffs.   When the TV showed the coaches on the sidelines during a close or controversial call this weekend (and in the entire playoffs) the alternates were close by, many times acting as a liaison for the crew.   The alternate also was in communication with the NFL observer and replay official to let them know what was going on down on the field.   While not as prestigious as a onfield assignment, the alternates play a vital role on the game.

All in all, it was a great weekend for the Corrente and Steratore crews.   The teams decided the outcome of the games.

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Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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11 thoughts on “5 observations from conference championship weekend

  1. Schuster had the game of his life? What game were you watching. The second half had multiple wrong bad or questionable calls or non calls. And I am a fan of neither the Niners or Seahawks. The poor officiating was just obvious.

  2. why no comment on the failure to call a 15 yard penalty on roughing the kicker, colliding into his planted leg?

  3. My oh my. WHAT GAME WERE YOU WATCHING? The extremely poor officiating played a major part in the outcome of the NFC game. Are you kidding me? This game was the topper for the entire season of poor officiating. Whoever writes these blurbs is certainly are no expert in officiating at the highest level. Please. If you want to have a legitimate website, you have to be objective. Call a spade a spade. The officiating in the NFC game was extremely poor, and did affect the outcome.

    Where do we start? There were so many incorrect or flat out bad calls in this game I do not know where to begin, nor can I remember all of them. Here is what I remember.

    How about the roughing the kicker? Defender rolled the punter’s plant leg. That’s roughing. Not called. An easy call missed, which gives the 49ers a first down. Game changing blown call, and mechanically a very easy call to see. That is all the R is watching. The guy flat out missed it.

    The Seattle “free play” on the flag for the DOF. DOF was not there, the player got back – no advantage, should be no flag. The defender was backing up at the snap! NO ADVANTAGE NO FLAG AND HE WASN’T IN THE NZ SO BY RULE IT IS NO FLAG! A smart QB makes that dangerous throw into tight coverage because he knows it is a free play if it is picked off. Should have never happened – defender clearly back and not in NZ at snap. IC.

    TD call which was reversed. Poor technique by short wing. He did not crash at snap which is a must on this dive play on GL; then he comes in really late with a TD signal. Poor mechanics contributed to this incorrect (and reversed) call. Clearly with the delay he did not see the play. Coming in late and seeing ball on ground in EZ does not mean it is a TD. Pure guess work, and the short wing guessed incorrectly.

    A shoulder to shoulder hit was called as a PF. Another clear miss. 15 yards of field position in a tight game. HUGE GAME AFFECTING IC.

    Bowman’s recovery of a fumbled ball. Pure and simple, another blown call. Karma was working, as the Seahawks coughed it up next play. Nevertheless, a horrible miss and game changer, absent Karma.

    A marginal (at best) UNS on sideline at end of half takes 49ers out of potential FG range. If not called, they have 20 seconds to advance maybe 15 yards for a shot at a FG. This marginal (at best) call affected the game in a big way.

    Please. If you want credibility for this site, stop the sucking up. Sure, you might lose your insider information, but at least you will be credible. At least this guy is accurate as to why the officiating continues to get worse year after year. Nepotism and lack of accountability.

  4. I have to agree with the other commenters. I go to this website to see specialized and honest commentary about the referee’s job. I really am quite suspicious now about how unbiased this site is based on the reporting on the seahawks game and lack of acknowledgement of huge issues there.

  5. While I won’t argue with the 5 points themselves, although I suspect that the umpire was the guy who missed more than one call during the game, I must agree with the other commentators that overall there were a ton of badly missed, crucial calls in the SF-SEA games and I wouldn’t call it a good game for that crew by any means. It would be fascinating to see the grades to see what the league office thinks.

  6. The Seatthe officiating crew did NOT do well by their respective game. I didn’t have a dog in the fight and I don’t like Harbaugh, but 49rs got screwed a couple times.

  7. Regarding the comments about the officiating in the NFC game, we did call these out in our live coverage. There were some really big misses, and the crew did not live up to the assignment. It is a disappointment, to say the least.

    I do not think that Mark’s observations show bias. He has pointed to a few items that have not been covered, and the fact that Schuster had a good game should not be obscured by the performance of the rest of the crew. THAT is the coverage we strive for: we call out the misses that everyone is harping about, but we also show when someone has done right.

  8. Some of the calls were pretty horrific (Steratore’s running into the punter call being one of the worst) but just because some of the officials made some bad decisions doesn’t mean Schu didn’t have an excellent game. He did.

  9. Thank you Football Zebras. As long as others are going to talk about missed call or bad calls in the NFC Championship game, let’s add some more.

    -Jeremy Lane tackled out of bounds by a 49er not in uniform.

    – Kaepernick kicking a ball he had stripped so the Hawks couldn’t recover.

    – Crabtree holding Sherman on an incompletion that got Sherman called for holding.

    – And the most egregious errors not by an official, Kaepernick being stripped in the 4th (recovery Seattle), interception of Kaepernick lame duck pasd by Cam Chancellor in the 4th, the tip interception of Kaepernick in the 4th, Sherman to Smith (Only the second targeting of Sherman). These were the last three possessions of the 49ers. I’m sure this was somehow the Refs fault.

    By the way, there was a neutral zone infraction on the 4th and 7 TD pass. The entire body counts and not just parts if it.

  10. Just to be accurate, it was not an NZI on the 4th and seven. An NZI is a penalty on the defense which is called when the defender improperly enters the neutral zone prior to the snap, causing the offensive player to false start. Since the defensive player caused the false start, the defense is hit with a 5-yard penalty. Dead ball. No play. Here, the call was DOF.

    Now, as to Ben, the operator of the site, and I quote:

    “All in all, it was a great weekend for the Corrente and Steratore crews. The teams decided the outcome of the games.”

    That is not an accurate statement relating to the NFC game. The crew had several major unacceptable mistakes, that had a huge effect on the outcome. Let’s call a spade a spade. You may lose the insider info you obtain, but at least your site would have credibility.

    Face it – this was the worst season in NFL history, as far as the officiating is concerned. It seems like every week, there were major snafus that cost teams games. Heck, the Steelers were left out of the playoffs because of a missed call, and an easy one at that. Makes you wonder is Lance Easley was on the game. But for Lance, half the current crop of NFL officials would be on the outside looking in this past season.

  11. Here’s what drives me crazy: the NFL sets it up so that if the referees cause a fumble and get the recovery wrong, they can’t overturn it. Now they’re saying, “Well, maybe that should be reviewable.” (If it had happened a few yards away in the endzone it would have been reviewable. If the refs had not called a fumble at all, it would have been reviewable. But if they call it a fumble it’s not.) WTF? Did they think this would never happen? EVERY thing happens at some point, and I don’t know why the NFL makes what’s allowed and not allowed to be reviewed so damn complicated.

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