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50 Super Bowl calls

50 Super Bowl calls, Part 5: The Top 10



⇐ #5-3

2. David Tyree catches ball by pinning it to his helmet

Super Bowl XLII

Giants vs. Patriots

February 3, 2008

Covering officials: SJ Larry Rose, BJ Scott Helverson

The Patriots were looking to close out the final chapter of their perfect season with a four-point lead late in the fourth quarter. They already faced the Giants in the season closer — in a tight game as well — to become the first team to run the table in a 16-game season. It was just a matter of holding off the Giants attack for another 2½ minutes to make history.

Quarterback Eli Manning lead the Giants offense on a drive beginning at their 17-yard line. After moving to the 44-yard line, the Giants faced a 3rd-and-5 after Asante Samuel nearly had a title-clinching interception. The play call was 76 Union Y Sail with Manning in shotgun formation. A fourth-and-long play seemed inevitable as Manning was swarmed by the Patriots pass rush, but he somehow broke out of it to heave the ball to receiver David Tyree, who broke his route and was standing at the 25-yard line.

Tyree had to out-leap Patriots cornerback Rodney Harrison and was able to secure the football with his fingertips but could not establish control in his hands. As he fell to the ground, Tyree pinned the ball to his helmet and was fortunate that Harrison did not knock the ball away. Because both players were falling from their leap, Harrison was not able to simply swipe at the ball, and Tyree kept the ball frozen in position without attempting to cradle the ball and potentially losing control. When the ball is held tenuously like that, there is a higher standard to demonstrate control, but Tyree did not allow the ball to move.

The ball also dipped low to the turf, but it never touched the ground. This obviated any judgement calls of Tyree using the ground to establish or assist possession. When a player has conventionally secured the ball, the ball can move slightly upon touching the ground as long as the receiver demonstrates he was in full control before and after touching the ground. Tyree, it can be argued, wasn’t in full control of the ball when it neared the ground.

Side judge Larry Rose and back judge Scott Helverson were keyed on the reception and watched as the ball came perilously close to the ground and watched intently for any signs of a loose ball. They awarded the reception. Although replay could have very easily overturned an incomplete call into a reception, Rose and Helverson did not need it. After a review, the catch call was confirmed, and Tyree etched his name permanently in Super Bowl lore.

But Tyree has no catch, if it was not for the fact that …

1. Eli Manning breaks free and evades a sack

Super Bowl XLII

Giants vs. Patriots

February 3, 2008

Covering official: Mike Carey

The Tyree catch is completely dependent on what occurred — and didn’t occur — in the offensive backfield.

Under pressure, Manning was surrounded by the pass rush, with defensive linemen Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green and linebacker Adalius Thomas all having an opportunity to sack Manning.

Disappearing from view, it seemed Manning was in the grasp of the Patriots pass rush and was sacked. Referee Mike Carey was in his usual position, which was behind the pile, and he ran in to confirm the play was over. Manning somehow broke free of Seymour’s grip on his jersey and evaded the defense. Carey, who was now within feet of the scrambling Manning, had to feverishly backpedal to avoid getting mixed up in the play.

The key to Carey not whistling the play dead is that the defense must demonstrate grasp and control, which was obviously absent here. That said, there is no magic catch-all as for how long it takes to determine the quarterback is in the grasp to rule the play dead. Manning might have bought some time because he disappeared from Carey’s direct line of sight, but through it all, Manning was moving under his own power. Although Seymour had Manning’s jersey, it was not enough to give the Patriots a sack and shut the play down.

If Carey had been quick on his whistle, the Patriots are more likely to have pulled off the final victory in that perfect season. Although, in that alternate universe, it still tops the Football Zebras list of 50 Super Bowl calls, but for all of the wrong reasons. — Ben Austro



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