A Troubling Start to the 2nd Half

The first half of Super Bowl 56 was relatively clean and well-played. The Rams led 13-10 and it was the Bengals who were receiving the 2nd half kickoff and trying to take their first lead of the game. 

The very first play from scrimmage of the 2nd half saw a heave down-field by Joe Burrow. Burrow hit his target, wideout Tee Higgins who beat all-pro Jalen Ramsey and ran in for a 75-yard touchdown, the longest TD Ramsey has ever given up in his career. But something was amiss about the play.

Higgins grabbed Ramsey by his facemask and pulled him to the ground as the football hurdled down-field toward them. It was clear to everyone watching that a penalty had been committed. Everyone except the ref standing mere yards away from the action.

How do you miss that call in the Super Bowl!? How do you miss that call in general? It’s inexplicable and the hypocrisy in NFL officiating is egregious. 

An Even Worse Ending

That no-call to start the 2nd half would’ve been bad enough if it wasn’t the only play that the refs bungled. 

Late in the 4th quarter, the Rams were driving down the field, down 16-20, just 8 yards away from the Bengals endzone. On 3rd and goal Matthew Stafford passed to his best receiver, Cooper Kupp. Covered well by Bengals linebacker Logan Wilson, Kupp was unable to make the reception and for a moment it looked as though the Bengals were on the cusp of their first-ever Super Bowl victory. 

Then came the flag. Wilson and the Bengals were charged with a hold on what was simply good defense. If you go look at the replay, there was no hold at all. Wilson played the ball and did his job brilliantly in a clutch spot. The same cannot be said for the refs. This is what NFL officiating has come to. 

However, one thing is certain. NFL officiating hit an all-time low in the 2nd half of Super Bowl 56. Cris Collinsworth noted after the penalty on Wilson how little the refs had been calling flags in that game. So why in that spot where there was hardly any contact between Wilson and Kupp did they call one?

Whether it was an attempt to even out from the no-call from early in the 3rd quarter, or it was simply a horrendous mistake will be a topic of debate and mystery. For years NFL refs have been infamous for their horrible meddling or missing obvious calls, but this was a game where they mostly weren’t getting involved. 

It’s baffling that you have a ref first missing an obvious facemask on a 75-yard touchdown to open the 2nd half, then, calling a hold where there was none, and in the Super Bowl no less. 

These may have been only two mistakes, but they were mistakes that cost each team big time in the biggest game of their American sports world. 

Something’s Got to Give

People who say that this is just part of the game only highlight the issue. The question remains: for a league that rakes in multiple billions of dollars per year, why are your officials botching so many calls so often? At the very least you need to get those calls right in the Super Bowl. 

The fact is that people are never gonna stop watching football. The fact that teams are forced to live and die at the refs’ mercy is ridiculous though and takes a great deal of integrity out of the game. It’d be one thing if refs were throwing a lot of flags but making good calls. 

After the infamous no-call in the Rams-Saints NFC Championship a few years back the NFL instituted a replay review on pass interference calls. It was poorly managed through and was nixed after just one season. 

The NFL consistently botches officiating and it’s time for something to change. Allow coaches to challenge penalties or lack thereof again, or let referees take a look at a replay if they think there was a penalty committed rather than just throwing a flag on an apparent momentary whim. 

The simple fact is that the refs messed up big-time in Super Bowl 56, and that’s been par for the course for too long now. 

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