Dean Blandino wasn’t in charge of the league’s officials during Super Bowl XLVII. But he is now, and he’s doing his best to explain away the decision not to throw a flag on Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith for defensive holding/pass interference against receiver Michael Crabtree on the key fourth and goal fade route on which the game turned.
“When you watch it at full speed, to me, it was a good non-call,” Blandino tells Bob Glauber of Newsday.
“I think the first thing you have to understand is that, once the ball is in the air, you can’t have defensive holding or illegal contact,” Blandino said. “Now you have to see if the contact raised to the level of pass interference. . . .
“With pass interference, you have to materially affect the receiver’s ability to catch the pass,” Blandino added. “Yes, there’s hand-fighting [between Smith and Crabtree], but Crabtree also has his hand on [Smith's] helmet. The pass was catchable, but the contact did not materially restrict Crabtree’s ability to catch the pass. He was jockeying for position and using his hands as well.”
Though we agree that it was a good non-call, we disagree with Blandino’s explanation. Viewed in isolation, Smith should have been flagged. Under those circumstances, however, the flag gets pushed deeper into the pockets of the officials. That’s just the way it is, and it helped the 49ers get to the Super Bowl in the first place.
Of course, it’s one thing for the officials to behave that way, and it’s quite another for the NFL to admit it. Ideally, however, the officials wouldn’t hide behind the concept of “letting them play” in situations where it takes an extra level of cajones to call a foul.