It may seem like a bit of a joke given the high percentage of blown calls and general buffoonery we've seen from the NFL's referees this season, but the league saw the ways in which the wild-card games were officiated, and the league would like to make it clear -- its officials are to call postseason games as they called games in the regular season.
Per Pro Football Talk, the NFL sent out a video memo to the media this week in which VP of Officiating Dean Blandino insisted that the "let them play" modus operandi that seemed to rule the day in all four games is not what the league wants.
“The philosophy in the postseason, the direction is no different from the regular season when we talk with our officials,” Blandino said. “We want them to call the game the same way. I know fouls were down this weekend, but the direction is the same -- we want them to call the game the same way all year. We’ve told our officials, don’t be overly technical, we don’t want to call what you’d consider ticky-tack fouls. We want to make sure the fouls are there and we’re getting flags down when they are there, and not letting teams take advantage or push the envelope. That’s been the direction all year and it will continue to be the direction during the postseason.”
Given the fact that Blandino had to go on the NFL Network just about every week to explain yet another officiating mistake or three (or five), you'd think he'd like the hands-off approach that the NFL's crews generally take in the playoffs. To be sure, it was an obvious issue throughout wild-card weekend. Each of the games featured penalties that could have been called and weren't, and the San Francisco 49ers' 23-20 win over the Green Bay Packers on Sunday was particularly interesting. Both teams were grabby at the line and chippy in the secondary, yet Ed Hochuli's crew called just five penalties on the day. Walt Anderson's crew threw just six flags in Indianapolis' win over the Kansas City Chiefs, Jeff Triplette managed to avoid his usual hatchet jobs with nine penalties called in San Diego's win over the Cincinnati Bengals, and the New Orleans Saints' win over the Philadelphia Eagles featured the most called violations, with Bill Vinovich's crew calling 11 fouls.
Many believe that a hands-off approach in the playoffs makes for better football, and certain teams would prefer that the league keeps things the way they have been. The Seahawks led the NFL this year with 13 pass interference penalties, and the Broncos finished third with 10. The Saints led the league with 23 offensive holding penalties, and interestingly enough for a team in a stadium that causes more false starts than any other, the Seahawks' 23 false starts ranked third in the league this season -- tied with the Chargers. We'll see how much Blandino's edict affects the games this weekend. For the record, Terry McAulay will lead the crew when the Seattle Seahawks take on the New Orleans Saints, Pete Morelli is the man in charge when the Indianapolis Colts meet the New England Patriots, Carl Cheffers has the whistle for the San Francisco 49ers-Carolina Panthers game, and Clete Blakeman will run things for the game between the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos.