Let me just start this post off by letting everyone know that I am a Chargers fan. At first glance this may seem like homer-ish drivel, but I promise you I’ve had hours to digest what happened at “Obama Field” in Denver, and I can come to no other conclusion than the San Diego Chargers got absolutely screwed. In case you aren’t aware – because ESPN refuses to actually show what happened and discuss it at length, instead choosing to focus on the size of Mike Shanahan’s balls – the Chargers were twice f*cked by the NFL’s replay process to a ridiculous degree.
After an improbable comeback that saw the Chargers take a 38-31 lead, the Broncos drove down to San Diego’s 1 yard line with 1:17 remaining. On the ensuing play, Jay Cutler rolled to his right and as he wound up to throw, the ball came loose – a clear fumble – and rolled to the right sideline. Chargers linebacker Tim Dobbins scooped up the ball and fell out of bounds.
Game over, Chargers win. Right? Wrong.
It turns out that world bodybuilding champion referee Ed Hochuli blew his whistle when Cutler’s fluttering duck hit the ground, ruling it an incomplete pass. Naturally, the play was reviewed and Hochuli realized his mistake, ruling the play a fumble. However, since he blew the play dead, Denver was awarded the ball where it had hit the turf back at the 10 yard line, and they retained possession. Now let me say this, even if the play was blown dead, there were no Broncos near the ball and no one stopped playing. Dobbins was the only person who could have recovered the ball before it went out of bounds. That is to say, if Hochuli wanted to make the common sense ruling, it would have been Chargers ball. No one could have possibly complained if the Broncos lost the game on that play, regardless of a whistle having been blown, since clearly without the mistake, the Chargers had it.
Now, I’m not one to complain about officiating. I think it’s a cop out. But the difference here is, this doesn’t concern judgement calls like holding or pass interference. This concerns a referee blowing his whistle, when he’s supposed to let plays go until they are clearly over and then let replay decide the outcome. But he didn’t. He jumped the gun, thus costing one team the game. Maybe if Hochuli spent less time pounding pitchers of HGH and more time actually learning how he’s supposed to enforce the rules, he’d have better results.
The above rant doesn’t even take into consideration the fact that the Chargers were screwed by the replay situation in the first quarter. On the second play of their opening drive, Philip Rivers found Chris Chambers for a short gain, but as he rolled towards the ground Champ Bailey came away with the ball and ran towards the end zone for Denver. The referees gathered to discuss the play and ruled Bailey down at the 29 yard line, where he made the play. The Chargers called for a review, because replay showed that Chambers was clearly down before Bailey ripped the ball away. Easy overturn, right? Wrong. The replay equipment was “malfunctioning” and Hochuli waited two minutes for it to come back on. It didn’t. Therefore, the Chargers were shit out of luck. Denver took the ball from the 29 and scored the first points of the game.
Again, there’s something completely wrong here. The Chargers absolutely do not deserve a loss for this game. I sat next to two Broncos fans at a bar during the game and they both said they felt bad winning that game. It was nice for them to see Cutler come through and have a big game, but they both said the Chargers had really won.
So what happens now? Are there any repercussions?
And why was Trent Dilfer the one person on ESPN to openly criticize the officiating? Could it be that ESPN doesn’t want to piss off the brass at the NFL by calling the officiating into question? For an answer to that last question check out this book. All Berman and Tom Jackson could talk about was how “gutsy” it was of Shanahan to go for two after the Broncos scored following the fumble play. Yeah, real gutsy to make the obvious move and go after the team that just had its heart ripped out. Billy Bob in the 47th row knew they should have gone for it. Here’s a local San Diego reporter’s take on the blown calls, since we couldn’t get anything from the “experts” at ESPN.
I hate this situation ever more because for once in my life I have to say that Norv Turner said it best:
“On the last play it was clearly a fumble. Ed came over, the official, and said he blew it. And that’s not acceptable to me. This is a high-level performance game and that’s not acceptable to have a game decided on that play.”
Norv Turner is right. And I hate that I have to acknowledge that fact.