The story of last week was hits to the head. The story of this week might turn out to be the call that wound up deciding the Steelers-Dolphins game in Miami.
With just over two minutes to play and the Dolphins leading 22-20, Ben Roethlisberger appeared to fumble while reaching the ball into the end zone and it appeared that the Dolphins fell on the ball. Replays showed that the ball came loose before he broke the plane of the goal line, but referee Gene Steratore said that it was inconclusive as to whether or not the Dolphins recovered. That meant it was fourth-and-goal from inside the one, and the Steelers kicked a game-winning field goal.
The first part of the call was absolutely correct. Roethlisberger fumbled, thanks to a Chris Clemons hit, before hitting paydirt, but the second part is going to be awfully hard for the Dolphins to swallow. The replay does show two Dolphins falling on the ball, although what happens at the bottom of the pile is anybody’s guess. Tony Sparano called it a “screw up” after the game, although you wonder whether he might not have wanted to put job in there instead of up.
Mike Florio will delve deeper into the call in his 10-pack, but for now let’s hear the thoughts of PFT Planet.
We will also add this. Whatever your feelings about the end of the game, you can’t totally absolve the Dolphins of their role in this defeat. They got the ball inside the red zone twice in the first two minutes thanks to fumbles by the Steelers and only turned the takeaways into six points. Make a couple of plays there and the referees wouldn’t have had a thing to do with the outcome.
UPDATE: Here’s Sparano talking about the call.