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6 officiating observations of Super Bowl LIV

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The centennial NFL season is in the books. Wasn’t the Hall of Fame game like a month ago? As we bring the curtain down on Super Bowl LIV, here are six officiating observations.

1. Bill Vinovich ran a good coin toss

What is it this year with captains and coin tosses? San Francisco won the toss and deferred. The choice fell to the Chiefs whether or receive or defend a goal. The Chiefs just about went over the cliff and defended a goal. But, Vinovich firmly steered the Chiefs back on the right track.

If you look closely at the footage above, you can see Vinovich reach for his mic switch. He was about to turn it off spare the Chiefs, the NFL and himself any embarrassment or controversy.  

Coaches will need to take a few extra minutes next training camp to teach their captains coin toss rules.

And a classy moment as Vinovich showed respect to the World War II veteran when he delivered the coin for the toss.

2. Good work by the deep wings to keep everyone apart

I observed both Boris Cheek and Michael Banks working to keep opponents apart along the sideline. There was lots of yapping as players went out of bounds, but both deep wings kept players apart and quelled any potential taunting fouls or physical altercations.

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3. Vinovich a good team mate

Late in the third quarter, Jimmy Garoppolo was shoved out of bounds in front of his bench. The contact started inbounds and wasn’t unduly rough.  

But Kyle Shanahan went off like a skyrocket. He screamed at line judge Carl Johnson for a personal foul call on the Chiefs. It wasn’t even close to a foul.

Bill Vinovich quickly got to the sideline to keep order, and he also got between Shanahan and Johnson and got the coach under control. He also served as a buffer and took the heat off of Johnson.  

That’s what a good crew chief does.

4. Delay of game?  

Delay of game is not reviewable and a total judgement call by the back judge. On the fourth down play by the 49ers, a delay of game would have actually benefitted the 49ers. Can you imagine the outrage from the Chiefs if the 49ers converted that play?

The NFL does not want buzzers, replays and tenths of a second determining delay of game. It is an inexact science and that’s how the NFL wants it.

5. Calls in the secondary correct or evened out

49ers called for pass interference (Kansas City Chiefs)

Greg Steed, Michael Banks and Boris Cheek all did well in the secondary. The Chiefs got away with one pass interference, but the 49ers scored a few plays later, so it evened out.

In the Super Bowl, the NFL needs secondary officials who aren’t afraid to make the tough calls. The deep judges were fearless tonight and deserve praise.

6. Always be ready

When Pat Mahomes threw his second interception with the Chiefs trailing, I thought to myself, “This could be the beginning of the end.” But, both teams kept playing and playing hard.

Bill Vinovich’s crew could have thought what I thought and relaxed. But, they kept up the intensity all the way through the confetti shower. They had tough calls to make all the way to the final gun and the crew rose to the occasion.

The end of the season comes so abruptly. Yes, this year there is XFL football, but … it won’t be the same. But, another hazy, hot and humid summer will come and go, it’ll be September, and the second century of NFL football will kick off before we know it.

Congratulations to Bill Vinovich’s Super Bowl LIV crew. Football Zebras will be here all off-season to cover rule changes, new hires, official retirements and any other news.  

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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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10 thoughts on “6 officiating observations of Super Bowl LIV

  1. Quiet game, aside from some tensions on the sidelines. Couldn’t ask for more in the biggest game of the year.

  2. Not a single holding call on The Chiefs against arguably the best defense in the league. Hmmm…They were holding like vice grips throughout the game, especially the second half when I am sure they were instructed to hold if necessary until the refs called it, which they never did. There were key plays when the Niners, especially Bosa was blatantly held to give Mahome extra time to throw the ball down field. Sad.

  3. I had no team in this fight but the PI call was ticky tac..normal hand fighting between WR and DB. The biggest issue was no holding calls on KC. It was known before the game that the 49ers up front were much better than KC and if the Refs werent going to call holding than it would be tough for 49ers to win. Go back to the play Mahomes ran close to the Goaline for a big gain, huge miss holding call. I agree that in big games like this, I want less call and the players to decide but you cant call PI on a big play like that and not call holding on others.

  4. I would like to point why Kyle Shanahan was completely giving it to Carl Johnson, the blatant offsides that was not called at the start of the play where Jimmy got legally contacted prior to going out of bounds. That would have allowed a 5yd penalty and replay of 3rd down. Instead, the 49ers had to punt and KC marched down for their 1st TD of the 4th quarter. On the next 49ers series, on a 3rd down incompletion, Jimmy was contacted after the pass to his helmet by the defenders helmet. That is a foul that has been called all year long for roughing the passer (contact to the head or neck area of the passer). Would have resulted in an automatic first down and the drive to continue. You talked about needing to be fully focused for the 4th quarter but those were both huge misses in the final quarter.

  5. The line judge’s spots of the ball were abysmal the entire first half. A yard or more off at least 5 times. Then he blew an obvious false start on a critical third down play in the second half. It was so obvious, many players stopped thinking a penalty was called. Found it hard to believe an entire game could be played without an offensive holding call. Most of the secondary calls were pretty obvious.

  6. The OPI call on Kittle should have been a non call. Let the players play.

    Shanahan should never have allowed his QB to snap a ball with the play clock ticking towards zero and three time outs left. Can’t roll those time outs until next year. That being said … call the damned delay of game penalty.

    Two bad miscues from the BJ.

    As for Shanahan being mad at the LJ … can’t blame him. How do you miss a guy as big as 92 on KC going offside.

    Great call on the TD by Kent Payne.

    Thought overall the officials did a good job not calling too many penalties and let the play flow well.

    Kudos to Vinovich for not letting the coin toss be a mess and the coin delivered by the Tuskeegee air vet was awesome.

  7. The only call I would question was the OPI on George Kittle at the end of the half. Have seen many no calls on that same type of action and on even more obvious efforts to “make space”. Also, that’s a great description to explain how delay of game is interpreted – an inexact science.

  8. On the TD pass that was reviewed, good to see officials call it a TD so automatic review; agree with call stands because not enough info to overturn; BUT, officials missed clear OPI on KC tight end on the play.

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