Super Bowl

Super comeback deflates blown call

New England’s Tom Brady celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick after their record-setting comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons to claim their fifth title at Super Bowl LI on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston. The Patriots won 34-28 in the first ever Super Bowl to reach overtime.
New England’s Tom Brady celebrates with head coach Bill Belichick after their record-setting comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons to claim their fifth title at Super Bowl LI on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston. The Patriots won 34-28 in the first ever Super Bowl to reach overtime. The Associated Press

Sacramento’s Mike Pereira, a former NFL referee and head of NFL referees, is a rules analyst for Fox Sports. He contributed a weekly column for The Sacramento Bee throughout the postseason.


In 1374, Geoffrey Chaucer coined the phrase “All good things must come to an end.”

The term is still used today and applies to many situations, including the Atlanta Falcons’ season and 25-point lead over the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI on Sunday evening in Houston.

Atlanta’s 28-3 lead dropped faster than Lady Gaga from the roof of NRG Stadium. The Falcons lost to the Patriots 34-28, becoming the first team to lose a Super Bowl after leading by 10 points.

For the Patriots, the joyous celebration of their fifth Super Bowl title ended suddenly when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell presented team owner Robert Kraft and quarterback Tom Brady with a fully inflated Lombardi Trophy.

Goodell, who put the Patriots behind the 8-ball to start the season by suspending Brady for the first four games of the regular season because of “Deflategate,” was showered with boos from Patriots fans as he spoke, the jeers drowning out his every word.

Personally, a long season ended with the privilege of witnessing the greatest Super Bowl in history. Brady, who engineered one of the greatest comebacks in league history, will be remembered as the greatest quarterback of all time. I witnessed the mastery of the greatest coach of all time, Bill Belichick. That’s right. Step aside Vince Lombardi. Rename the Super Bowl trophy. Call it the “Hoodie Trophy” if you want, but it needs to be renamed after the legend.

For the officials, the season ended with the crew getting no mention in the Monday morning papers. Mission accomplished. They knew they were part of something special. You can’t help but get caught up in the emotion of a game like that. As soon as James White’s game-winning touchdown run was confirmed in overtime, the officiating crew didn’t hustle off the field as usual. They lingered for several minutes, embracing the moment – and each other – as confetti rained down from the rafters. Referee Carl Cheffers and his crew will never forget what they experienced, and it will add to the thrill of receiving their Super Bowl LI rings.

That is not to say that they worked a perfect game. That never happens. Like players and coaches, they make mistakes. One had me worried down the stretch even though it happened fairly early in the game. With 8:48 left in the second quarter, the Falcons scored on a 19-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Austin Hooper. On the extra-point attempt, Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin timed the snap perfectly and leaped over the offensive line to disrupt the attempt.However, a flag was thrown for an illegal defensive formation. A five-yard penalty was enforced, and the Falcons kicked the extra point for a 14-0 lead.

Belichick was upset – for good reason. The call was incorrect. The officials ruled that McClellin was at the line of scrimmage over the center when the ball was snapped, which is illegal. But McClellin wasn’t over the center. He was in the gap between the center and the guard. The Falcons got a gift point that could have been the difference between winning and losing. The Patriots trailed by eight points instead of seven when they started their final drive in regulation. New England’s 91-yard drive ended with a 2-yard touchdown run by White cut the score to 28-26.

The score should have been 27-26.

Instead of a point-after kick, the Patriots were forced to go for two, and they converted. Whew! Had they not, the early mistake would have been part of the postgame narrative. Many people are happy that wasn’t the case.

So, the 2016 season is over and it’s been another great ride, my seventh with Fox Sports after 14 years as an NFL official.

In the words of Lamar Gillett, the only P-35 pilot in World War II to shoot down a Japanese Zero fighter, “It is better to be lucky than good.”

That might be the story of my life.

  Comments