As opposed to almost every other week this year, this is going to be pretty easy. Sunday night's game between the Colts and the Saints was very well officiated. I was most pleased with the fact that the crew let the teams play, as there were only eight assessed penalties for 64 yards.
There are a few plays we'll examine, starting with the one controversial call -- the Saints' two-point conversion to go up 24-17.
On the play, Lance Moore appeared to bobble the football while going to the ground and then completely lose control once he hit. The initial ruling on the field was an incomplete pass. As we have seen all season -- since Louis Murphy's non-catch in Week 1 -- a receiver must control the ball through the ground when he's falling to the ground as he makes a catch. Thus, it would appear the incomplete call was the correct one. Instead, the call was overturned. Why?
Well, the referee, Scott Green, and the replay official apparently judged Moore to have already completed the catch when he was going to the ground and then his lunging forward with the ball -- still in his control -- to cross the plane. After it crossed the plane, then, it was knocked out by the Colts' defender. It's all in the interpretation. If you believe the entire play was the act of Moore going to the ground, you believe it should have been an incomplete pass. If you believe that Moore hit the ground, maintained control of the ball, and then lunged forward with the ball, you believe it was correctly ruled a two-point conversion.
Two other notes:
• It appeared Peyton Manning got blocked in the back on Tracy Porter's game-clinching interception return for a touchdown. Had it been called, it would have certainly made things more interesting. Of course, the circumstances on the play illustrate why it wasn't called. Manning kept twisting and turning his body in order to see if he could get an angle on Porter. In the process, the would-be blocker was simply chasing him. As we've discussed before, you can't draw a block in the back. Meaning, you can't wait until a guy is about to block you and then spin at the last second. Also, you can't continually act like you are going to turn around only to keep spinning and draw a foul. In this situation, Manning kept nearly spinning without actually spinning, and then he appeared to slow down, meaning he was the one who initiated the contact -- and it was pretty slight anyway. The no-call here was the correct one.
• On the onside kick, there was an ensuing scrum where it took forever for the officials to sort out who had recovered the ball, in addition to all the near-fights on the perimeter of the pile. I don't think anyone can ever get a sense of how difficult this is to officiate, and I can't even imagine the difference in difficulty from what I've seen (high school) to the Super Bowl. Remember, there are only seven officials and they aren't wearing pads. Meanwhile, 22 players in pads are legally fighting for the football. Meanwhile, the officials are trying to find out who has the ball as soon as possible, while also maintaining control outside the pile. If anything could have been improved here, they could have thrown offsetting unnecessary roughness penalties on each team. Usually, once the flags fly, players are more apt to settle down. Still, they got through the situation, awarded the correct team the ball and didn't have to assess any yardage. We'll call that a success.
As I said earlier, great job by the crew. I'd give them an A on the game and have confidence that their regular season grading system did a nice job this year. Remember, the Super Bowl crew was not a regular-season crew. It was actually the highest-graded official at each position, so it was like an All-Star team of officials.
As it turned out, they were.
Got a rules-related question? Whether it's an elementary, high school or NFL rule -- or hate mail -- feel free to email TZR. Also, the comments section on the Zebra Report is an open forum. Discussion is encouraged from people who want to discuss the rules like mature adults.