Gabriel Silverstein-Rivera, our regular NFL columnist, is on vacation for a few weeks so I’m filling in with this week’s roundup. As you can imagine, I want to talk about the critical Steelers-Patriots game last Sunday.
Actually, I don’t want to, but, like anyone who watched the referees brazenly cheat the Steelers out of victory last Sunday — and very likely hand the Patriots critical home field advantage throughout the playoffs — I feel compelled to.
Look, I detest the Patriots, but of course it’s obvious they have a great team, and have for many years. But seriously, enough is enough. This is the third time this year the referees have handed victory to the Patriots. None was as outrageous as the one that reversed a game-winning touchdown by the Steelers’ Jesse James with just seconds left.
What’s worse, the referees and the NFL overturned the decision after it was initially ruled a touchdown, so they had to reverse it after reviewing a video which showed, to everyone in the country other than the Patriots’s vile fan base, that James had clearly caught the ball and scored a touchdown. (Never mind that the refs also wrongly charged the Steelers with a critical timeout on the should-have-been game-winning drive.)
For years the Patriots and Tom Brady have benefitted from bad calls, going back to the infamous 2001 Tuck Rule, which cheated the Oakland Raiders out of a first-round victory and handed Brady his first or many undeserved Super Bowls. But this was perhaps the worst and most dishonest call I’ve ever witnessed, and it raises serious questions about the integrity of the game. (Let’s put aside various other questions about football’s general integrity, and focus for the moment on the fundamental question of fairness, and how the referees have consistently made key calls favoring the Patriots in important games.)
I hadn’t realized just how bad things were, though, until I read this story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Here’s an excerpt:
Contrary to popular belief throughout New England, the Patriots do have influence in the offices of the NFL.
His name is Alberto Riveron, and he is the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating.
Whether you agree (Patriots fans) with his call Sunday night robbing Jesse James of a touchdown or not (Steelers fans), Riveron has helped decide three victories for New England just this season.
This is not to accuse Riveron, in his first season on the job, of favoritism toward the Patriots, but here are the facts:
• New England’s Brandin Cooks caught a 25-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds left to beat Houston 36-33 on Sept. 24. He caught the ball with both feet in the end zone but lost control as he hit the ground out of bounds. It was ruled a touchdown, and Riveron did not overturn it upon review.
An NFL source told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Cooks’ catch remained a touchdown because there was no good video angle that showed him losing control of the ball when he hit the ground.
• New York Jets tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught a 4-yard touchdown pass against the Patriots, and fumbled through the back of the end zone once he crossed the line. It was ruled a touchdown on the field. Riveron overturned it. The Patriots got the ball at the 20. New England went on to win 24-17 on Oct 15.
• Then, Sunday night Jesse James caught a pass from Ben Roethlisberger over the middle, was never touched as his knee hit the ground, stretched the ball over the goal line and only then seemed to lose control of it. Riveron overturned the score, putting the ball back at the 10. New England won, 27-24.
I don’t know if Riveron is a moron, on acid or paid off by the Patriots, but at minimum he’s one of the three. This guy should be fired and short of that, kept from reviewing any more calls in Patriot games.