DENVER – The best thing that can be said about the officiating crew for Broncos-Ravens, headed by referee Bill Vinovich, was that it didn't seem to play favorites. There were really baffling calls against both sides.
But the final pair of questionable and critical calls both went against the Broncos in overtime.
On the first possession of overtime, Baltimore was backed up on its own 22-yard line with a third-and-8. Anquan Boldin made an 11-yard catch, but replays showed as he juggled it on his way down, the ball may have touched the ground. Had it been reversed, Baltimore would have been punting from its 22. After review, the play stood.
Three plays later, on third-and-4 from the Ravens' 39, cornerback Champ Bailey was called for pass interference, even though he reached around Torrey Smith and seemed to make a great play to knock the ball away. Instead of punting, the Ravens had four more downs. They eventually punted from their own 49 to the Broncos, who took over at their 16. Those two calls caused a big change in field position.
Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller didn't rip the officials after the game.
"When you take situations and you put them in other people's hands, it takes the power away from you," Miller said. "They're playing with the same refs we were playing with. That's just the game of football. You have to keep on playing, you have to fight through adversity. The great teams are able to overcome adversity - first downs, touchdowns, fumbles, turnovers, bad calls – those are the teams that win. Unfortunately we weren't able to overcome it today."
The overtime calls weren't the only ones that stood out, just the two that will be remembered because they came at such an important time.
In the third quarter, a holding call on Broncos guard Chris Kuper – something rarely called on an inside run and didn't seem to be holding on Kuper either – nullified a third-and-1 conversion, and Peyton Manning was sacked and had a critical fumble (a tough call the officials got right, something Manning admitted) on the next play. Later, Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas dropped a pass on third-and-3, but a late flag came out on cornerback Cary Williams for holding well before the pass was thrown. The Ravens were animated on the field after that call.
There were 18 penalties in the game, causing a lot of delays, something that was difficult to deal with as the temperature dipped below 10 degrees as the sun went down.
"It's our job to deal with whatever elements there are, or clock stoppages," Manning said. "I agree with you – there were, but I can't say that had any effect on the times that we did not execute."
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