Referee confidential: Challenge was unlikely

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The NFL officiating stat
s I track suggest the replay official assigned to Super Bowl XLIII was unlikely to challenge referee Terry McAulay's fumble ruling in the final seconds.

Bob McGrath initiated two challenges in the 15 games he worked during the regular season. Only two full-time replay assistants initiated fewer challenges during the regular season.

The NFL has said McAulay's ruling was correct as called. The league said Kurt Warner fumbled and the Steelers recovered. The league said Warner did not throw incomplete on the play. I do not necessarily disagree, but a review seemed appropriate under the circumstances.

As Warner said after the game:

"I was really surprised on that one because I thought definitely I was moving my arm forward to throw the ball. I thought I had almost gotten the ball off. Yeah, it does surprise you that in that type of situation, five seconds to go to decide the Super Bowl, you would think there would be a review."

This was an all-star officiating crew. McGrath worked with referee Al Riveron during the regular season, except for Week 2, when Riveron filled in for referee Mike Carey on the Titans-Bengals game. Mark Burns subbed as replay official that day.

The information in the chart is according to my records. In many cases this season, NFL stat crews mistakenly listed video observers as replay officials in the official gamebooks. The league corrected these mistakes during and after the season. My stats reflected the corrected information.

I've always found it curious that some replay officials challenged rulings far more frequently than others. Some might have been paired with referees who have made closer calls during the final two minutes of halves. But I would expect the data to even out over the course of a 256-game regular season. That has not happened.