|Photo by Ed Yourdon|
On the Patriots' very first play of the game, Brady dropped back in the pocket, couldn't find a receiver, and threw the ball away. The refs called intentional grounding, and awarded a safety because Brady was in the end zone at the time. WTF?!?
This led to 2 points for the Giants, and gave the ball back to New York, leading to another 7 points. The Giants' first 9 points were a direct result of this absurd call.
Brady didn't even throw it out of bounds like he normally does. And he didn't just spike it into the ground like Peyton Manning always does. He threw it 45 yards downfield.
I have never seen intentional grounding called on a 45-yard pass. Never. And I can't find anyone who has.
The average NFL quarterback "throws the ball away" a couple times per game. Peyton Manning and Tom Brady probably do it three or more times each game. Twelve minutes later, Eli chucked it out of bounds under similar conditions. But no grounding call.
I'm not blaming the game per se on that call. The Giants D played well, Manningham made an unbelievable catch, Eli was surprisingly accurate, and Welker couldn't hold on to the most important pass of the game. But that is certainly the worst call I can remember in a Super Bowl.
The offensive pass interference in Super Bowl XL was pretty dubious, but it was a judgment call that the ref had to make in real time. So if the ref see a lot of contact and throws a flag, that's the way the ball bounces. But on today's safety, the refs had all the time in the world to get together and make the right call, and they still blew it. That's the amazing thing. You can't criticize the refs too badly when they have to make a call in real-time on a close play. But when you have the time to get it right, you should get it right!
Considering how bad this call was, I'm surprised that Brady and Belicheck didn't throw a complete hissy fit. But keeping a level head was the right thing to do. NFL rules don't allow for a penalty to be overturned, so it's not worth getting ejected. Also, I think they were just stunned at seeing a call that has never been called in the history of the league.
Cris Collinsworth, in an attempt I assume to quell any controversy, did point out that the referee's call matched the rules in the rulebook: Brady was under pressure, in the pocket, and in the end zone. But he sounded surprised as he made this argument. As in "I've never seen this call before, but I'm being told that this counts as intentional grounding according to the letter of the rules."
|Photo by Abqtrucker on flickr|
I have seen worse calls in the playoffs. But I haven't seen a worse call in the Super Bowl. Perhaps this is payback for "The Tuck Rule". By all common sense, Brady fumbled the ball in that game. But according to the rulebook, it was incomplete. So, this call was the same thing. Everyone knew it wasn't intentional grounding, but the refs chose this one play to apply the rulebook as written (and then ignore that section of the rulebook for the rest of the Super Bowl).
"Throwing the ball away" is so common in the NFL that we have a phrase for it. If every time you "threw the ball away" you were called for intentional grounding, we wouldn't call it "throwing the ball away"; we would call it "intentional grounding". And we wouldn't have every talking head on ESPN heaping praise on every QB who chucks the ball out of bounds instead of trying to force a play downfield.
Heck, even Madden even has a player rating called "Throw The Ball Away" that specifies whether a QB is more likely to thow an intentional incompletion or try to make something happen. And, as we already knew, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning have high ratings in this area.
As an NFL fan, I would like to see intentional grounding called more often. The defense should be rewarded for getting pressure on the QB. But you don't all-of-a-sudden decide to start calling this penalty in the last and most important game of the season.
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