Mark Clark: Calls keep getting worse each NFL season

Mark Clark: Calls keep getting worse each NFL season

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If you watched the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams play for the NFC title and a spot in the Super Bowl, you saw one of the worst calls ever by a refereeing crew in an NFL game. There is no way to deny the call was blown. And, it was blown by a game official looking right at the play.

His stupidity must have gotten in the way. I know it was not the lights or the sun that caused him to miss this obvious call. Even his lame excuse that he thought the ball was tipped cannot be defended. The ball never appeared to be tipped by anyone – well, at least not anyone in the Superdome or outside of the Superdome or anyone on earth. It was a blown non-call of not one, but two penalties. First, the call was not made for pass interference. Second, there was no call made for head-to-head contact. At that point in the game, the poor excuse for officiating presented to the fans by the NFL cost the Saints the game – well, there was at least a 99 percent chance it cost them the game.

Had the proper call been made, New Orleans would have had the ball at the Rams’ five-yard line with 1:41 left to play. Los Angeles had one timeout remaining. Once that timeout was called, the Saints could have eaten up all but a few seconds of the game clock by kneeling over the next three plays before attempting a winning kick with very little – if any – time remaining on the clock. Had the Saints missed the kick, the game would still have gone into overtime tied at 20-20.

The NFL has a problem with officiating. It never seems to get it right when there is a big time game being played. Too many times teams are robbed of victories by ignorance. What else can you attribute it to? Perhaps it is time to review the rules again or just get rid of officials all together and rely on artificial intelligence to determine the results of games. Technology is such today that a camera or two or three even may be trained on each player to determine violations of the league’s rules. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

Think about it. Computers tied to the cameras could determine violations of rules faster than man and stop play from continuing until the violator was punished or penalties marked off.

New Orleans would have been glad to accept either of the two penalties instant replay showed on the missed pass interference or head-to-head contact and a computer would have been able to make the determination of the penalties immediately.

But, with something good comes something bad. Using that many cameras would without a doubt prove the old adage that a penalty – especially holding – could be called on every play. A league that wants to give all the advantages to the offense would find itself hoping at least one offensive scoring play in a game would count. Otherwise, I would think the majority of points would be scored by safeties as teams find themselves backed up on just about every play due to penalties.

As much as the New Orleans loss hurts, it is not that one call that cost the Saints the game. The call not being made at that point of the game did cost the Saints, but not just that non-call in the overall picture. Remember the dropped pass in the end zone on the first Saints drive of the game? If that catch had been made, the Saints would have won no matter what the call or non-call was in the game’s final two minutes. Still, it hurts.

Now, on to the other game on Sunday – the AFC’s Championship Game. There was no controversy there was there? Of course, there was. Only this time it was a league rule and not a bad call that cost a team a trip to the Super Bowl. The league’s overtime rule stinks to high heaven.

The league calls it Sudden Death. It is sudden and does kill one team’s chances of a Super Bowl title. First, if the team with the football first scores a touchdown with its possession, it wins. The opposing team gets no possession. If the first team possessing the ball kicks a field goal to go ahead by three points, the opposing team gets to possess the ball. If the second team scores a touchdown, it wins without any more possessions given to either team. If the second team kicks a field goal to tie the game, the opposing team gets the ball again for a possession and if it scores any points, it wins. If it does not score, the opposing team gets the ball with a chance to score. This repeats itself until the first team of the two scores. During the regular season, overtime is timed and if neither team scores during the allotted time, the game is declared a tie. There can be no ties in the playoffs.

I like the way overtime is played in high school and college. Both teams get an equal number of possessions to score the winning points. In high school, teams are given the ball at the 10-yard line with four plays to score. In college, the ball is placed at the 25 and first downs may be made as teams attempt to score the winning points. The way the high schools and colleges play overtime is called a fair method. The way the NFL does overtime is just plain idiotic. Why should winning the coin toss and getting the first possession in overtime be that advantageous? There is no skill in calling “Heads” or “Tails.” Do you really want luck to determine who goes to the Super Bowl instead of talent?

Why don’t we just use the old penetration rule? You get the ball first at your 20 and drive to your 49 – a total of 29 yards driven on your possession – before turning the ball over to me at your 49. I get the ball at your 49 and immediately win since I drove – without doing any driving at all – inside of your territory. You never made it to mine. Makes just as much sense as not reviewing calls in the last two minutes of games or using an awful excuse for an overtime period to determine the outcome of games. NFL, open your eyes and see what you are doing to destroy the game of football. It was a better game before Dez Bryant found out he did not know what a catch is and you made a rule to explain it to all of us.

Mark Clark is a local sports writer for The Citizen of East Alabama.