How Much Did Super Bowl XL's Officiating Affect The Outcome?

Bill Leavy, the referee of Super Bowl XL between the Steelers and Seahawks (Win Probability graph), recently apologized for his mistakes in the game. "I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter and I impacted the game, and as an official you never want to do that. It left me with a lot of sleepless nights, and I think about it constantly," he admitted.

Leavy is referring to two critical calls he made in the 4th quarter. But there were a couple other controversial calls earlier in the game, each going against the Seahawks. In this post, I'll look at each situation and measure their impact on the game. Each of the calls were questionable to varying degrees, and I'll leave it up to others to decide whether they were defensible or not.


The Offensive Pass Interference

The first controversial call was an offensive pass interference penalty on Seattle in the 1st quarter that nullified a touchdown. It was tied 0-0 with 2:08 left in the quarter. Had the touchdown stood, SEA would have a 7-point lead, kicking off to the Steelers, good for a 0.71 WP. The penalty left SEA with a 1st and 20 at the PIT 29, good for a 0.60 WP. The call cost SEA a difference of 0.11 WP.

The Goal-line Touchdown

The second call was on a goal-line QB sneak by PIT late in the 2nd quarter. With 2:00 remaining, SEA challenged the ruling that Roethlisberger broke the plane of the end zone, but Leavy declined to overturn the call. The TD gave PIT a 0.72 WP, and assuming PIT would go for the FG to take the 3-0 lead had the call been overturned, PIT would have a 0.60 WP. That's a difference of 0.12 WP.


The 4th Qtr Offensive Holding

The next controversial calls were the two that Leavy, in his own words, "kicked." With the score PIT 14, SEA 10 and 12:35 left in the 4th qtr, SEA had a 1st and 10 on the PIT 19 yard line. SEA completed a pass that put them on PIT's 1 yard line, but tackle Sean Locklear was flagged for offensive holding on the play. Had there been no penalty, SEA would have had a 0.56 WP, but the penalty gave them a 1st and 20 at the 29, good for a 0.42 WP. That's a difference of 0.14 WP, and it gave the upper hand in the game from SEA to PIT.

The Low Block Penalty

Later in the same series, Hasselbeck threw an interception and was called for a low block on the ensuing action, good for a 15-yard penalty. The interception was crucial to say the least, and was more costly than any of the controversial calls. But an extra 15 yards of field possession is also very important in the 4th qtr of a one-score game. Without the low block penalty, PIT would have had a 1st and 10 on their own 29, good for a 0.75 WP. The extra 15 yards put PIT on their 44, worth 0.78 WP, for a difference of 0.03 WP.

In total, it was 0.11 for the offensive pass interference call, 0.12 for PIT's upheld TD, 0.14 for the offensive holding in the 4th qtr, and 0.03 for the low block penalty. To put those numbers in perspective, if you spot a team a touchdown to start a game, it would be worth 0.22 WP.

Each play has to be considered in isolation because had one call gone the other way, it's likely the rest of the game would have unfolded differently. For example, had the offensive holding call not happened, SEA would be on the 1 yard line, and would have never faced the 3rd and 18 situation that led to the interception.

Whether you believe any or all of these calls were bad is a mostly matter of opinion. But the assertion that had the calls gone the other way, the outcome of the game would have been unaffected or only slightly affected is grossly mistaken. 


The fact that SEA was even in position to take the lead in the 4th quarter was remarkable. Early in the 3rd quarter, PIT had a 14-3 lead with a 1st down on SEA's 11 yard line. SEA managed to force a turnover, score a TD, then get the ball back to take the upper hand early in the 4th quarter. Had they managed to win, it would have been one of the most improbable comebacks in Super Bowl history.

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46 Responses to “How Much Did Super Bowl XL's Officiating Affect The Outcome?”

  1. Dave says:

    "Hand(s) or arm(s) that hook an opponent are to be considered illegal and officials are to call a foul for holding. Blocker cannot use his hands or arms to push from behind, hang onto, or encircle an opponent in a manner that restricts his movement as the play develops."

    Check the replay. Not only does Locklear's left hand wrap around Haggan's back, but when he is beat and Haggans has an angle on Hasselbeck his right arm is in front of Haggans while his body is not... yet Haggans forward motion is impeded and he goes to the ground.

    That gentlemen, is a textbook holding call. The Ref may feel bad about it, but that doesn't change the fact that it was a hold.

    However, if Locklear doesn't hold.. Haggans has a clear shot at Hasselbeck from the ball side.

    Not only did Leavy make the right decision to call the hold, but Locklear made the right decision to hold in the first place.

  2. Ian says:

    It's funny. I don't remember the game like that at all. Being in the UK, I imagine that what happened was Pittsburgh went up 14-3 on Parker's run. At that point, I probably stopped paying attention to the game as it would have been between 1-2AM my time and it was looking like a bit of a one sided affair (as the WP graph shows). Probably explains why I don't remember the Seattle comeback at all.

  3. Scott says:

    What would happen to the numbers if Seattle had to start at the 50 after the interception due to a block in the back on Ben Roethlisberger that wasn't called? I think they started around the 20 instead, for their only TD of the day.

