Yes, there is always plenty of chatter about our perennial Super Bowl hopefuls. But I also find that there is always some angle to Seahawks coverage that just doesn’t seem to get enough airplay. This column is dedicated to that “elephant in the locker room.”
Booth replay wasn’t supposed to be the headline this year. After the New Orleans / Los Angeles NFC Championship game last year, the NFL put total control of replay in the hands of the league offic staff in NYC during the final two minutes of each half, with the idea being that things were finally going to be done right.
Well, consensus is that they were not done right in the final minutes of the final game of the final week of the decade Sunday night.
And that’s been pretty much hashed out to death, so I won’t repeat it.
But… what happened at the end of the first half of the game does bear repeating, because of how it affected the end of the game.
If you will recall, and you probably don’t want to, Seattle had been completely stymied by San Francisco in the first half of Sunday night’s game, on both sides of the ball. Then, just before halftime, Seattle woke up. Russell Wilson led the Hawks on an impressive drive to the Frisco 36, where the drive stalled with a false start penalty.
This left the Hawks at 3rd and 11 at the 41 yard line with 1:05 remaining, and all three timeouts intact.
Wilson then completed a middling pass to Tyler Lockett, who stretched for the 30 yard line as he was being tackled. On the field, Lockett was ruled down at the 31 yard line, a full yard short of the first down.
It was a horrible spot.
Pete Carroll did the right thing at this point, calling a timeout and hoping for a booth review of the play and a respot of the ball… maybe even getting the first down.
And New York did… nothing.
With a fourth down coming up and a potential scoring drive in process, the NFL said, “Oh, let’s just get the half over with. Nothing to see here. Move along. These are not the droids we are looking for.”
Is Kyle Shanahan a Jedi master?
The onfield officials simply ran a conventional 30-second timeout, and that was that. Nothing further said about the spot of the ball.
Now, I personally spent almost ten minutes reviewing all the angles on this play in slo-mo, and did finally become convinced that Lockett did not get a first down on the play. Ten minutes! And here’s what I finally saw.
Yes, it’s clear that Lockett was short of the first down. But only by about six inches, not by the full yard that he was marked down on the field.
Booth replay fail. The NFL declined to review this play at all, and the call on the field stood.
Fourth and inches is a different Beast than fourth and 1… which Marshawn Lynch failed to get.
…and because Lynch turned the ball over on downs at the end of the first half, and because of the Super Bowl, you can bet that Pete’s mind was in full-on waffle mode come fourth and one on the goal line at the end of the game.
Delay of game, and then… we are back in the hands of the replay booth… and another fail.
I did not expect things to end well on Sunday; but I did not expect them to end that ugly.
Let’s just say that the NFL got things right at the end of the first half instead of getting them wrong, and that getting them right resulted in a Seattle first down off a QB sneak or a Lynch dive. With 50 seconds left aftward, they may not have scored a TD; but let’s just say they got a field goal, at least.
Then let’s just say the rest of the second half went as it did. Then at the end of the game, Seattle would have been in a position to win with another field goal rather than needing a TD.
This is a game of inches, as we are repeatedly told; and when the league offices deny a team 24-30 inches that they have legitimately earned, injustice has been done. The implications are clear in close games like the ones that Seattle and San Francisco routinely play.
Now, let’s just accept the fact, shall we, that Pete Carroll is not Bill Belichick? That Pete’s expertise is not the fine points of clock management and other anal-retentive strategy? That Pete’s strong suit is building a community of football players that typically gets the most out of them?
So, for better or worse, we are going to wind up with periodic snafus like wasted timeouts and ridiculous delay-of-game penalties in the worst situations.
That’s the bed the Seahawks’ organization has made for us, and there are not many other beds in the NFL into which we’d rather creep to sleep.
But… do we really have to put up with this slipshod crap from the NFL replay officials?
Oh, yes… Yes, we do.