During the on-air portion of the “Official Review” segment of NFL Network’s Total Access, V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira admitted that a flag should have wiped out the third-quarter interception thrown by Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, due to a low hit applied by Saints defensive end Bobby McCray. (MDS has more on the non-call right here.)
It’s possible that referee Pete Morelli swallowed the whistle because he had called a roughing the passer penalty only a few plays earlier, extending the drive. But Pereira explained that the driving of Favre into the ground was “poster-child” evidence of a personal foul, despite the fact that FOX’s Troy Aikman strongly disagreed with the call. So there should have been no need for a make-up call — especially since the hit to Favre’s lower legs was obvious.
During the online-only portion of the “Official Review” feature, Pereira talked about several other disputed plays from the game. Specifically, he addressed two key decisions from the sole drive of overtime.
First, he discussed a catch by Saints receiver Robert Meachem that moved the game-winning field goal attempt to 40 yards. The ball seemed to hit the ground — and move — as Meachem tried to secure possession. Pereira explained that insufficient visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, regardless of whether the call on the field had been that the pass was complete or incomplete.
In this regard, we agreed with the decision. Though it appears that the call was wrong, the “100 drunks in a bar” standard requires clear evidence to overturn the real-time ruling. And clear evidence was not available.
Pereira also talked about the key fourth-down plunge by running back Pierre Thomas, during which the helmet of linebacker Chad Greenway seemed to dislodge the ball after Thomas achieved forward progress. Pereira again explained that insufficient visual evidence existed to permit an accurate re-spotting of the ball, even if it were determined that he lost possession and then recovered possession while in the air. (As to the possible loss of possession, Pereira accurately observed that Thomas might have maintained sufficient possession with his right hand.) The problem is that Thomas was in the air, which makes it virtually impossible to establish the kind of reference point needed to spot the ball anywhere other than where it had been spotted on the field.
So, again, the call might have been bad, but the application of the replay rules was accurate.
Finally, Pereira said nothing at all about a pass interference call on Vikings linebacker Ben Leber on a ball that seemed to be uncatchable — unless Saints tight end David Thomas were 10-feet tall.
Of course, nothing said by Pereira or anyone else after the fact really matters. Vikings fans will continue to believe that their team got a raw deal, and Saints fans will continue to point to the final score and/or the Vikings’ many turnovers and/or calls that went against the home team.
Still, we hope that the NFL will aspire to reach a level of officiating that allows no team to legitimately believe that they lost a game due to anything other than the superiority of the opponent. We also hope that, someday, the NFL will reach that goal, on a consistent basis.