I'll re-cap it for you. Below is the evidence, but in short it goes like this: following intense media coverage of Steeler player Jerome Bettis "coming home to Detroit with his last chance to win a Super Bowl," the referees in that game proceeded to make a series of unbelievably wrong or unprecedented calls - all hurting the Seahawks, all benefitting Pittsburgh and all on critical plays that could have made the difference in the game. Naturally, Steeler supporters poo-poo it all as "sour grapes." But let me assure you that if the shoe was on the other foot, they'd feel differently.
And let me also assure you that based on this previous experience and the "Manning Narrative" now, Seattle fans will be just as worried about the officials as they are the Broncos on Super Bowl Sunday.
In support for the Seattle side of the controversy, several years later, the head referee for Super Bowl XL admitted he and his crew made the wrong call in several instances and apologized. Fat lot of good that did the Seahawks and their fans.
Here are the plays in question from Super Bowl XL that has me worried even now, going into this new Super Bowl:
- Phantom Holding Calls. There were a number of them against Seattle in the game, all on critical plays. The most egregious one was in the fourth quarter - and it was bad for two reasons. You can see the play at the 7:19 mark on the video here. With Seattle on offense and making a drive down to score and take the lead, a Steelers player jumps offsides (but is not called for it) and the Seattle tackle scrambles to block him. While not a straight up block, it was not an unusual block that happens on every play of every game. Naturally, on the play, the Seahawks completed a pass to the one yard line...and it came back because of the "holding" call. Announcer John Madden even says right there upon seeing the replay, "I didn't see holding."
- Phantom Offensive Pass Interference. Video here. Early in the game, Seattle QB Matt Hasselback slings a long range ball into the end zone to one of his receivers. He catches it and it's called a TD. But wait! There's a flag. Just before the catch the receiver and the defender are right next to each other...each touching the other with hands. Both of them doing the same thing, and really with no impediment to each other. But for some reason, the ref has his hand on his flag before the ball arrives and once it does, he throws it and calls OFFENSIVE pass interference. No TD. Seattle has to settle for a field goal. Wow. I remember thinking, "Oh boy...so this is how its going to be today?"
- Phantom Pittsburgh Touchdown. Video here. In the second quarter, on a third and goal from the Seattle two yard line, Pittsburgh QB Ben Rothlesberger runs toward the end zone, is tackled before it and comes down with the ball before the end line. After hitting the ground, he reaches the ball out over the line. The referees call it a TD. It's not. I will say on this one, however, that the Steelers had another play to get it in the end zone even if the call had been made correctly. So, it's very possible - even likely - they would have come away with seven points anyway. But something else could have happened too. We'll never know.
- "Low Block" Against Seattle QB Following His Throwing an Interception. Video at the 8:26 mark on the video here. At one point in the game, the Seattle QB throws an interception to a Pittsburgh player. All of a sudden, all players just seconds ago on offense are now on defense and are attempting to tackle the guy who picked off the pass. During that action, the Seattle QB hits a Steelers player below the waist...more by sheer accident than anything. But remember, he's now on DEFENSE. The referee sees this and calls a penalty. And what does he call? BLOCKING below the waist. What? Blocking? How can he be blocking if he's on defense? And how can it be a penalty for a defensive player to hit an opposing player high or low? Pittsburgh gets 15 yards tacked onto their interception return, moving them up to mid-field.
- Non-Call on Horse Collar Tackle by Pittsburgh. Video at the 8:05 mark of the video here. In the fourth quarter with Pittsburgh only ahead by four points, Seattle RB Alexander is streaking down the field on a run and getting close to the Pittsburgh "Red Zone." A Steelers player drags him down from behind by his collar...right in front of a referee. Clearly a penalty and if called it would have put Seattle in a great position to score. But, no call.
It wasn't any one of these calls that was the problem. It was all of them together that made the impact. And for any of you out there saying, "yeah, well I'm sure that the refs screwed Pittsburgh a few times too." Um...no, no they didn't. Flags were safely stuck in their pockets through most of the game, and for sure on any big play benefiting the Steelers.
And all of THAT is why this Seahawks fan is very, very nervous about Super Bowl XLVIII. The NFL will benefit greatly if the Broncos and Payton Manning win the game...just like they did with a Pittsburgh in 2006.