Controversial NFL Plays of 2010
Pittsburgh Steeler fans were thanking their lucky stars after the Week 7 games. With 2:30 left in the fourth quarter, trailing the Miami Dolphins 22-20, Ben Roethlisberger scrambled for the end zone and fumbled the ball as he crossed the goal line. The play was ruled a touchdown, but was reversed after replay. Unfortunately for the Dolphins, replay couldn't determine who recovered said fumble, and the Steelers were given the ball at the spot of the fumble. They kicked the eventual game-winning field goal on the subsequent play. Here are some other controversial calls from the 2010 season.
Trailing 19-14 with 24 seconds left in the game, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson believed he had caught the game-winning touchdown. He securely planted two feet in the end zone, fell to the ground and then flicked the ball away in celebration. Upon review, officials stated that Johnson lost control of the ball as he hit the ground, and thus the touchdown was overturned. Lions fans and fantasy team owners alike still shake their head at this call. The NFL will consider revising the rule in the offseason.
In a game filled with controversial calls, it's fitting the deciding play was also in dispute. Trailing 20-17, the Jets faced a fourth-and-six. Mark Sanchez threw a 46-yard prayer to Santonio Holmes, who jostled with safety Renaldo Hill before the ball fell innocuously incomplete. A second later the flags flew, and officials charged Hill with pass interference. Replay showed that Hill had interfered on the play, but even Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez conceded that the Jets had "stole a win."
SI.com's Peter King deemed it an awful pass-interference call. With 1:45 left in the Week 6 matchup between the Texans and the Chiefs, the Texans trailed 31-28. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub dropped back and found wide receiver Andre Johnson for a 31-yard gain. A flag flew, and Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers believed the call would be offensive pass interference on Johnson. The ruling, however, was on Flowers, though tv replays clearly showed Johnson creating space for the catch with his elbow. The Texans went on to win 35-31.
Tied 21-21 with 25 seconds remaining in a Week 5 game against the Bengals, Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman found Spurlock on the sideline for a 21-yard gain. Replay showed that Spurlock failed to maintain possession of the football as he struck the ground, yet the officials upheld the call. The Buccaneers made a game-winning field goal on the next play.
James Harrison's big hit on Mohamed Massaquoi in Week 6 helped usher in a turning point for defenses in the NFL. The Steelers linebacker had two helmet-to-helmet shots in the Steelers-Browns game, resulting in a $75,000 fine and a warning by the NFL that it would start to crack down on defenders who resorted to unnecessary roughness. Harrison briefly considered retiring in protest, while other defenders decried the edict.
Even before the NFL vowed to crack down on helmet-to-helmet contact, Leonhard was a victim of overzealous officiating. The New York Jets safety was called for a personal foul penalty on Broncos wide receiver Brandon Lloyd in Week 6, but replay showed that Leonhard led with his shoulder, not his helmet. The play added 15 yards to a 29-yard completion and led to a Denver touchdown in the third quarter.
As Vikings coach Brad Childress aptly declared, "It's hard [to win] when they take touchdowns off the board." During the Vikings-Packers game in Week 7, referee Scott Green took away three touchdowns from Brett Favre (pictured) and the Vikings. Two were clear-cut calls, but Green's decision to nullify a second-quarter Shiancoe touchdown grab had Vikings fans steaming. Shiancoe's 17-yard catch was initially ruled a touchdown, but replay led officials to conclude the Vikings tight end used the ground to help him secure the catch.
Ravens linebackers hate quarterbacks. In 2009, Ray Lewis described several roughing-the-passer penalties that benefited Tom Brady as "embarrassing to the game." And in the Ravens Week 2 game against the Bengals this season, the Ravens defense contends quarterbacks once again benefited from preferential treatment. Officials flagged Terrell Suggs for hitting Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer with 5:31 left in the game. The NFL's former Vice President of Officiating, Mike Pereira, said officials were wrong to flag Suggs, stating that officials are instructed to err on the side of safety for quarterbacks. The Ravens would go on to lose 15-10. (What controversial call would you add to the list? Send suggestions to email@example.com)
After battling back from 10 points down with less than six minutes to play, the Bills forced overtime with the heavily-favored Ravens. They appeared poised to complete their stunning upset until Shawn Nelson, Buffalo's second-year tight end, coughed up a fumble at his own 45. The Bills fervently argued that Nelson's forward progressed was stopped -- his feet were lifted completely off the ground -- but it was to no avail. The referees never reviewed Ray Lewis' strip, Billy Cundiff kicked a 38-yard field goal and Baltimore escaped with a narrow 37-34 win.