  4. Brian Burke says:

    Scott- Interesting question. Starting at the 50 instead of the PIT 20 makes the WP go from .24 to 0.20 for SEA. The reason it's a small difference is that PIT was ahead by 11 points at the time, and it was still early in the 3rd quarter.

  5. James says:

    Would you consider doing an article on Nate Kaeding and his seeming lack of "clutch" in the post season compared to his normal excellence in the regular season? Seems like most of his missed post season kicks have been from 40+ yards, but I'd like to see your take on it.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wow. I can't believe this issue has been resurrected.

    There’s no question that Locklear held Haggans. However, that call is often not made and if you look at the game tape you can find other holds called or not called that ultimately went in Pitt’s favor (Footballoutsiders did a story on this). It also looked as if Haggans could have been called offside on the play.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the great modeling and review. What would have happened if the Stevens catch and fumble had been called a fumble instead of a dead ball from a supposed early whistle?
    thanks
    p

  8. Brian Burke says:

    p-Sure. But which play are you referring to exactly? The holding play went to Stevens. That one? The play by play doesn't indicate early whistles or fumbles after them.

  9. Tim A says:

    Brian: Let me start off by saying that I appreciate the effort you've put into this analysis.

    Let me get to my overall point by pointing out that you have focused merely on one side of the coin in your analysis.

    As Mike Pereira (former head of NFL Referees) stated himself, just yesterday, on FoxSports, the refs made bad calls against both teams in Super Bowl XL.

    Your analysis only focuses on the "stock" calls that follow the "Seattle got Robbed" view point - calls that hurt the Seahawks (or supposedly did). You omit calls that went against Pittsburgh - calls that would have significantly affected the outcome of the game. And there were many. To make your article objective, you should focus on all of the bad calls, not just the calls that the media has focused the masses on.

    Football Outsiders did an analysis after the game, watching both Tackles for each team. They determined that between Locklear and Jones (SEA), they committed 16 Holds that were not called. Pittsburgh's tackles were not flagged for 8 holds. What's the WP impact of those calls? You can find a list of all of the holds here - http://www.footballoutsiders.com/every-play-counts/2006/epc-sean-locklear-and-22-uncalled-holds

    There was the play that involved J. Stevans catching the ball, taking 3 full steps with it in his possession, getting hit, and fumbling. The refs called it an incomplete pass. It should have been a turnover for Pittsburgh. I believe it was in the 3rd quarter.

    Likewise there was the Hasselbeck fumble that Pittsburgh recovered that was erroneously over turned due to a Larry Foote "touch".

    What's the WP for not getting those two turnovers?

    Then there's the missed block in the back penalty after the Ben INT (previously mentioned). Ben was blocked in the back at the 39 yard line (SEA's).

    You stated in the article - "But the assertion that had the calls gone the other way, the outcome of the game would have been unaffected or only slightly affected is grossly mistaken." I think to make that claim, you have to consider all the calls going either way, which you've not done.

    Appreciate your insight.

  10. Brian Burke says:

    That's a fair point, but...

    #1 The ref openly apologized to one team for a reason, and it wasn't because there were missed calls on both sides of the ball. It keeps him up at night for a reason.

    #2 I am not sure how to weigh FO's or any other amateur's judgment on what is or what isn't a hold or PI. I know I'm not clearly not qualified.

    #3 In my research for the analysis, most 'pro-Steeler' analysis usually wrapped up by saying something to the tune of, "Besides, even if these calls went the other way, the Steelers would still win." We can now be sure that's not so certain at all, and that was the point of my conclusion above. I'll stand by that.

    Full disclosure: I am not a fan of either team. I don't have anything against them either.

  11. Todd says:

    In your 12/24/2009 post titled "Troy Polamalu and WPA Plus/Minus" you wrote the following:

    "Troy Polamalu is one of my favorite players in the league. As a Ravens fan whose heart despises everything that is black and gold, I'm compelled to say that he is truly spectacular."

    What was that you were saying about not having anything against either team?

  12. Brian Burke says:

    I'm a Ravens fan, but I really don't have anything against the Steelers. I will admit I think Roethliberger is a turd, but I do love watching guys like Polamalu and Hines Ward play the way they do. I will also admit I enjoy teasing Pittsburgh fans when I do get the chance.

  13. Tim says:

    There were controversial calls that went for the seahwawks (such as a non-fumble call). But it's important to point out the pereria (levy's boss at the time) has come to say it was holding and Levy shouldnt have apologized. http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/ref-taking-super-mistakes-too-hard

    But you can run this exercise with almost any game for any team...and not single out the steelers and imply the seahawks were cost 22% by officiating.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I think Bill Leavy might disagree, Tim.

  15. Brian Burke says:

    There were 2 incomplete passes to Stevens in the 3rd quarter. If they had been ruled a fumble, the WPA would have been:

    #1 PIT 14 SEA 3, 1-10-PIT37 (12:44) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete to J.Stevens (J.Farrior).
    SEA Actual WP: 0.20, if fumble WP: 0.11. WPA=0.09

    #2 PIT 14 SEA 10, 1-10-SEA27 (4:38) M.Hasselbeck pass incomplete to J.Stevens.
    SEA Actual WP: 0.34, if fumble WP: 0.21. WPA=0.13

    A turnover in either of those situations would have had a considerable impact.

