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6 observations from Super Bowl XLVIII

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McAulay crew handles first dud Super Bowl in 10 years

Well, this year’s Super Bowl will not go down as a classic in terms of excitement, but the Seahawks’ defensive performance will be talked about for a long time.   Peyton Manning’s future and legacy (rightly or wrongly) will be hot topics for the next few news cycles.   Thankfully, the officiating will not be a topic to debate.   There was no call that swung momentum or decided the game, but there were some things I noticed while zebra watching tonight.

1.   McAulay was very relaxed at the coin toss, even though there was a gaffe.    

McAulay handed the coin to Joe Namath and forgot to ask Seattle to call  heads or tails  – or Namath tossed the coin before getting permission from McAulay.   The veteran referee quickly reacted, caught the coin, and got the captain’s choice. Everyone, including McAulay, got a nice chuckle out of it, there was no need to be embarrassed, and everyone got on with the game (video).

Referee Terry McAulay (left) was thrown a curve ball during the coin toss.

2.   Speaking of coin tosses, the media was kept at bay and let the referee and captains do their job.

The Super Bowl coin toss is the most viewed football coin toss annually.   The crew even goes through a coin toss dress rehearsal the day before the game.   There are many layers of extra detail to the coin toss, including a special coin, special guests to toss the coin, an extra layer  of tension as the teams just want to kick off and a crush of media that wants to be in on the ceremony.   In the past few years, the media crush at the center of the field has gotten ridiculous (video from Super Bowl XLV).   I don’t know if the NFL Referees Association requested a little relief, or if the NFL executives took the initiative, but the media kept its distance and let McAulay and the captains do their job.

3.   All in all, pass interference wasn’t a factor in the game.

Side judge Dave Wyant calls a play in Super Bowl XLVIII

One big story line this past week was how the aggressive Seattle defense would fare against the Denver pass attack, and how the officials (especially field judge Scott Steenson, side judge Dave Wyant, and back judge Steve Freeman) would call defensive holding, illegal contact, and pass interference.   There was one pass play late in the first half where I thought a Seahawks player got away with illegal contact or pass interference, but all in all, the officiating crew called a very good game in the secondary.   

4.   Line judge Tom Symonette set an early tone.

The Seahawks hit hard and then tell their opponents all about it.   Early in the game, the Seahawks kicked off to the Broncos and once the receiver downed the ball in the end zone for a touchback, a Seahawks player delivered a late hit on an unsuspecting Bronco.   Symonette didn’t bother scolding, warning or giving the teams a “talk to.”   He brought out the flag, and helped the crew send an early message that post-whistle nonsense  would not be tolerated.   Honorable mention goes to Terry McAulay who warned a Seahawks player in the first half as he was starting to bark at the Broncos’ sideline.   Thankfully there were not any major  scraps this game and both teams mostly displayed good sportsmanship.

crop malcolm smith carl paganelli5.   Umpire Carl Paganelli showed hustle and snuffed out potential tinderboxes.

Several times, #124 jumped between players who were pushing and shoving, jawing, or about to square off.   One time, two players were wrestling on the ground after the whistle, and Paganelli jumped on the two players and separated them.   He worked hard to set the ball ready for the next play, and from his position in the backfield, was able to rule a pass over the middle incomplete.   Here, he is in reverse mechanics on the interception return by Seahawks linebacker and Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.

6.   The officials have to be ready on the first play.

Ok, McAulay got the coin toss out of the way without major problems, everyone lined up on the right side of the field, the kicker waited until he blew the whistle, and the game got started with a routine kickoff return.   Time to settle in, get a few plays under the belt, and get into the groove.   Right?   Wrong.   The first play featured a complete breakdown, illegal motion by Peyton Manning, a bad snap into the end zone and a safety.   McAulay could have been caught napping or not ready for the start of the game and looked really bad on that play.   He was ready, Seattle was ready, the Broncos were not ready (video).   

This game did not feature any calls that will be scorned or praised, but the seven officials who were tasked to call Super Bowl XLVIII did themselves and the game proud.

  Photos: Ben Leiberman/NFL, Denver Broncos (middle photos), Ric Tapia/NFL

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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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8 thoughts on “6 observations from Super Bowl XLVIII

  1. The best kind of day for the refs: nobody had any reason to notice them. Great job by the crew. Especially in the beginning, when there was a lot of post-whistle pushing and chattering, they were all over it right away.

