NFL stands by officiating crew on 'tight plays'

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

The NFL defended the officiating in the Super Bowl, and Joe Montana defended himself.

Two days after the Steelers beat the Seahawks 21-10 in the NFL title game, the league said Tuesday that the game was "properly officiated."

"Including, as in most NFL games, some tight plays that produced disagreement about the calls made by the officials," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement.

Meanwhile, three-time Super Bowl MVP Montana denied reports he had asked for $100,000 to appear with other past MVPs at pre-game ceremonies. He left Detroit on Friday, and returned home to attend his two sons' weekend basketball games.

"I had told them both that I'd be there for their games and that we'd watch the Super Bowl together," Montana said in an interview with ESPN.

Later, Montana added, "The Super Bowl is important to a lot of people, but to me, it was more important that I was home with my boys."

Two-time MVP Terry Bradshaw and Miami's Jake Scott were the only other MVP's who didn't attend. Bradshaw reportedly want to be with his family, and Scott was traveling in Australia.

The officiating, though, has been a the major topic of discussion since Sunday night. Right after the game, Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren suggested that a first-quarter offensive interference call on the Seahawks' Darrell Jackson, negating what would have been the game's first touchdown, probably should have been "a no call."

Holmgren, a former chairman of the NFL's rule-making competition committee, fueled the debate Monday during a rally for the Seahawks at Qwest Field when he said, "We knew it was going to be tough going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."

The questionable calls:

* Replays on the offensive interference call showed that Jackson's arms made contact with Pittsburgh's Chris Hope and that they separated afterward. Under the rules, pass interference took place but sometimes the call isn't made.

* The first TD of the game scored on a third-down rollout by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger late in the first half. Roethlisberger appeared to come down short of the goal line, but it was unclear on replay whether he had gotten the ball to the line before going down. Referee Bill Leavy upheld the call because there was not enough incontrovertible evidence to overturn it.

* Holding call on Sean Locklear in the fourth: Locklear's penalty erased an 18-yard completion from Matt Hasselbeck to Jerramy Stevens to the Pittsburgh 1-yard line that would have put the Seahawks in position to go ahead 17-14 with around 12 minutes left. It was a close call that was difficult to see on replay.

* One call that clearly appeared erroneous came after that penalty, when Hasselbeck threw an interception to Pittsburgh's Ike Taylor, then made the tackle but was called for a block below the waist, giving the Steelers an extra 15 yards. They scored soon afterward on a pass from Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward. Replays showed Hasselbeck never made contact with the player he was supposed to have hit illegally, instead going straight to Taylor to make the tackle.

The Super Bowl crew headed by Leavy was comprised of officials who graded out best at each position during the regular season.

MVP controversy

The NFL invited all past Super Bowl MVPs, and gave them two first-class plane tickets to Detroit as well as $1,000 in spending money. They also were free to accept appearance fees at other events associated with the Super Bowl.

Asked during the interview if an appearance fee kept him away from the game, Montana said, "Not at all. When I was playing football I missed my two girls. They're in college now and they're gone. These boys are at the age right now at 16 and 13 that I want to be around. I don't want to miss them before they're gone."

Alexander injury

Turns out dropped passes, penalties and disputed officials' calls weren't the only things going against the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

League MVP Shaun Alexander revealed Tuesday he sprained his right foot during the Seahawks' championship loss to Pittsburgh Sunday.

"I didn't even know it happened, but it swelled up," he said, hours before he and six teammates flew to Hawaii to play in this weekend's Pro Bowl.

Alexander said he will get treatment in Hawaii before deciding whether to play on the swollen foot.

He got hurt while rushing 20 times for 95 yards in Sunday's game.

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