  16. Tim A says:

    Brian:

    In response...

    "#1 The ref openly apologized to one team for a reason, and it wasn't because there were missed calls on both sides of the ball. It keeps him up at night for a reason."

    None of us knows the reason. Could it be that he was in Seattle at the time, operating as a ref at their training camp? Who knows why. What we do know is that the head of NFL referees says that Leavy's own claim was only partially true. I'll go with the Head vs. the Ref himself any day. As Mike P. stated, the hold was a hold. There's no skirting that. The only question that remains is should he have rightfully flagged an obvious hold or let him slide on the transgression? The call was correct. You can debate if he should have been given a pass or not.

    "#2 I am not sure how to weigh FO's or any other amateur's judgment on what is or what isn't a hold or PI. I know I'm not clearly not qualified."

    Yet you give weight to the 4thQ hold by Locklear and give it "analysis" in your article? If the article is to be objective, it should evaluate the WP impact of all controversial holding calls, not just the ones the media cries loudest about.

    "#3 In my research for the analysis, most 'pro-Steeler' analysis usually wrapped up by saying something to the tune of, "Besides, even if these calls went the other way, the Steelers would still win." We can now be sure that's not so certain at all, and that was the point of my conclusion above. I'll stand by that."

    I don't deny that if these calls had gone the other way, the game would have and could have been different. But if we walk down that path of 'what if', to make the article and the analysis fair, you should figure in all 'what if' scenarios on all controversial calls.

    Your analysis has failed to do this. You've simply focused on the controversial calls the media has put a spotlight on, a subset of calls that were missed in the game.

    As Mike P. said, missed calls went against both teams. I listed several that went against the Steelers, two of which involved turnovers that should have or could have gone the Steelers way. They aren't a part of your evaluation. Therefore, and logically, the analysis is incomplete as it only focuses on calls that went against Seattle.

  17. Tim A says:

    Brian:

    In response...

    "#1 The ref openly apologized to one team for a reason, and it wasn't because there were missed calls on both sides of the ball. It keeps him up at night for a reason."

    None of us knows the reason. Could it be that he was in Seattle at the time, operating as a ref at their training camp? Who knows why. What we do know is that the head of NFL referees says that Leavy's own claim was only partially true. I'll go with the Head vs. the Ref himself any day. As Mike P. stated, the hold was a hold. There's no skirting that. The only question that remains is should he have rightfully flagged an obvious hold?

    "#2 I am not sure how to weigh FO's or any other amateur's judgment on what is or what isn't a hold or PI. I know I'm not clearly not qualified."

    Yet you give weight to the 4thQ hold by Locklear and give it "analysis" in your article? If the article is to be objective, it should evaluate the WP impact of all controversial holding calls, not just the ones the media cries loudest about.

    "#3 In my research for the analysis, most 'pro-Steeler' analysis usually wrapped up by saying something to the tune of, "Besides, even if these calls went the other way, the Steelers would still win." We can now be sure that's not so certain at all, and that was the point of my conclusion above. I'll stand by that."

    I don't deny that if these calls had gone the other way, the game would have and could have been different. But if we walk down that path of 'what if', to make the article and the analysis fair, you should figure in all 'what if' scenarios on all controversial calls.

    Your analysis has failed to do this. You've focused on the controversial calls the media has put a spotlight on, a subset of calls that were missed in the game.

    As Mike P. said, missed calls went against both teams. I listed several that went against the Steelers, including critical turnovers the Steelers should have (or could have) had. They aren't a part of your evaluation.

    Therefore, and logically, the analysis is incomplete.

  18. Jason D says:

    Tim A: "None of us knows the reason."

    Leavy himself said 'It left me with a lot of sleepless nights and I think about it constantly. I'll go to my grave wishing that I'd been better.' (http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/08/06/four-years-later-bill-leavy-apologizes-to-seahawks/). Regardless of whether or not the calls affected the game's outcome, it's human nature to dwell on mistakes and wish one had done things better.

    Tim A: "Could it be that he was in Seattle at the time, operating as a ref at their training camp?"

    Er... to whom else would he offer an apology to help clear his mind? If he'd offered an apology to, say, the Dutch national soccer team, he'd just feel stupid. Worse, if he made an apology to the Steelers for the game's officiating, they'd be right to construe it as an insult.

    Mind you, the'Hawks themselves aren't blaming Leavy for the loss (http://blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks/2010/08/07/hasselbeck-on-leavy-we-still-lost/#more-7090). Craig Terrill said 'There were plenty of things that we did in that game that kept us from wining. So he can’t take responsibility for us for the mistakes that we made.'

    And the fans at training camp don't seem to have taken any notice of him (http://www.fieldgulls.com/2010/8/7/1611479/seahawks-august-6-training-camp).


    Tim A: "The only question that remains is should he have rightfully flagged an obvious hold or let him slide on the transgression? The call was correct."

