Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Giants: Packers game review I

I hate to be one of those wacky (fill-in-a-team) fans that conjures up conspiracy theories about why the league is out to get his team, doesn't want his team to win and instead arranges things for his team's key rival (or latest opponent) to win. Of course this leads, in the conspiracy theorists fertile mind most prominently to referee calls and game fixing. If you live in earshot of the growing wave of sports talk radio in this country, you'll know what I mean. Fred from Flushing calls to complain that MLB loves it when the Yankees are in the World Series, so Derek Jeter gets every ball/strike call his way instead of his beloved Mets.

I am not one of those referees-fix-the-games with their calls kind of freak. Having said that, it was nevertheless obvious that every single call went against the Giants Sunday against the Packers. Of course there was no conspiracy by the refs or the league, but NFL refs are influenced in their calls more than in any other sport. NFL is the only league where 5 seconds after the play is over, a player or coach goes running at the ref, yells, motions, screams, gets the crowd into it and generally intimidates the referee,who then pulls out his yellow flag and throws it. I think the dynamic of the home town crowd occurs in every sport, but it is worse in football. In other sports, the ref makes a call or doesn't make a call and his decision stands. In football, the ref throws the flag well after the play is over, not because he thought it over carefully and threw it, but because he was intimidated into it.

In Sunday's game, the defending world champion, undefeated Packers, led by their other-worldly QB cast an aura on the game and, in my opinion, influenced the referees into making several key calls in their favor. The most egregious calls were the PI on Amukamara and the illegal contact on Williams. Both were extremely important plays.
On the Amukamara play, Giants were trailing 21-17 and this was the first possession by the Packers in the 2nd half. Rodgers threw a deep sideline pass to Jennings and Amukamara was running with him stride for stride. Their hands touched slightly, but there was not much in the way of Amukamara restraining him, yet PI was called for 20 yards. This got the Packers TD drive going that stretched the score to 28-17 and made the Giants play from behind the entire 2nd half. Sometimes the refs call the game tight and that might be PI. But judging from the way Woodson was mugging and holding Nicks all game long, this was no contact at all. Woods practically tackled Nicks on his TD pass that made the score 28-24. Later on, Eli tried to hit Nicks down the sideline, a ball Nicks caught one handed but went out of bounds. The reason he caught it one-handed and went out of bounds is that Woodson was holding him and interfering with him for the last 10 yards of his route. If the Amukamara contact was a legitimate penalty, then Woodson should have been called for 4 or 5, these 2 being the most absurd. Amukamara's contact was a misdemeanor, Woodson was guilty of several felonies.

On the Jacquian Williams call, there was barely any contact, and you could argue that the TE Finley was the one that ran into Williams initiating the contact. The play was a 3rd and 10, Giants sacked Rodgers for a loss of 10, so Giants would have gotten the ball back with good field position. Instead, the 10 yards sack was wiped out in favor of a 5 yards gain and Rodgers completed a 15 yard pass on the next play. Giants held them and they had to punt, but it cost the Giants 30 yards of field position. When the Packers punted, they did so from the Giants 44 instead of their own 25. Field position is everything in football - these yards are important, not to mention the emotional lift it would give the defense for sacking Rodgers.

The other calls: the out-of-bounds almost TD by Ballard, the almost out-of-bounds reception by Jennings challenged by Coughlin and the challenged TD pass to Jennings, where he juggled the ball in the end zone, were all close calls that could really have gone either way, even on replay. The fact that every one was called for the Packers on the field emphasizes the point that the champions and the current consensus top players or top teams in the league get the calls. On the Ballard TD, his knee touched the out of bounds line, but the bottom of his knee touched in bounds first. The entire knee didn't strike the line at once. There may not have been enough in the replay to overturn it, but if the refs on the field had made the call in favor of the Giants, there would not have been enough to overturn the other way either. The refs on the field were intimidated and influenced by the aura of the undefeated Packers and did not want to be the ones to take away their perfect season on the strength of one of their own close calls. I am not saying that they consciously went into the game with this approach and determined in advance that they were going to give every close call to the Packers. I am saying that subconsciously, this was the influence. I am not calling into question their integrity, just their competence.

Editor's late addendum: Apparently the NY Post agreed with my assertion that Ballard's knee was in bounds. Take a look at the image below, copied from Tuesday's Post:


Yankel the Nachash said...

One other egregious non-call: In the third or fourth quarter (I think fourth), Manning completed a 15-20 yarder to Cruz in the middle of the field. (Cruz lined up on the right of Eli and cut left). On the replay, Aikman showed how the defender literally grabbed Cruz's jersey with two hands and yanked him. Granted, Cruz made the catch, but that was the worst non-call I've ever seen.
And regarding field position, Aaron "Fair Catch" Ross needs to pick up some yards on a return. And the one time he doesn't catch it, they down the ball at the 1. That was horrible.

wolfman said...

Yeah forgot about that Cruz non-call.

There was another bad call on Cruz - he was running down the right sideline and Eli tried to loft him a 30 yard pass. Defender got called for holding, but the ball was already in the air and it should have been PI for another 25 yards or so.