You guys can point fingers at whatever secondary issues you’d like, but the primary reason (by far the primary reason) we lost to the Ravens was terrible and unfairly administrated officiating by Bill Vinovich and his crew of “all-stars”.
I use both adjectives because the officiating was “terrible” from an administrative standpoint as those refs left their finger prints all over that game. This affected both teams equally since it’s simply incompetence in game management. The game felt exactly like a replacement officiated game that took too long due to the refs being baffled and flustered by their own calls and how each call should be enforced. I also say were “unfair” because, frankly, the Ravens got tremendous benefit from several erroneous calls. There were several incorrect calls in that game, but the vast majority (not all, but most) went in the Ravens favor.
Bill Vinovich and crew did not call one single subjective penalty on the Ravens offense. Not one. They called holding on Denver three times, the worst of which was the one on Kuper on the 3rd and 1 first down run that turned into a 3rd and 11 resulting in the tuck rule fumble on the very next play. That was an invalid call on Kuper and that particular disgrace of officiating swung the game. Yet not once did the officials flag McKinney or Oher for holding Elvis or Von and there were three distinct incidences where our pass rushers got around the edge only to be placed into a headlock or clothes-lined by either of their tackles. You want to know one reason why Flacco was emboldened to throw deep over and over, because their tackles were allowed to hold.
Then you had the PIs. I honestly didn’t have a problem with a call on Tony Carter on the early drive. I thought an illegal contact flag on Carter was certainly warranted. He did create as much contact after 5 yards as their CB was flagged for with DT in the 3rd quarter. PI looked unwarranted on Tony, but some flag on Carter for 5 yards was justified and would have resulted in an automatic 1st down. What pissed me off is how does Champ get called for PI in overtime and their CB doesn’t get a PI flag on the INT returned for a TD? I’ll tell you how, because the ref completely F’ed up those two calls. We got screwed by bad officiating. And how does Tony Carter get PI and Williams doesn’t get PI when both of them impeded the WRs route by throwing the body into the WR? Again, we got hosed by refs enforcing rules on one team, but not applying the same standards to the other. Denver got home towned at home.
One call I thought the Ravens got that wasn’t a good one was the hands to the face on Suggs. It looked like he may have had his hand under Clady’s facemask on his chin strip, but it was hard to tell. Yet on the very same play, another ref called the same hands to the face penalty on their CB when it was clear that the CB’s hands went straight to the WRs face in a failed attempt to jam the WR at the snap. So it doesn’t matter that the Suggs call was dubious since there were two flags on that play. Of course Manning’s knee was also clearly down before he fumbled so that would have been overturned (easy assumption with real refs, poor assumption with Vinovich). Then the ref completely F’up spotting the ball because he enforced the penalty from the spot of the non-fumble? We ended up losing yards on that penalty when it should have been enforced from the line of scrimmage. In the 1st quarter, T Cody was called for the same foul, a blatant hands to Zane Beadles facemask. Denver had a 6 yard pass gain to their TE on that play, but we elected to accept the penalty because of the automatic 1st down. The refs didn’t enforce the 5 yard walk off from the end of the pass reception. Nope, they simply, by rule, enforced it from the line of scrimmage (which was correct). So why they F’d this yardage walk off up again later in the game… My only answer is the same. The refs demonstrated, repeatedly, their preference for one team to win and/or the other team to lose.
At this point, I’ve gone over enough egregious officiating mistakes to swing the game in one team’s favor. Add in the tuck rule fumble that I guess doesn’t apply to Peyton Manning, the clear incomplete pass in OT to Bolden (ball hitting the ground and comes loose in his hands), the 31 yard disparity in penalty yards and the lack of flags on Baltimore’s offense and you have yourself an unearned playoff win for the Baltimore Ravens.
Did I notice that Champ Bailey have his worst game as a Bronco? I did and it cost us dearly (suddenly high round CB seems like a much bigger need). I also noticed R Moore misplaying a bomb in almost a comical fashion for an NFL player. He looked like a 7th grade outfielder backpedaling to catch a fly ball he was in perfect position to play. I noticed Manning was clearly affected by the cold more so than Joe Flacco. I noticed the vastly overrated and overpaid Matt Prater miss a key FG where he kicked more dirt than ball. I noticed us concede a 3rd and 13 from the three yard line in OT (huge play). And finally, I noticed John Fox cost us dearly with his absurdly conservative play calling and clock management. These are all reasons that lead to the game ending up in the Ravens favor. None of them as impactful as the multiple instances of incorrectly administrated officiating, but Bronco errors they will have to think about as they evaluate a season lost.