    Leavy did not elaborate on which calls he thought he missed. But the aforementioned head of NFL referees suggested that Pittsburgh could have been called offsides on that same play (http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/ref-taking-super-mistakes-too-hard).


    Tim A: "If the article is to be objective, it should evaluate the WP impact of all controversial holding calls, not just the ones the media cries loudest about."

    Isn't it possible to write an objective article about those controversial calls that the media cries loudest about?

    Seriously.

    Imagine if: The Seahawk fans, following their Super Bowl loss, begin to lament that they'd have won the game if they'd had Steve Largent, Kenny Easley, and a 28th-century cyborg playing for their team. The media picks up the story. Brian gets a few emails from Pittsburgh fans (that may or may not be representative) saying 'we'd have won the game anyway!' Brian then proceeds to do an analysis of a very specific 'what if' scenario.

    Is that analysis flawed because he doesn't ALSO include Lynn Swan and a couple of cyborgs for Pittsburgh?


    Your point, that given perfect officiating Pittsburgh would have won anyways, is well-supported and valid.

    But Brian is NOT analyzing what the outcome would have been with perfect officiating, nor is he pretending to do so. If you think his topic selection is biased, that's a fair opinion, but responding to media attention seems to me like a good way to select topics of interest. More importantly, any lack of objectivity in CHOOSING a 'what if' scenario doesn't prevent the actualy ANALYSIS of that scenario from being objective.

    Cheers,
    Jason

  19. Jason D says:

    Tim A: "None of us knows the reason."

    Leavy himself said 'It left me with a lot of sleepless nights and I think about it constantly. I'll go to my grave wishing that I'd been better.' (http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/08/06/four-years-later-bill-leavy-apologizes-to-seahawks/). Regardless of whether or not the calls affected the game's outcome, it's human nature to dwell on mistakes and wish one had done things better.

    Tim A: "Could it be that he was in Seattle at the time, operating as a ref at their training camp?"

    Er... to whom else would he offer an apology to help clear his mind? If he'd offered an apology to, say, the Dutch national soccer team, he'd just feel stupid. Worse, if he made an apology to the Steelers for the game's officiating, they'd be right to construe it as an insult.

    Mind you, the'Hawks themselves aren't blaming Leavy for the loss (http://blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks/2010/08/07/hasselbeck-on-leavy-we-still-lost/#more-7090). Craig Terrill said 'There were plenty of things that we did in that game that kept us from wining. So he can’t take responsibility for us for the mistakes that we made.'

    And the fans at training camp don't seem to have taken any notice of him (http://www.fieldgulls.com/2010/8/7/1611479/seahawks-august-6-training-camp).


    Tim A: "The only question that remains is should he have rightfully flagged an obvious hold or let him slide on the transgression? The call was correct."

    Leavy did not elaborate on which calls he thought he missed. But the aforementioned head of NFL referees suggested that Pittsburgh could have been called offsides on that same play (http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/ref-taking-super-mistakes-too-hard).


    Tim A: "If the article is to be objective, it should evaluate the WP impact of all controversial holding calls, not just the ones the media cries loudest about."

    Isn't it possible to write an objective article about those controversial calls that the media cries loudest about?

    Seriously.

    Imagine if: The Seahawk fans, following their Super Bowl loss, begin to lament that they'd have won the game if they'd had Steve Largent, Kenny Easley, and a 28th-century cyborg playing for their team. The media picks up the story. Brian gets a few emails from Pittsburgh fans (that may or may not be representative) saying 'we'd have won the game anyway!' Brian then proceeds to do an analysis of a very specific 'what if' scenario.

    Is that analysis flawed because he doesn't ALSO include Lynn Swan and a couple of cyborgs for Pittsburgh?


    Your point, that given perfect officiating Pittsburgh would have won anyways, is well-supported and valid.

    But Brian is NOT analyzing what the outcome would have been with perfect officiating, nor is he pretending to do so. If you think his topic selection is biased, that's a fair opinion, but responding to media attention seems to me like a good way to select topics of interest. More importantly, any lack of objectivity in CHOOSING a 'what if' scenario doesn't prevent the actual ANALYSIS of that scenario from being objective.

    Cheers,
    Jason

  20. Anonymous says:

    Tim A: "None of us knows the reason."

    Leavy himself said 'It left me with a lot of sleepless nights and I think about it constantly. I'll go to my grave wishing that I'd been better.' (http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/08/06/four-years-later-bill-leavy-apologizes-to-seahawks/). Regardless of whether or not the calls affected the game's outcome, it's human nature to dwell on mistakes and wish one had done things better.

    Tim A: "Could it be that he was in Seattle at the time, operating as a ref at their training camp?"

    Er... to whom else would he offer an apology to help clear his mind? If he'd offered an apology to, say, the Dutch national soccer team, he'd just feel stupid. Worse, if he made an apology to the Steelers for the game's officiating, they'd be right to construe it as an insult.

