Rams' Jeff Fisher: Looked like a penalty

November, 19, 2013
11/19/13
9:15
PM ET
The penalty turned non-penalty at the end of the New England Patriots' 24-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers has been widely discussed, with various opinions and perspectives being tapped.

One that stood out from this perspective was from St. Louis Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.

Fisher
“I personally feel like the flag went down for a reason, and it looked like a foul to me," Fisher said at his Tuesday news conference (video here). "So, that’s my opinion. Because I was not on the sideline, obviously, I can voice my opinion [without getting fined].”

Fisher, a veteran coach, is well-versed in the league's rulebook as a longstanding member of the NFL's competition committee.

Before closing the book on the reversed call, I wanted to relay a few final thoughts before moving on:

1. Picking up the flag contributes to feeling that officials backed down: Fisher's point articulates what has stuck with me most for the last 20-24 hours: The flag was thrown for a reason and I was left with the feeling that the officials talked themselves out of it based on the situation and environment when it was far from a clear-cut reversal. It might be commonplace to see that at lower levels of football, but I think it's fair to expect more from the NFL.

2. Referees could use Hochuli-type reminder on effective microphone usage: This point was brought up by Peter King of The MMQB and I think he nailed it. One of referee Clete Blakeman's biggest missteps was not explaining why a flag was thrown, then picked up, on such a critical game-ending play in a prime-time game. It was a lack of awareness and oversight on one of the key roles of the referee -- to clearly explain what is happening to those involved in the game and watching it. Likewise, we saw referee Jerome Boger struggle to explain why Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones had been penalized in overtime for unsportsmanlike conduct in the Patriots' Oct. 20 loss to the Jets (he said "pushing an opponent") on a controversial ruling. Officiating NFL football is a challenging task, and officials earn great respect for their ability to do it, but effective communication doesn't seem that hard. Specific to Patriots games, we've seen the NFL fall short in a few big spots this year in this area. So for as much as referees Ed Hochuli or Gene Steratore might catch some grief for excessive microphone usage at times, we'd prefer it to trend in that direction than what we saw Monday night.

3. Blandino's explanation warrants scrutiny: My view of NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino's video explanation of the call was that he was saying one thing and the video was showing another. Blandino seems like a genuine person who wants to do the right thing, but it left me wondering, "Does he really believe this?"

4. Separating officials talk from credit where it's due: Part of my reluctance from writing and opining on officials/controversial calls is that it can lead us to overlook other equally important parts of the game, and also how most of the calls league-wide are ruled correctly by hard-working officials who spend considerable time working to master their craft. Furthermore, had this call gone in the other direction, it seems fair to say we probably wouldn't be spending as much time on it. Thus, the final point is this: We shouldn't overlook that the Cam Newton-led Panthers deserve a lot of credit. They really rose to the challenge against a solid Patriots team and are one of the nice stories in the NFL this season. Had the penalty been enforced, I don't think anyone would have been surprised if the Panthers still came up with the goal-line stop to win it.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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