If National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell still wants to find "Conduct Detrimental" in New Orleans, he should forget the Saints' Bountygate and focus on officiating in Super Bowl XLVII.
The ultimate game of the 2012 season featured the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens as two belligerent bullies that referee Jerome Boger's officiating crew did not try to control. So an otherwise sensational season ended as it began, with controversial officiating, although this time it was not a replacement crew.
The best that can be said is the officials were consistent -- too permissive. That helped lead to an ending the NFL absolutely did not want -- controversial. And for some, that will forever taint the Ravens' well-deserved, 34-31 victory.
Former head of NFL officials Mike Pereira, now an analyst for FOX Sports, told The Sport Xchange that the lack of control by officials in the Super Bowl might result in changes for next season. He said the Ravens and 49ers were overtly cantankerous and physical after plays, which reflects a trend that needs to be addressed.
"Overall, the league has become too tolerant of taunting and pushing after plays," Pereira said by phone Monday from his home in Northern California. "It has become worse each season for the last two or three years, and we saw an unfortunate example of it in this Super Bowl.
"It is so bad that I am very sure that addressing this kind of unacceptable stuff will be a point of emphasis for the competitions committee in this offseason."
But that will be too late to help Super Bowl XLVII.
"This was maybe the most chippy Super Bowl I have seen," Pereira said. "It felt like an extension of what we saw way back in the first weeks with the replacement officials. Too much stuff was allowed after plays."
Such tolerance of defiant acts left the door wide open for a major controversy, and that inevitable controversy became an infamous part of Super Bowl history with 1:46 left in the game on a fourth-and-goal pass.
San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick lofted the ball toward the right side of the end zone to wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who was in contact with and held by defensive back Jimmy Smith. There was no penalty called.
Although that was consistent with numerous non-calls during a game that was rife with extracurricular activity on almost every play, this was conspicuous because it had the appearance of making a dramatic impact on the outcome of the game in the final furious moments. Crabtree noted that it was just the last of many non-calls, but the one he will remember forever.
"There was a couple of plays where the guy was on me before the ball got to me," Crabtree said. "I don't even want to talk about it. It's frustrating, man. It's the game-winning touchdown -- makes me sad. It's the Super Bowl. It's what you live for.
"When somebody grabs you, you always expect a call. But you can't whine to the refs. It is what it is."
Ironically, some of the postgame analysis thought Crabtree's lack of reaction immediately after the play was an admission by him that there should be no penalty.
"Look at Crabtree after the play, he doesn't complain because he knows it was not a penalty," said NFL Network's Deion Sanders, whose perspective might be predictable as a Hall of Fame defensive back.
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh was almost as animated as Beyonce's halftime show after the play and was vociferous in postgame interviews, all of which is in keeping with his usual melodramatic demeanor.
"It should have been a penalty and our drive should have continued," he said. "No call on that play is just not acceptable."
In postgame broadcasts, some analysts said that because Crabtree initiated contact, there could be no penalty. That is flawed on every level, but especially so because Smith obviously did grab Crabtree and prevented the receiver from releasing toward the corner of the end zone, where the ball was thrown. The ball sailed over his outstretched fingers by a couple of yards.
Some focused on that singular picture of the unreachable ball and attempted to contend that there should be no penalty because, after all, it was an uncatchable pass. This amused Hall of Fame Raiders coach John Madden, who saw the game larger than life on his multi-screen, mega-sized, Maddenplex in Pleasanton, Calif.
"I heard somebody said it was an uncatchable ball," Madden said Monday. "That's a bunch of baloney. Of course if the receiver is held he cannot get to the ball, so it appears uncatchable."
For the record, during the game, Pereira tweeted that it was a good non-call. He said slow-motion replays did exaggerate the contact more, but he said that didn't change his mind.
"It was a good no call," he said. "It's the type of play where a flag thrown against either team would create more controversy than a decision not to throw the flag."
He added that Harbaugh's dramatic plea for holding was totally incorrect regardless.
"Pass interference would be the only possible penalty, not holding," Pereira explained. "The pass was in the air when the contact occurred, so it's either offensive pass interference or defensive pass interference. However, it is not a penalty I want called if I were still VP of Officiating for the NFL."
Pereira was most critical of the unwillingness of the officials to stop the constant bullying and badgering between plays. On one play, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was pushed to the ground while out of bounds after throwing a pass. On another, after an interception, a bunch of players took part in an MMA-style dogpile with pushing, pulling, punching. It resulted only in offsetting penalties.
"The lack of control we saw the first three weeks of the season was hard to reel in once the regular officials resumed their roles," Pereira said. "I have to think the NFL can't be happy with all of the late shoving and taunting and mouthing off.
"It was most apparent in the second quarter after Baltimore's Ed Reed picked off a Kaepernick pass. There was a fracas and personal fouls were called on both teams. Just offsetting penalties. Baltimore defender Cary Williams shoved an official. He definitely should have been ejected."
An ejection is never a great experience in any game, let alone a Super Bowl, so it wasn't totally surprising that the call was only offsetting penalties, which has no impact.
An ejection at that juncture might have changed the temperament of players both after and during plays. And such changes in attitude or conduct may have impacted how those final two minutes played out. Or maybe not. We will never know. But because the officials were too lenient for the whole game, such conjecture and controversy will remain an unfortunate chapter in the legacy of Super Bowl XLVII.