    Mind you, the'Hawks themselves aren't blaming Leavy for the loss (http://blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks/2010/08/07/hasselbeck-on-leavy-we-still-lost/#more-7090). Craig Terrill said 'There were plenty of things that we did in that game that kept us from wining. So he can’t take responsibility for us for the mistakes that we made.'

    And the fans at training camp don't seem to have taken any notice of him (http://www.fieldgulls.com/2010/8/7/1611479/seahawks-august-6-training-camp).


    Tim A: "The only question that remains is should he have rightfully flagged an obvious hold or let him slide on the transgression? The call was correct."

    Leavy did not elaborate on which calls he thought he missed. But the aforementioned head of NFL referees suggested that Pittsburgh could have been called offsides on that same play (http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/ref-taking-super-mistakes-too-hard).


    Tim A: "If the article is to be objective, it should evaluate the WP impact of all controversial holding calls, not just the ones the media cries loudest about."

    Isn't it possible to write an objective article about those controversial calls that the media cries loudest about?

    Seriously.

    Imagine if: The Seahawk fans, following their Super Bowl loss, begin to lament that they'd have won the game if they'd had Steve Largent, Kenny Easley, and a 28th-century cyborg playing for their team. The media picks up the story. Brian gets a few emails from Pittsburgh fans (that may or may not be representative) saying 'we'd have won the game anyway!' Brian then proceeds to do an analysis of a very specific 'what if' scenario.

    Is that analysis flawed because he doesn't ALSO include Lynn Swan and a couple of cyborgs for Pittsburgh?


    Your point, that given perfect officiating Pittsburgh would have won anyways, is well-supported and valid.

    But Brian is NOT analyzing what the outcome would have been with perfect officiating, nor is he pretending to do so. If you think his topic selection is biased, that's a fair opinion, but responding to media attention seems to me like a good way to select topics of interest. More importantly, any lack of objectivity in CHOOSING a 'what if' scenario doesn't prevent the actual ANALYSIS of that scenario from being objective.

    Cheers,
    Jason

  21. Anonymous says:

    Seems like a cry for attention by an otherwise steadfast official.

  22. krleese says:

    Some of the comments by Steelers sycophants are mind-boggling -- it's like they didn't even watch the game. Brian, is there any way you can do an analysis of the impact made by calls that should have been made, but weren't? Because this is really where the one-sidedness of the officiating happened. Most of the calls that went against the Seahawks were arguably marginally legitimate -- but why does Locklear get called for a marginal "elements of a hold" call (against a guy who jumped offsides), but Alan Faneca mugs a Seattle defender and gets no call? When Shaun Alexander gets horsecollared, why no call? When Big Ben throws a pass on the other side of the line of scrimmage, why no call?

    I would have no problem with the close calls going against the Seahawks, if close calls were likewise made against the Steelers. And I would have no problem with letting the Steelers play, if they also let the Seahawks play. But that wasn't what happened. The game was called tight against the Seahawks, and loose against the Steelers. In marginal situations, the benefit of the doubt was given to the Steelers most of the time -- certainly enough to affect the outcome of the game.

    Did the Seahawks play a poor game? They certainly could have played better. But in any game, mistakes are made, and a team has to overcome those mistakes. In XL, though, the Seahawks were prevented from overcoming their mistakes by having momentum-stealing calls made against them at crucial moments. Consider, the Steelers played a far poorer game than the Seahawks did. They didn't even get a first down in the first third of the game, and Ben had a QB rating like a bad GPA. They basically won by virtue of three big plays. If any of those plays had been killed by a call (and there were calls that could have been made, but weren't), the Steelers would have been affected by the officiating the same way the Seahawks were, and the outcome of the game would likely have been far different.

    XL will always be remembered for the bad officiating. It's telling that in polls that took place after the game, the state of Pennsylvania was the only one on the map that had a majority of people who thought the game was fairly officiated. In reality, the only people who said the officiating was far were Steelers fans, Seahawk haters, and people on the NFL payroll.

    One of those people was Levy's boss Mike Pereira, and it's telling that Levy didn't say anything about blowing any calls until after Periera retired.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Since the '70's the NFL has been ripping off teams that have played the Stealers. The immaculate reception? How 'bout b.s. the ball hit the ground. Versus Houston (you remember Luv ya blue?) Renfro was in bounds in the back of the end zone for a touchdown, but because it was in Pittsburgh as well the crucial call goes to the Stealers. I think the Arizona Cardinals were ripped off too. Every call in the first half went for Pittsburgh including Harrison's return at the end of the half. His head made it into the end zone but I don't think the ball did.

  24. Anonymous says:

    This is all fine and good. A very analytical break down of a very emotional game. However it does not address what really happened. Having watched the media build up to the game, this Super Bowl was billed as Pittsburgh's chance to become the elite franchise of our age. Likewise, it was billed as Bettis's chance to finally win a much deserved Super Bowl before he retired. Talking heads turned this game into one big Pittsburgh fest. The Seahawks, well, who exactly were the Seahawks?

    To make matters worse, with a stadium ablaze with yellow terrible towels, the audience was was for Pittsburgh, the announcers were for Pittsburgh, and yes... ultimately the refs were for Pittsburgh.
    Now I am not suggesting they threw the game because they were Pitt fans. That did not happen. But what I am suggesting is that they are human and as such felt the weight and momentum of inevitable history. This weight turned no calls into game changing penalty's.

