Sports Out West

NFL championship weekend: Did the officials alter the playoffs?

(Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

In sports, no one expects officials to be perfect; they are human.  With that being said, there is an expectation to get the calls right in the biggest moments.  Lately, NFL officials have missed huge calls and not only did those calls cost teams games, they have altered the NFL playoffs.

In Week 11, the San Francisco 49ers played the New Orleans Saints.  The game was a close, physical contest.  On what would be a pivotal third down play, the refs flagged Ahmad Brooks for unnecessary roughness for a hit on Saints quarterback Drew Brees. The hit caused Brees to fumble. The 49ers recovered but the flag negated the play. Brooks was fined for the hit; however, the fine was overturned.  The league claimed that the call was the correct call. 

If that were the case, why was the fine revoked? 

If the play stood, the 49ers win the game and they would have won the NFC West and secured the No. 1 seed.  The Seattle Seahawks would have been the fifth seed.  The loss also would have made the Saints 10-6 and the Arizona Cardinals would have been the sixth seed.  The NFC playoffs would have been completely different due to the different matchups. 

Would the Seahawks be in the NFC Championship if they had to play two games on the road?  How do the Philidelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers fare against different matchups?  Would the Carolina Panthers be in the NFC Championship game if their opponent was different?  All are legit questions based off of one bad call. 

Game-changers on the other side

In the AFC, the refs missed a call that cost the Pittsburgh Steelers a playoff spot.  In the Kansas Chiefs-San Diego Chargers game of Week 17, the NFL admitted the refs blew a call on a field goal that Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop missed.  The refs also may have blown a call on the Chargers’ fake punt, when it appeared that safety Eric Weddle fumbled.  That call is subjective; for Chargers fans, his forward progress was stopped.  Steelers fans and perhaps everyone else likely saw a fumble.

This is not to say that the refs are horrible, but they must get better in crucial moments of games.  The refs missed a pass interference call late in the New England Patriots-Carolina Panthers game.  If that call was made the AFC Championship is in Foxboro and not Denver. 

Commissioner Roger Godell has figured out a way to accomplish everything he has wanted in the league.  It’s time he figured out how to make the late-game officiating more accurate and give the referees a means to make their jobs easier. 

Maybe in the last two minutes, everything is reviewable.  Maybe making the refs full-time employees would help them to be better prepared. 

Whatever the answer is, this needs to be a major point of focus in the NFL offseason meetings.  

Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

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Keenan Actkins

Keenan Actkins is an Arizona resident living in the Phoenix metropolitan area. He brings a wealth of sports knowledge and passion to the team with his unique insight and strong voice and opinion. He also contributes to Yahoo! Voices and has written for WoodyPaige.com.

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  • Riverdog

    Absolutely!
    All the people I’ve talked to -say something REALLY looked fishey- every time Seattle was at home, they had the refs in thier back pocket-I wonder how much that cost??–Riverdog

  • MikeyD

    They did indeed. As a SF fan yes they most certainly did. Both against the Saints and today at Seattle bad calls from the refs clearly changed the momentum resulting in the Niners losing their composure and the game.

  • Camden1

    Several more game-changing bad calls in the Seahawks/49ers game. I was actually beginning to wonder if a “fix” was in.