  2. Now THAT’S the way it should be done! Great job by the crew. Notice the fit look of the guys, too. Now if 345 Park would clean out those who need to go and get some new blood, we’ll see more of that in the regular season.

  3. And that is why Terry MacAuley is the vest referee in the NFL. I aspire to be like Ed Hochuli, I should aspire to be like Terry.

  4. As usual, come to this site to read the sucking up. This crew was much better than the one in the NFC title game two weeks ago, which crew did affect the outcome. This crew was also much better than last year’s SB crew, which did directly affect the outcome with the failure to call the hold to DPI (when restriction continued when ball went up) at end of game which if called correctly, would have given San Fran First and goal at one with 30 seconds to go. However, contrary to their boss Blandino’s direction, this crew did not call the game as they would call a regular season game. Rather, they allowed the DB’s of Seattle to get away with stuff that would not be permitted in the regular season. Contrary to what the media and public seem to think, the officials should not “let them play” just because it is the Super Bowl. The calls must be made as they normally are made in regular season, and Blandino emphasized this. Because they were not, Seattle (already a tough, aggressive defense which pushes the envelope) got away with alot of holding in the secondary, and in one blatant case early in 2d quarter (if I recall) if the missed DPI was called, Denver gets a first down and perhaps game direction changes. Denver receiver on short slant is grabbed and restricted, big time and defender was not playing the ball – not called. This was a monstrous missed call early in the game. On another occasion a Seattle defender had a huge DPI – category cut off – also not called. These were two missed DPI’s that should be downgraded as MCs. There were a few bang-bangs that could have gone either way; if I were the evaluator I would have no issue with those close bang-bang non calls. The spot which was challenged in the first quarter was a horrendous miss – off by a yard – and not a difficult call to get correct if the covering official was in a good position to see it (He was not). Thus, the call was reversed, but replay blew it further by not awarding a first down. The ball clearly broke the plane of the yard line which was the LTG, as knee touched down. Easy reversal to a first down with good camera shot as expected in the SB; replay switched it but they didn’t switch it enough. Remember – the first down on this series started on a line as it should – reach the line of the LTG and you have a first. Denver again got the short end of the stick here. The missed down by contact on Denver’s kickoff return was reversed – this is a case of an official not seeing what he needs to see (runner down by contact) and thus ruling fumble and hope replay bails him out. Not a good method to work through a game, hoping replay bails you out. An official needs to man up and make the call. As for the coin toss? An embarrassment which ended up okay, but could have been prevented by proper preparation of the honorary “tossee” Namath, by the R. This was a simple lack of attention to the minute details involved in getting a game started correctly. When you are on the big stage, you can leave no stone unturned in your preparation during the pre-game. The R failed here, even though he saved an embarrassing situation from become more of an embarrassment by catching the errant toss by the coin tosser. This could have prevented by properly instructing the coin tosser of what he is to do, pre-game, and not providing him the coin prior to the R needing it tossed. Again, better attention to details would have prevented this embarrassing moment on national TV. All in all, a better job than last week’s horribly officiated NFC Title game, but the early (yes and huge) mistakes by this crew may have changed a blow out to a tighter game. It is a wonder how the majority of the commentors on this site miss these basic things that a top official sees, and winces, as it occurs, on the television – then conveniently forget the major mistakes and simply say “good job.”

  5. His RIDICULOUS ramblings at that. How do you know Namath wasn’t told? He is old and senile and probably forgot to wait. They did a run-through on Friday.
    How can you conclude that on the kickoff “fumble” that they “let” relay bail them out? They called what they saw. Did YOU interview after the game to ask them ? Your “conclusions” are based upon non-verifiable assumptions.
    You’re right by saying that they did not call the game like the regular season. That’s because if you paid attention to the regular season, which we ALL know you did, you would admit that there wasn’t much worse that could be done than what happened in regular season. With a few exceptions, the Replacements did a just as good, if not better, collective job with 3 months training versus years.

  6. I knew I should have bought stock in tinfoil…

    That aside, your analysis was as sharp as I’ve come to expect from this site. It was a very well officiated game, and you’re also correct that the tone was set early but I thought all of the refs – I saw a couple of occasions where the back judge stepped in to talk with players early in the game.

    I’d also like to thank the whole FBZ crew for another fantastic season! The live tweeting of games, the solid reporting and analysis have made this site just as much a go to for me as Pro Football Reference, MMQB, and Thank you all for your efforts, it is very much appreciated. Here’s to Football!

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