At the risk of opening old wounds, I’d like to bring you the NFL’s response to several key officiating calls in Minnesota’s 31-28 loss at New Orleans in the NFC Championship Game.
Appearing Wednesday night on both the NFL Network and NFL.com, vice president of officiating Mike Pereira admitted there should have been a 15-yard penalty on the third-quarter play where Vikings quarterback Brett Favre suffered a left ankle injury. We questioned the no-call on Monday, and Pereira said: “We just missed it.”
On the play, Saints defensive end Bobby McCray hit Favre in what Pereira called “pretty much a direct shot into the back of the legs.” That contact violated an NFL rule prohibiting low hits on quarterbacks.
“It’s the type of hit that we don’t want,” Pereira said, “… because clearly we’re trying to protect the knees and we need to focus on this to make sure we don’t miss [them].”
Had the penalty been called, Jonathan Vilma's interception would have been nullified and the Vikings would have re-gained possession with a first down at the Saints’ 19-yard line.
Pereira was less direct about two instances involving instant replay during overtime, both of which went in the Saints’ favor. I agree that both fell in a gray area, as Pereira explained.
On the first, a 9-yard reception by receiver Devery Henderson, Pereira admitted the ball touched the ground. “But the issue is not whether it hit the ground or not,” he said. “The issue is whether he had control [of the ball before and after it hit the ground]” On that question, Pereira agreed with referee Peter Morelli: Replays didn’t show enough to reverse the original call.
“I think if we had called it incomplete on the field,” Pereira said, “it stays incomplete” after a review.
The same premise applied to the next play, Pierre Thomas's 2-yard run on fourth-and-1. There has been some discussion about where Thomas’ forward progress should have been marked, especially after Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway appeared to have knocked the ball loose.
“One of those situations where it’s so hard to tell [on replay]” Pereira said. “Did he lose possession? Hard to say. Was he short of the line to gain? Equally hard to say.”
If Pereira addressed a third controversial call in overtime, a 12-yard pass interference penalty against Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, I didn’t see it.
I know these comments won’t satisfy everyone. NFC North readers react more emotionally to officiating than just about any other topic, and that’s why we tried to address it weekly through our Dirty Laundry feature.
In the end, of course, there is nothing you can do about erroneous calls -- admitted or otherwise -- after the game is over. Officiating imperfection is part of sports at all levels, and ultimately -- although unscientifically -- I believe they even out over time. If anything, I give Pereira credit for speaking to some of the bigger questions on a weekly basis.