You guys reconcile this game however you want. I won’t give the Ravens credit since they were gifted this win by Bill Vinovich and his scrub crew. I will say that I don’t think we would have beaten the Pat next week. Not even without Gronk or with the game in Denver. I don’t trust Fox or Prater enough to think we’d win a close game vs. New England and that NE team is too talented for this Denver team to have blown out. Fox is a good coach, but suffers from terrible game day oversight when the clock is moving. Bilicheat isn’t hampered by these deficiencies and it shows in the playoffs.
I don’t believe we could beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl either. So that’s how I’ve elected see this season off. We should be playing and losing to the Pats next week. As much as I respect and have come to love Peyton Manning, I’ve always said and still think Tom Brady is the superior QB. Peyton’s playoff record isn’t impressive. He has been one and done eight times in his career, on several good teams that were favored to win games where the Colts and now Broncos lost. He did throw the game losing INT to the Ravens, I noticed that too. It was a bad pass and poor decision on a 2nd and 6 so there was no reason to panic.
So with frustration and injustice, I bid this season adieu. I didn’t watch a single play from the other three playoff games and I won’t watch the Ravens next week. I’ll limply pull for a Pats win next Sunday for the sake of justice. I do think a 49er vs. Pats Super Bowl would be an excellent game. One I would watch with zero rooting interest unless Atlanta somehow makes it (they won’t unless Vinovich and crew get another playoff game to ruin and trust me, he won’t). His officiating grade from this game will be horrible. I’ve read articles at SI, NBC Sports, ESPN, the DP, Yahoo, and heard Miami radio lamenting how awful his officiating was in our game. So it’s not just me because, again, the officiating was flagrantly and plainly misapplied in several respects. It cost Denver the game. A golden opportunity and season squandered. I would have much rather lost to a team that earned it, but that’s life and it isn’t usually fair. When the NFL reviews game tape, they find players getting away with infractions and alert the officials to watch for those infractions in future games. A lot of you will be pissed when the Ravens two tackles get called for holding several times next week on the same exact infractions they got away with Saturday night (namely headlocks and clothes-lines). I think you’ll also see a few more PIs go against the Ravens. Such is life, but watch for it.
With a good cap situation, balanced/deep roster, and superstar QB, I love our chances to win the AFC West again next year in another cake walk. San Diego and Oakland are in rebuild mode with poorly conceived and aging rosters in need of an overhaul. KC was the worst team in the NFL in 2012. Now they have a new coaching staff and no QB in the wrong draft to have the #1 overall pick with their specific needs. Yet I suspect they’ll be in 2nd place next year because their roster is still more talented than San Diego and Oaklands. None of those three teams will be ready to threaten Denver in 2013, which means, at worst, we’ll be back in the playoffs next year with another home game. I do expect to have injuries play a greater impact next year. Maybe not to more players, but likely to someone more importance than anyone we lost this year (McGahee being our biggest in 2012). We draw the NFC East (Philly sucks, Dallas is blah, the Redskins may not have RG III and the Giants look average). We also draw the AFC South (Jags, Titans, Colts and Texans). From here, it doesn’t seem like a brutal schedule. Far from it.
UFA should be mostly uneventful in Denver this year. Cut Joe Mays and DJ, watch Tony Carter sign on somewhere else, resign Vickerson and Clady. Maybe add a few vets to smaller deals. It’s too early to talk draft and with the 28th pick in each round, these types of drafts are of much lesser importance that other drafts we’ve had in the last few years (think 2009 or 2011). At this point, you just take BPAs and hopefully draft someone that can cover a mother freaking TE.
Not much to look forward to in the offseason but a lot to look forward to in the 2013 season. I’ll be rather inactive this offseason because it should be as uneventful an offseason as we’d had in Denver since the early 2000s.
In closing. FU Bill Vinovich.