    For example, When the Seahawks threatened to slow this momentum by taking the lead early in the game, the back judge saw a penalty as D. Jackson jostled with his defender. Something that happens on nearly every pass play of every game.

    As we all know, this call was followed by a series of ticky tack calls that stopped Seattle's momentum every time they threatened.

    If you don't think this is true, then explain why with five minutes left to play in the game, Grant Wistrom complained to Leavy about a call and he responded, "Oh, get over it, this game is over."

    I argue it was over before it begun.

  25. Anonymous says:

    "I think the Arizona Cardinals were ripped off too. Every call in the first half went for Pittsburgh including Harrison's return at the end of the half. His head made it into the end zone but I don't think the ball did."

    There was a very clear block-in-the-back during that run-back as well, about 20-30 yards from the end zone, but the ref chose that precise moment to do his best Ray Charles impersonation. Take that gimme score away, and it's a whole different game.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Man Anonymous is right on. I too saw the game against the cardinals very, very one sided in the first half. I seem to remember a call favoring Pittsburg either not called or called against Arizona in Pittsburgs comeback drive. That Seattle game was definately the textbook one of set up calls though. The hype was incredibly pittsburg. But for that matter so were those superbowls involving the Patriots, and the games they played leading up to them. Everybody remembers the "tuck" when Oakland should have won. Not to mention the mauling of the Colts receivers...blatant holds, and grabs, and illegal contact. I think something similar happened to San Diego, but I can't clearly recalll.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Pittsburg, Kansas?

  28. Tim B. says:

    Your article incorrectly states that the Locklere hold was one of the calls Leavy "kicked." In fact, no where in the story can you confirm which calls Leavy refers to.

    So much for being objectionable and "leaving it up to others."

    Seahawk fans and haters in general are drinking deeply from this latest batch of "we wuz robbed" Koolaid...as if they needed any more fuel for their "eternal flame" of crying foul.

    A more balance view:

    http://awfnetwork.tripod.com/SHBR.htm

  29. Brian Burke says:

    He said they were in the 4th quarter. Which ones do you think he was referring to? Take your accusatory tone somewhere else, moron.

  30. Marver says:

    Brian,

    Just because he apologizes to one fan-base doesn't mean he wouldn't apologize to the other fan-base had the outcome been reversed. Consider a game where the official makes the wrong call on every call. Surely, no matter which team wins, the other team would have complaining fans to whom the official would eventually apologize.

    I don't think the Seahawks/Steelers game had every call wrong, but I do think it reached the threshold that no matter who won, the other team's post-SB complaining would have forced this apology out of the referee.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Yes and no. The final score was directly affected by the calls that were made. If the Steelers had three of their big plays taken away by momentum stealing calls, and the Seahawks had been allowed to play instead of having their momentum stolen by "ticky-tack" calls, the outcome would have indeed been reversed, and in that case the refs would owe the Steelers an apology.

    But if you are saying that the game AS IT WAS CALLED could have resulted in an apology for the Steelers if the Seahawks had won the game, then you are assuming two things to arrive at that conclusion, both of which are wrong -- that the officiating was equally bad for both teams, and that the officiating did not have a direct effect on the outcome of the game.

  32. Aaron says:

    The holding call on Locklear could be argued...if Haggans hadn't CLEARLY been offsides anyway. Go look at that play again...I PROMISE you that haggans is offsides. And it's not close.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Amazing ... watched many SB's and surprised to see that the 2 worst officiated game are mentioned here: Pitt vs Sea and Pitt vs AZ. Except for the tuck rule thing, I have never seen the calls favor one team (Pitt) and stop the other team(s) (Sea & AZ). Doesnt get much worse that this ~ those games were a travesty to fair play!

  34. Anonymous says:

    Seattle was robbed all day! Look at the tape. Ref waits to see if ball was caught, then throws the flag on Jackson's touchdown. 7-0 Hawks. If you think Ben got in you need to look at it again. The ball came loose and his knee was down. 7-3 Hawks at half. The only legitimate touchdown for the steelers came on the 75 yard run by Parker in the third. 10-7 Steelers. Then comes the defensive offsides that wasn't called. Instead, after the catch to the one yardline, the very late flag was thrown for offensive holding. Seattle punches it in from here. 14-10 Hawks. This bogus holding call creates an interception and penalty on Matt. Just how does a tackler get called with a low block penalty? I call all this major BS! Bettis didn't do squat the whole game, Rothlisburger had a QB rating of 22, Parker was nonexistant exept for one run. Seattle blows them out if game is not managed for outcome by the NFL.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Are we really talking about officiating that wins or loses football games.... really?!? Especially, a game that happened years ago?

    First off this analysis is completely flawed by all counts and measures. There are so many factors and nuances about the game that come into play that aren't even being considered here.

