Hat tip to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com, who pointed out via Twitter (@jasonjwilde) the NFL's official explanation for the play we ranted about Wednesday. The NFL Network appearance of Carl Johnson, the league's vice president of officiating, provides us a platform for a quick follow-up.
For starters, Johnson acknowledged that referee Peter Morelli's crew erred on a critical call in the second quarter of the Green Bay Packers' 20-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Tight end Tony Gonzalez should not have been credited with a 6-yard reception on fourth down.
"It was not a catch," Johnson said. "He did not maintain firm grasp and control."
There is no disputing that conclusion. But in the process of explaining what happened, Johnson provided further grist for our argument against the current replay system.
He touted the instance as "an excellent example of the chess games teams play" and praised the Falcons for rushing to get off another play and prevent Packers coach Mike McCarthy from challenging the call. Johnson also acknowledged that "TV networks aren't obligated to show significant replays or any types of replays" and said that the home-field advantage in the replay system "balances out" because "you have eight home games and eight away."
Johnson is simply the messenger of the NFL's policy-making monolith, so I don't blame him personally. But how can this be a fair way of neutrally officiating high-stakes NFL games? Getting calls right shouldn't be subject to "chess games." The NFL can't be solely reliant on TV networks if they're not obligated to provide the service they're being counted on for. And home-field advantage only balances out if there is an equal number of questionable calls spread among your 16 games -- an unrealistic possibility, at best.
Maybe I'm preaching to the choir on this one, but count me as still riled by Sunday's sequence and now disheartened by the league's response.
One other note before I drop this (for the moment): A few of you pointed out something I should have realized myself in the original post. Network feeds inside NFL stadiums often run on a significant delay, and that was the case Sunday in the Georgia Dome. Sitting in the press box, I could watch the play live and then look up at the television monitor to see the same play just starting.
So if you were viewing at home, you saw a solid replay of the "catch" well before the Falcons took the next snap. But if you were in the coaches' booth, you didn't see that replay until after the next play occurred in live action. Without spending too much time in a space-time continuum debate, the bottom line is that McCarthy is right: His assistants didn't see any replay of the play until it was too late. Consider the internal feed delay another pock on the system as currently configured.