October 05, 2009
After their 27-21 loss to the Patriots, several Baltimore Ravens defenders had negative reviews for Ron Winter's officiating crew. Specifically, linebacker Ray Lewis(notes) and safety Ed Reed(notes) were unhappy about two personal fouls called against Baltimore. On third-and-9 with 3:35 left in the first quarter and the ball at the Baltimore 37, tackle Naloti Ngata was flagged for roughing the passer on a play that looked more like Ngata was trying to deflect Brady's pass before it was thrown by raising his arms. As Ngata's left arm came down, it grazed the right side of Brady's facemask. Brady went down as if he'd been hit by a brick (nice method acting there), and there was laundry on the field. The second roughing call, with 5:16 left in the first half and the ball at the Baltimore 43, came on second-and-11. Endbacker Terrell Suggs(notes) beat his man up the middle and pressured Brady just as he threw. Right after the throw, Suggs appeared to go low, but to Brady's right, in an effort to go away from his knees. It looked to me as if Suggs was trying to avoid hitting Brady in or near the face with his shoulder or helmet, which would have brought a flag as well. The Pats scored on both drives with those personal fouls.
Of course, the new "Brady Rule" promises stiffer penalties for defenders who approach quarterbacks below the knees, and when you do it to Tom Brady(notes), it's double trouble. The rule is supposed to penalize defenders who dive at a quarterback's knees without being blocked or fouled on that direction, but the NFL also leaves this up to the discretion of the officials.
The Ravens were not impressed with the interpretation. "Without totally going off the wall here, it is embarrassing to the game," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "Brady is good enough to make his own plays, let him make the play. When you have two great teams that are going at it, let them go at it. Both of their touchdown drives had personal fouls that kept drives alive. Did that win or lose the game? No, but it got them 14 points."
Reed was more distressed by some of the spots the Ravens received -- most specifically, two in the fourth quarter. "You hate to come into a game where you have to play against a team and the officials," Reed said. "Like I said, nothing to take away from their team, nothing to take away from the officials. We have to help each other out in a way to where it's near as perfect as we can be. Like I said, it's a game of inches. We have too much going on with this game, from where it's come to in 2009, 2010, to say we can't be a little bit more precise with things."
The NFL isn't going to change their rules about quarterback protection, nor will they change the rules about criticizing officiating in a public forum. The Ravens may be expecting apologies this week, but they'll most likely get some hefty fines instead. I'll just add that while I think some officiating crews tend to be made up of bumbling dolts, Winter's crews have been better than average in the games I've seen over the last few years. Roughing the passer is made up of some tough interpretive calls, and I think the refs are behind the 8-ball in this case.
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