Congratulations to the New York Football Giants for defeating the Green Bay Packers to advance to the NFC Championship Game in San Francisco next week. It was a fantastic win, and New York QB Eli Manning once again proved that he must assuredly is an “elite quarterback.” (He is 2-0 vs. Aaron Rodgers in the postseason) But what I really want to talk about here is my rage over the horrendous, embarrassing officiating during today’s game at Lambeau Field, in Green Bay, Wisc. It was so bad that I thought I was watching an NBA game. This was a really tough win for Big Blue.
It could not have been more obvious that the officiating crew was trying to protect the defending Super Bowl champions and the league’s golden boy, Aaron Rodgers – even at the cost of tarnishing the perception of NFL officiating and the credibility of the league itself. We all know that so-called “good teams” get all the breaks when it comes to close calls, and that’s to be expected. However, there’s a world of difference between giving a team a few extra inches on a spot and completely making stuff up out of whole cloth. This isn’t just letting a cornerback get away with some hand jive; it’s calling stuff that isn’t there, and pretending stuff that is, isn’t.
The first example came in the second quarter, when the Packers’ Greg Jennings fumbled the ball and the Giants recovered. Except that it didn’t play out that way: During the commercial break, the call on the field was overruled by another official, forcing the Giants to challenge the non-fumble call. Although replays from multiple angles clearly showed Jennings losing possession of the ball before his knee, elbow or butt hit the ground, referee Bill Leavy inexplicably decided that replays showed Jennings’ knee hitting the ground before the ball was ripped loose – despite the fact that Jennings’ knees ended up pointed toward the shy, and his butt hit the ground first! It was a travesty of the first order. Maybe Leavy was watching cartoons under that hood.
No one hates the Giants more than the Fox broadcasting team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman, so when those guys say the Giants got jobbed, you know the Jints were screwed over! Even Mike Pereira, the former league official who advises Fox on officiating matters and usually comes up with some way to justify any and all bogus calls against the Giants, shook his head in disbelief at the bizarre ruling. The call itself was an outrage, but then the Pack added insult to the injury by going on to score a touchdown.
Shamefully, the embarrassing performances from the officials continued.
In the second half, it appeared that the officials decided to try to help the Packers get back in the game by whistling the Giants’ Osi Umenyiora for roughing the passer with a blow to the head – which, of course, he didn’t do. Replays showed that as he was falling to the ground, rag doll Rodgers bumped his head against another player. Not Osi’s fault! Rodgers had overthrown his receiver, so it would have been fourth down, forcing Green Bay to punt. Instead, they got a new set of downs, and, once again, the officials’ gift resulted in another unearned, undeserved Packers touchdown.
If you take away the 14 points manufactured by the officials and gifted to the Packers, the Giants’ defense actually only gave up six points to the high-powered, much-vaunted, formerly perfect-at-home Pack. What a shame that 20 points will be officially charged against the Jints.
Still, no matter how much the officials wanted to protect the league darlings, no amount of officiating help could overcome eight dropped passes and three lost fumbles – although we all know the real number of lost fumbles was four.
If I were a Packers fan, I would be embarrassed by the performance of my team and the officials. But, on the brighter side, Rodgers will have more time to make “Discount Double-Check” commercials.
In summation, I wish I could I dismiss these bad calls as ineptitude, as incompetence, as human error; but these calls were so bad, so blatant, so obvious, so black-and-white, that it’s hard not to question the motives behind them. I would love to hear Bill Leavy try to defend his work and the performance of his crew. Or, should I say, try to excuse it.