By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) Let’s get something straight: It was a penalty.
Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith could have been called for either defensive holding or illegal contact on the 49ers’ fateful fourth down play that essentially ended Super Bowl XLVII. Replays showed Smith clearly pulling Michael Crabtree’s jersey in the end zone. That is defensive holding by definition. It also occurred beyond five yards because the ball was snapped from the five yard-line. That’s illegal contact.
Penalties/fouls in the final moments of football and basketball games are always debated. The common cry is, “You can’t let the officials decide the game.”
My response always is: a foul is a foul and the person committing that foul is deciding the game, not the official who is doing his/her job by calling it.
The officials in Sunday night’s Super Bowl weren’t operating with that in mind though. They were clearly afraid to make an important call in an important moment and this was even more obvious when they ignored multiple offensive holds on the Ravens’ intentional safety seconds later. On that play, there’s no way referee Jerome Boger can look Jim Harbaugh in the eye and say he didn’t see a hold, much less multiple bear hugs.
Now, in that situation, a hold in the end zone results in a safety anyway, but it still serves as evidence that the officials weren’t going to throw a flag no matter what they saw. It also points to a loophole that needs to be addressed. Penalties exist to prevent a team from gaining an unfair advantage. In the case of the intentional safety, players are taught to hold to run more time off the clock. If offenses can be given clock runoffs as penalties, then why can’t they also be penalized by having time added to the clock in a situation like that?
It’s simple: Under two minutes, holding in the end zone should result in a safety and 10 seconds added to the clock.
It reminds me of a 2006 game between Wisconsin and Penn State when Bret Bielema found a loophole in the NCAA’s efforts to speed up the game. A rule change that year started the clock as soon as the ball was kicked on kickoffs instead of when the returner touched it. So with 23 seconds left in the first half, Bielema intentionally had his team go offsides on their own kickoff. After Penn State accepted the penalty, the Badgers did it again. They managed to run out the clock, preventing the Nittany Lions from getting any chance to get a quick score. Joe Paterno, of course, was livid even though he could have had the penalty applied from where his team took possession (about the 15-yard line) instead of having Wisconsin re-kick.
The NCAA changed the rule again the following season.
CBS Killed For Power Outage Coverage
It seems as if CBS is a popular target today because God forbid they weren’t prepared for the first-ever power outage in Super Bowl history.
Look, the coverage wasn’t perfect, but it’s easy for those sitting on their couch with absolutely zero idea of what goes into a television broadcast to be critical. The truth is, CBS lost all contact with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms and only 11 of their 62 cameras were working. You really expect the broadcast to go smoothly in that situation?
Deadspin founder Will Leitch, who usually has well reasoned, well constructed insights, went all-in, writing: “CBS provided us with zero information on what was actually going on, what the NFL was saying, what the coaches felt, what the referees had been advised, hell, what a couple of fans were thinking as they sat in darkness.”
Leitch specifically targeted sideline reporters Steve Tasker and Solomon Wilcots, accusing them of not actually being reporters. In fact, he claims “it was their first game as sideline reporters” which is a remarkable piece of misinformation. Last night was actually Tasker’s third Super Bowl as a sideline reporter and at least Wilcots’ second. And oh yeah, Wilcots also has an Emmy for live reporting.
Not surprisingly, that sentence in Leitch’s piece has since been changed to: “It was one of their first games as sideline reporters.”
Yup, still inaccurate.
Not only were both Tasker and Wilcots actively working on getting information, both of them went directly to the respective head coaches they were covering (you know, the two most prominent figures involved in the game) to get material. In fact, Tasker ended up reporting to Jim Harbaugh what was going on.
So, even though one of the head coaches had no idea what was happening, CBS was supposed to magically know every last detail and report it to the audience?
(Necessary disclaimer: Yes, I work for CBS, but I am far, far removed from the division that produces the NFL on CBS and have absolutely no obligation or reason to go out of my way to defend the network’s coverage of the Super Bowl.)
Not About Lewis
Meanwhile, I thought CBS did a great job of not making the game about Ray Lewis. In fact, it was almost to a fault as neither Nantz or Simms pointed out the fact that Lewis was awful.
One solo tackle and three assisted tackles. That’s it.
I guess he can’t blame God for his terrible performance because God has never made a mistake, so it must have just been a result of him not being good at football at anymore.
Fortunately, it was his last game ever and he went out by letting us all know this:
“When you believe in what you believe in no matter what happens or what people believe, the ultimate is the ultimate,” Lewis said.
Don’t worry, you’ll be able to get more insight like that on ESPN next season.
A Week To Forget For Culliver
Lewis didn’t have the worst game though. No, that honor goes to San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver, who apparently is not a fan of gay people or covering wide receivers.
I mean this when I say this: If Culliver had not played last night, the 49ers would have won.
Paul Harvey Always Wins
For the record, this was the best commercial:
Adam is the Sports Editor for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.