Last week, 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks was called for roughing the passer. Perhaps technically it was a penalty, but it really didn't pass the eye test. Brooks' right arm hit New Orleans' Drew Brees in the chest, with the force of his hit catching Brees in the neck. It was borderline, at best.
But the penalty flag was thrown, a 49ers fumble recovery was taken off the board, and it probably cost the 49ers a win.
Well, the Cleveland Browns must be wondering where that officiating crew was on Sunday.
Steelers cornerback William Gay came from quarterback Jason Campbell's left side and drilled him in the head with his arm. There was no gray area, as Campbell's head snapped to the side like Mike Tyson getting caught with Buster Douglas' uppercut in the 10th round. It didn't appear that Gay meant to hit Campbell in the head, but it's still a penalty. There was no flag. The Steelers picked up a fumble, had a long return, and scored the next play to take a 20-3 lead. That put away a game that had huge AFC playoff implications. Campbell was slow off the field and carted to the locker room.
Again, there was no flag on the play. Perhaps had Campbell been named Drew Brees, he would have gotten the penalty and the Browns would have stayed alive in the game, as the Saints did. Brooks was later fined almost $16,000 for the hit, and it's possible Gay gets a similar fine when the NFL can look at the replay.
The officials have a hard job on that type of play. It's easy to miss Gay's high hit on Campbell, because he was coming in very fast. And, it's possible they could have easily missed the Brooks call too. The fact that the more egregious foul of the two didn't get a penalty probably is the best argument for adding instant replay challenges for that situation.
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