Some Plays Aren't Worth The Review

Controversial calls are nothing new for the New England Patriots. Three days after game against the Carolina Panthers radio stations are still fielding calls about it, reporter's inboxes are filling up with emails about it and people continue to talk about it around the water cooler. The feeling is that coach Belichick should have challenged the play. Whether or not the call would have been overturned isn't the issue, the real issue is that some plays aren't worth the challenge.

Some Calls Aren't Worth The Review
By Jon Scott, Patriots Insider

At some point in virtually every NFL football game there's a call that gives coaches and players a reason to object. Sometimes it's a ruling against the offense, negating a big play; sometimes it's the defense or even a possible turnover. Most of the time there's a good camera angle to get a look at the moment in question. It's those moments in a game that could decide the outcome if the referee makes the wrong call. Last Sunday was no different for the Patriots who had every right to question the call made on a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Carolina Panthers running back Stephen Davis.

On a play that the camera showed where Davis clearly had the ball knocked out of his hands, the timing is the biggest cause for concern. When did the ball come out? Was he across the plane of the goal line when it did? Those are the questions being asked, time and again by fans and media. It's the type of questions stirring controversy, which is why the NFL developed the challenge system.

The Challenge system allows teams throw the red hanky to have officials take a look at the cameras from every available angle to see if the call on the field was right. It's the type of technology that's supposed to help settle controversy and overrule bad calls, but it's not always used. Sunday was no exception when Patriots head coach Bill Belichick decided to keep the red hanky in his pocket instead of challenging the call on the field.

"I didn't think there was enough evidence to warrant the challenge," Belichick said about the play. "That's it."

Davis had possession for an instant, maybe, but why not challenge if he crossed the plane? To challenge the call made little sense because the downside was bigger than the upside on the call. If Davis did cross the plane, it's a touchdown. If there's not enough evidence to overturn it, it's a touchdown. If he didn't cross the plane the Panthers still had the ball in excellent field position.

" If we challenge it, probably the best case scenario would have been the ball would have been on about the one or two-inch line, second-and-goal on the two-inch line or whatever," Belichick said.

OK, so strategically why bother using a challenge (one of two coaches are allowed) and risk losing a time out if there's not enough evidence to overturn the call? Because, Davis fumbled is the answer. Yes he did, and there were no camera angles that showed his knee touching the ground as he tried to reach out for the goal line and had the ball knocked away. This leads to the second part of the controversy -- What about the fumble?

"When he reached the ball out, the judgment was that he crossed the plane and he had possession. He subsequently lost possession, and recovered it, I don't even know where it was recovered when they unpiled, whether he was in the end zone or not I don't know," Belichick explained. "But, it didn't really make any difference because they recovered the ball."

Controversy settled. No point to challenge the play, but it still would have been nice to have a better look at the play. More cameras, better angles, maybe a camera isolating on the ball from all angles.

Belichick has a suggestion. Put cameras in a better position to give the replay officials the best possible angle on the call in case the play needs to be reviewed, and coaches a better angle to see if the call is even worth challenging in the first place. He's still sore over a call made against the St. Louis Rams two years ago where he felt the officials made the wrong ruling, but didn't have enough evidence to overturn the call.

"That was a tough one for. Part of it is the angle. I think that was part of the problem on that play," Belichick said. And his suggestion to solve the problem is a simple one. "One thing that I think would help the rule, and it's been brought up many times, but the league refuses to do it, is to have a camera right on the goal line so that if you do challenge that play, then there's absolutely one look at it that will tell you did the ball across it or didn't it cross it."

The point of the matter is that until the league decides that replay is important enough to warrant a dedicated camera to assist reviews done at the most critical part of the field, they're handicapping the replay system. How hard can it be to have a camera on the goal line? As Belichick points out, other sports without the revenue of pro football already have them.

"It would be good if the National Football League, as part of the instant replay rule, had a camera, like they do in tennis," Belichick offered. "A camera parallel to the goal line in every stadium so that as coach you knew at least that there would be a camera angle of that shot."

That's probably not asking for too much, that is unless the league likes controversy. Why would they like that?

Until the league decides to make a change, things stand where they are - in the officials hands.

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