True- it did not come in the final, critical seconds of the game.
True- it was not as big a factor in directly deciding the outcome.
Pete Morelli's botched call in the game between Arizona and Dallas was nearly as bad as Ed Hochuli's gaffe in the San Diego- Denver matchup.
For those who didn't see it, in the first half of play, the Cards busted through Dallas' line and wrapped up Romo. As he was being sacked, the ball was stripped and Arizona recovered. It was an unambiguous fumble by Romo, but as I watched it unfold I already knew the Cards got hosed. Because as the ball was bouncing around I could hear Pete Morelli blowing his whistle.
Morelli's crew ruled that Romo's progress was stopped and/or that he was "in the grasp". Many of us recall the days in the NFL when an actual "in the grasp" rule was in full effect- it threatened to ruin the game. QBs who ultimately escaped were robbed of their skillful evasion. Defenses were robbed of ensuing fumbles that occured after the "grasp" was determined. It was a losing situation for both sides and an absolutley ridiculous rule.
Thankfully, the league revamped it and it has become much less of an issue. Until yesterday. Officials have been repeatedly taught to "swallow the whistle" on potentially controversial plays. Let the action finish BEFORE you make a decision- that's what replay is for. However, Hochuli, and now Morelli, failed to learn the lesson.
Hochuli's error was thrust into the media spotlight immediately. Granted, it practically handed the Broncos a win because it came in the final second of a tight game, and it deserved a lot of attention. But Morellli's error should be scrutinized as well.
Instead of a fumble recovered by Arizona, which would have given them great field position by the way, the play was ruled a sack, and the Cowboys went on to score a TD on the drive and tie the game. I know there was a lot of football left at that point, and I know that there's now way of knowing what might or might not have happened the rest of the way.
But as a fan watching all of this unfold, I'm confused as to why no one is roasting Morelli for his error when Hochuli was raked over the coals for days. This wasn't a judgment call- this was an obvious fumble that was undone by the refs- and it wasn't an inadvertant whistle either- Morelli was decidedly unapologetic. In fact, it seemed that no one really reacted to the mistake except the fans and the Arizona coaching staff.
What really fries me in all of this is that perpetually loudmouthed donkey Jerry Jones, who led the charge to have Hochuli tarred and feathered, surely has nothing bad to say about Morelli's blown call. If it benefits your team, you're all good, right Jer?
Since the Cardinals won in the end, this will probably be largely ignored, although ESPN's recap (at least) does mention the lousy officiating. In fact, Morelli blew ANOTHER call at the end of regulation when he called the injured Travis LaBoy offsides instead of stopping play.
But I think the league needs to sit down with its officiating teams and remind them that when they decide the game, football ceases to be entertaining. And I think that we all need to avoid a double standard by recognizing Morelli's error just as we did with Hochuli.