TEMPE, Ariz. — It’s pretty much a guarantee in any sport that whoever loses will be miffed with the officiating.
That doesn’t mean a team is blaming calls for their demise, just that there is a belief that better work from the referees or umpires would have been helpful to their cause.
Last week, in Pittsburgh, at least a handful of questionable calls and no-calls seemed to work against the Arizona Cardinals in their 25-13 loss to the Steelers. One particularly egregious no-call came when receiver Michael Floyd was visibly held during his route, with no flag to be seen. The following day, when asked about it, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said, “I don’t think anybody else missed it in the stadium, other than the two guys with the striped shirts on.”
What a difference a week makes.
Monday, the Cardinals may have received the benefit of the doubt in their 26-18 win over the Baltimore Ravens. At least, that’s how the visitors felt, with head coach John Harbaugh singling out a 62-yard Chris Johnson run where it appeared his forward progress may have been stopped as well as an illegal procedure penalty in the first quarter where it seemed like lineman John Urschel reported eligible before going on to catch a pass, a play the referees deemed to be illegal.
Harbaugh said his team never got much of an explanation on the Johnson run, noting that anyone who hit the runner while he was wrapped up would have likely been flagged for unnecessary roughness, whistle or not. And on the Urschel play, he said his player did everything he is supposed to do in order to be deemed eligible.
Asked if he thought the calls were consistent and fair throughout the night, he answered, “I’m not going to comment on that.”
One of Harbaugh’s veteran leaders, receiver Steve Smith Sr., did comment, and he wasn’t particularly kind in his assessment of the officiating.
“Well, everybody has that app Yelp and you have reviews,” he said. “Two stars, that’s what I would review this one on my Yelp. Two stars.”
Suffice to say the Ravens probably wouldn’t mind never seeing the officiating crew that consisted of referee Ronald Robert, line judge Mark Steinkerchner, back judge Greg Yette, umpire Carl Paganelli, side judge Scott Edwards, head linesman Jim Howey and field judge Aaron Santi again.
In terms of penalties, the Ravens were flagged nine times for 64 yards, while the Cardinals were penalized four times for 40 yards. Of course, anyone could tell you that total penalties is not an accurate judge for how even officiating was, as there are always calls that should be made that are not.
But as far as the Ravens are concerned, the biggest, most crucial and questionable decisions helped the home team at a disproportionate rate.
“Yeah, it’s a lot nicer, yeah,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said of being on the positive side of some iffy calls. “There were some the other way, too. We had three guys being tackled in the end zone on one of those passes — not held, being tackled. Jaron Brown was tackled before he caught the ball. So they go both ways, you know.”
Over the course of a game you are bound to find instances where the referees may have gotten something wrong. Ideally they’d be perfect, but that’s simply not a realistic goal. Knowing that, all anyone really hopes for is some level of consistency, with the game being called fairly for both teams.
Following Monday Night’s contest, it’s clear the Ravens don’t feel like it was. Granted, it probably doesn’t help their opinion that they had some communication issues late in the game while they were driving with hopes of tying the score.
According to Harbaugh, the team’s phones were not working for much of the game, though the issue “got bad on the final drive.”
As per league rules, if one team’s headsets are not working the other team is supposed to turn theirs off in order to make things fair.
Arians, though, said his team was never asked to turn their headsets off.
“If they had a problem they should have notified the referee and the referee would have notified us,” he said.
Seems reasonable enough, and for what it’s worth, Arians said he’s dealt with headset issues on the road, too.
“One time in Baltimore I had a hot dog vendor on a critical fourth and one call,” he said. “Hot dog vendor came on and started talking about how they needed hot dogs in some section. We couldn’t get the play called. Coincidence.”
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