    First off, NFL head coaches know well ahead of time the appointed officiating crew for any game, especially for the Super Bowl. Secondly, coaches will, the good ones anyway, analyze the officials tendencies on calls and effectively, non-calls. My third point, is that both teams got away with non-calls and suffered from bad calls. Pointing out each bad call is just as irrelevant as pointing out the non-calls, as both teams have to adjust and overcome adversity. This is true of almost every single football game ever played. Anyone that disagrees with that doesn't watch or pay attention to the game. Lastly, players and coaches alike, the honest ones anyway, will tell you that the play that the media/public thinks lost or won the game wasn't the play. It was the play calling and adjustments that lead that play that matters and that is so very often overlooked, as it was in this analysis.

    What this analysis is stating, between the lines, is that who would have won this game had the officials made all the "right" calls in Seattle's favor?

    I would counter with someone to analyze who would have won the game if the officiating were to have been PERFECT. That's really what fans want to know, right?

    That my friends is a question we all, as fans, ponder after every single game on Sunday (Monday, Thursday, and sometimes Saturday) during the football season.

    I think that this has been blown out of proportion due to the fact that the Seahawks have done very little up until that point and have done very little since. So, what was their chance at being the King for a day, was not to be. Then all of a sudden a once poorly run and mismanaged franchise is now so deserving, yet not accountable.

    I watched the whole game and, quite frankly, Seattle fell short. As poor as Ben played that game, Seattle should have blown them out, but they didn't. They let the Steelers hang around and they ultimately got beat. The fact is that they got beat by the big play twice. That's bad coaching not bad officiating. They got beat.... that's right, beat, fair and square.

    If this type of officiating upsets you, then maybe you shouldn't watch football because it happens every Sunday.

    Long live football.

    George






  36. Anonymous says:

    And to be even more objective..... Brian, did you not only analyze if the officiating had been perfect in this game who would have won, but would either team actually had been in the Super Bowl if the officiating for every game had been perfect?

    Not even that, who would have won the most titles since the merger if the officiating was perfect.

    I can go on and on....

  37. Anonymous says:

    After reading every reply to this thread, including the author's, is completely biased. This is not scientific or mathematical and not to mention even remotely close to objective. This analysis is narrow minded and completely obtuse. For this type of article to be published under "Advanced NFL Stats" is a complete joke and waste of anyone's time that reads it.

  38. Anonymous says:

    The first quarter was worse! The TD being overturned on Jackson was questionable at best and if that penalty stands...WHY DIDN'T WARD GET THE SAME PENALTY? ALSO TAKE 7 MORE OFF OF PITS SCORE FOR THE TD GIVEN THAT CLEARLY LANDED 6 INCHES SHY AND SEATTLE WINS ON THAT ALONE!!!

  39. Anonymous says:

    The NFL will never own this because then they must compensate the loser for it and become liable! There is a TD given to pit in the first half that should never have been upheld, one taken away from Seattle on a questionable at best interference call on Jackson, and if that penalty stands why wasn't Heinz Ward also penalized? Oh no, instead that score stood! It was rigged from the beginning. In fact, in less than an hour the league reported officiating was not to blame! This tells me they were already privy to this and implementing the save face campaign!

  40. Anonymous says:

    Pereira worked for the NFL...the NFL within an hour of the game declared officiating had no impact on the game. An OBVIOUS conclusion can be made that the league already knew about this and had already implemented a save face campaign! That includes Pereira! To date the League has not revisited this in any way or form aside rule changes proposed the following month to quell the lawsuit coming from Paul Allen. And should the NFL revisit this, they would have to at minimum share the title with Seattle as they were screwed! This IS THE REAL REASON the NFL won't acknowledge it! There were a ton of drive ending/score removing calls and all of them went against Seattle! If Locklear was holding why wasn't the offsides on Hagan also called? How is Tackling a low block on Hassel Beck? Why weren't the Steelers called for holding for doing the same things and even sinking their hands in the pads of the defender? Hines Ward threw our defenders down on the ground consistently...why wasn't that called? BECAUSE SMALL TIME NO PUBLICITY SEATTLE COULD NOT BE BEATING THE ROONEY FAMILY IN THE SUPERBOWL! The pre game talk before the game all stated Seattle did well to get here but....

  41. Anonymous says:

    You apparebtly haven't played football, or at the very least haven't been watching the game for very long. I suspect you're no more than 15. So let me educate you a little.

    The game is played over 60 minutes. Your analysis of 3 plays definitively determing the outcome of the game is flawed at best. Teams have come back from considerable deficits many times throughout the history of the nfl. Teams have also done this despite poor officiating. Statistics are great at painting an intellectual picture but fail miserably when determining a team's resolve and character when faced with adversity. Seattle was shaken by the officiating and let it determine the outcome. Pittsburgh wasn't, and didn't. Calls went both ways, good and bad. Better teams rise above it. Pittsburgh was the better team that day. They have the hardware to prove it.

    And for all those whining about the nfl and some conspiracy, the nfl wont take ownership because it would open a pandora's box for every single game thereafter.

