Return to Atlanta: Dirty (replay) Laundry

I was in transit for a good part of Monday and didn't get a chance to review Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy's news conference transcript until Tuesday morning. But even now, it's worth noting that McCarthy did not allow a controversial series of events to go unaddressed following the Packers' Nov. 28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.

As we discussed in a Dirty Laundry post at the time, the NFL acknowledged that Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez should not have been credited with a reception on a key fourth-down play in the second quarter. Replays clearly showed the ball hitting the ground before Gonzalez gained full control, but McCarthy did not challenge the ruling because the replay was not visible on the Georgia Dome's internal television feed until after the next play began.

Here's what McCarthy said about the issue Monday when asked if he was aware of different delays at various stadiums:

"That's a great question. I don't have the answer to that. Whether it's the direct TV feed, or if it's the direct feed from the network, or exactly what it is. I don't know if it's by stadium. I know [general manager] Ted Thompson and Russ Ball, our vice president of football operations, have looked into that specific situation after what occurred in Atlanta. But we're worried about lining up and playing. The technical part of it really in our view is not going to affect the outcome of this game."

It's true. I've been in NFL press boxes with televisions on the wall that are almost in sync with what I'm seeing live on the field. I've been in others where you can watch a play, write down some notes, and then look at the television to watch the play again "live." The assistants who monitor replays to advise coaches on challenge decisions are watching the same feed.

The implication, of course, is that the Falcons benefit from the delay at the Georgia Dome by limiting the opportunities of opponents to review officiating decisions and potentially challenge them. If there is a questionable call involving the Falcons, stadium operators immediately show the replay on the stadium scoreboard, bypassing the internal televisions, as a friendly aid to coach Mike Smith.

I'm not sure if Thompson or Ball found any evidence of intent there, but even if there was, it would be well within NFL rules and part of the built-in "strategy" to the league's challenge system. I've made my thoughts clear on that element a few (hundred) times, and to me it's a legitimate issue when you consider the Falcons were 7-1 at home this season are 19-5 there in the past three seasons. Hopefully for everyone it won't come into play in Saturday night's divisional playoff. After all we've discussed about it this season, do we really want a playoff game being decided by a competitive advantage within the replay system?