How poor television replays clinched a game for the Falcons

By the NFL standard, Brent Grimes'(notes) game-clinching interception of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman(notes) shouldn't have been overturned on replay review. Because there wasn't indisputable visual evidence that the ball hit the ground while Grimes was making the catch, referee Tony Corrente made the correct call when he upheld the call on the field and awarded the ball to Grimes and the Atlanta Falcons.

Except Grimes didn't catch the ball. It hit the ground as he was rolling around following the interception and he momentarily lost possession of it as a result. The only problem was, Corrente could only assume this, not conclude it, because there wasn't a television replay that adequately showed the play from the necessary angle. All of the pertinent replays provided to Corrente were shot from behind the play, meaning Grimes' torso blocked all sight of the ball for those critical moments.

Herein lies one of the many problems with the league's replay review system: It's only as good as the television crew working the game. Because this particular FOX crew didn't have a cameraman on the other side of the field shooting this play, Corrente didn't get the angle needed to make the call and the Bucs lost any chance they had at upsetting the division-leading Falcons. Had another cameraman or director or network been involved with this game, maybe the angle would have been there. (No slight against this FOX team, mind you. It can only work with the equipment and personnel given. But if this had been on NBC or ESPN, networks which have more cameras for their primetime games, then maybe it's a different story.)

Take a look at the play, particularly the replay that begins 47 seconds into the clip:

The ball hits the ground. Corrente knows it, but the rules don't allow him to decide based upon what he thinks happened. He has to base his call on what he saw happened. A better replay would have allowed that.

Speaking of replays, notice how FOX never showed a wide shot of Freeman's "late hit" on Grimes. The director inexplicably cut to a field-level shot during the run back (a run back which itself was ill-advised -- go down, Brent!) and the truck never showed a replay that allowed viewers to determine whether Freeman indeed hit Grimes while he was out of bounds. It's another example of how the broadcast booth and truck helps shape viewers' opinions of the game.

All of that being said, let's not overreact and say the replay caused Tampa Bay to lose the game. Had the call been reversed, Freeman and the Bucs were facing second-and-10 from the Atlanta 27-yard line and needed a touchdown to go ahead. Even if they accomplished that, Matt Ryan(notes) and the Falcons could have easily gotten into range for a game-tying field goal.

The call guaranteed a victory for the Falcons. Its reversal wouldn't have necessarily done the same for the Bucs.