  42. Jon Smatherson says:

    The bottom line of this whole game from the beginning was the Steeler's Story. It was all about them, the coach, Bettis, the owner...There was no way the Seahawks were to win because the story would not be as good. Yes there were missed calls and there are in every game, but the ones they called on Seattle directly affected the turnout. Seattle was dominating the Steelers and the bad calls changed the momentum and thus the outcome.

  43. Anonymous says:

    I have been watching football for 50 years ...........and never, and I mean NEVER, have I seen such a tight game called against one team and such an incredibly loose game called against the other. To this day I still remain stunned to see how badly the Seahawks got "tickey tacked" for every MOMENTUM BUILDING PLAY FOR THE SEAHAWKS. Of course these make huge differences to the game. STEELER FANS!!!! ....you didn't win superbowl XL. It was simply handed over to you on a silver platter. The Seahawks were the much better team, and I guarantee you that if it had been played with fair, unbiased officiating the Seahawks WIN by a score of roughly 24-14. So enjoy your Lombardi trophy of Superbowl XL as the gift that was NEVER earned.. You Steeler fans can argue all you want, but you can't fool me. I know better, and I know that the Steelers were helped by the officials to a point that degrades the integrity of the NFL. Such a shame how that game was called. It makes me want to puke every time I think of it. Superbowl XL will always be with an asterisk as far as I'm concerned. Final Score should read: Steelers and Referees :21 Seahawks: Take away two touchdowns to make sure Bettis and Pittsuburgh celebrate after game.

    Sorry Steeler fans, but Seattle was the far better team. No doubt in my mind.

  44. Tim B. says:

    Super Bowl XLVIII – putting demons to rest?

    The Seattle Seahawks are back in the Super Bowl after an eight-year hiatus. Their return has brought back memories for me as a Steeler fan. I was able to go to the game in Detroit in 2006 and really enjoyed my time there (helps of course when your team wins).

    But after the game was over and I was done taking my pictures and taking it all in, the very NEXT thing I did was to seek out some Seahawk fans….to shake their hand and congratulate them on a good game and a great season.

    The ‘Hawks fans I met were obviously disappointed but seemed grateful for my words and show of sportsmanship. Little did I know that the talking heads of the sports media world were whipping up a manufactured controversy which would howl like an Alberta Clipper for years to come.

    I feel no need to burden the reader with the details of the same here (I had done a rebuttal of a manifesto put together by a pair calling themselves The Seahawk Boys – I provide the link at the end), but as with any controversy many picked it up and ran with it. Never mind the fact the whole issue with Super Bowl XL was largely overblown. Never mind the fact the Seahawks made too many mistakes to overcome. Again, people love controversy and conspiracies – real or imagined – and cling to them.

    Adding fuel to the fire in 2010 was the referee of the game, Bill Leavy, admitting to “kicking” two calls in the fourth quarter of the game. As expected, that story was also overblown. Never mind the fact that Leavy was at Seahawk camp at the time and perhaps sensed the proverbial “elephant in the room” and elected to say what they wanted to hear.

    Fast forward to now. Seattle is back in the big game. While I may have Richard Sherman to thank in part, I am not hearing a whole lot about Seattle’s last trip to the big one. I have not heard any Seattle sports folks looking back and making snide remarks about the officials….they seem uniquely focused on what’s ahead, versus what happened in the past.

    I take this as a good omen. I had written years back about some fans’ insistence on clinging to SBXL and squawking (pun intended) about how “the fix was in, the ‘Stealers’ needed help to win,” etc. I had stated how I hoped Seattle could make it back to the Bowl and win it this time; and how that would allow said fans to release some of their anger about the game in Detroit, while finally putting to rest some demons that have plagued them for so long.

    I think it helps that no one on the current Seattle roster were there in 2006. I think it will help that Seattle comes in this time with a top-rated defense vs. a top-rated offense. This might be the chance at long last for “Steeler Nation” to finally be able to reminisce on SBXL without being made to feel guilty about it out of turn.

    On the flip side, someone brought up to me the potential lead storyline to this game: About “golden boy” Peyton Manning coming all the way back from the brink to win another title. That reminded me of the leading storylines from eight years ago: Jerome Bettis coming home to win a ring, Coach Cowher finally winning the big one….

    Uh oh….

    The person I spoke to then suggested a different ending that might be even better for me as a Steeler fan: What if the refs make glaring errors (REAL errors vs. perceived ones) in this game to allow Manning and the Broncos to win. Seattle fans will have a brand-new controversy and focus for their disappointment and ire and be even more likely to leave [Steeler Nation] alone. So instead of putting old demons to rest, that would awaken all-new ones that would quiet the old.

    I asked “what about the other way?” What if a key mistake by the refs directly allows SEATTLE to win the game? Then those aforementioned fans would no longer have a leg to stand on regarding “stealing one.”

    Last year’s Super Bowl was lose-lose for Steeler fans (their hated rival winning or another club getting six). Perhaps this one is win-win after all. We’ll see….

    http://awfnetwork.tripod.com/SHBR.htm

  45. Anonymous says:

    You my friend are dumb. Three bad calls can make the difference. You also can not measure heart and the Seahawks had more. You ask any real football fan and they will tell you that game was bs.

  46. Anonymous says:

    How About A Rematch? lol

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