DANNY ONEIL

Seahawks on wrong end of some questionable officiating decisions in loss to Saints

Oct 30, 2016, 8:37 PM | Updated: 8:42 pm
"Some of the calls or lack thereof were pretty egregious," Richard Sherman said of the officiating ...
"Some of the calls or lack thereof were pretty egregious," Richard Sherman said of the officiating Sunday. (AP)
(AP)

NEW ORLEANS – I hate writing about the officiating.

I hate it because it is the one circumstance that still prompts the use of the word “egregious.”

I hate it because it feeds into the persecution complex that can be felt by fans, players and coaches, the martyrish belief that things are specifically, deliberately stacked against your team.

I hate it because any scrutiny of one officiating decision has an inevitable reaction to another dubious call in the game until the whole 60-minute enterprise is being evaluated in slow-motion hindsight, with each side listing off the grievances.

But as much as I hate to say it, the officiating has to be discussed in relation to Sunday’s game.

Recap | Offense holds Hawks back again | Reaction from 710 ESPN Seattle

The Seahawks were penalized 11 times in their 25-20 loss to New Orleans. Four of those were against Seattle’s defense on third down, awarding the Saints an automatic first down in each instance. Each of New Orleans’ two touchdown drives included a third-down conversion as did two field-goal drives. In other words, four of the Saints’ six scoring drives were sustained by officiating decisions.

On the other side, the Saints were penalized twice on Sunday, which is significant for two reasons. First, they had been penalized an average of 7.5 times entering the game, which ranked among the most in the league. Second, neither of those two penalties against New Orleans were for offensive pass interference.

We’ll let coach Pete Carroll handle the first part: “That’s the 26th-ranked penalty football team in the league and they just had a great football game.”

As for the second part, well, now we’re getting into the specifics of how New Orleans wide receiver Willie Snead functioned more like a snowplow on two crucial plays, shielding cornerback Jeremy Lane from covering Brandin Cooks first for the Saints’ go-ahead touchdown and then on a crucial third-down conversion on their final drive.

“He picked me,” Lane said. “I was trying to go for the guy that was coming in. I saw it coming in and he picked me. It should have been called.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman said he was given an explanation for the second no-call, a play in which Cooks gained 20 yards and the Saints went from third-and-5 at the Seattle 44 to being in field-goal range with just under 4 minutes to play.

“He gave a poor excuse,” Sherman said of the official’s explanation. “He said he was 25 yards away and he couldn’t see how close J-Lane was to the line so he didn’t feel like he should call it. Those are the kind of excuses that we got throughout the game.”

The last piece of questionable officiating related to judgment, not a penalty. On New Orleans’ final drive, the Saints faced second-and-8 with just under 3 minutes to play. Running back Tim Hightower caught a pass and was tackled out of bounds by safety Kelcie McCray. But the side judge kept the clock running, forcing Seattle to use its final timeout after ruling that Hightower’s forward progress was stopped in the field of play and that he was knocked backward out of bounds.

“I don’t know what to say about that one,” Carroll said. “I was working the refs for timeouts if the clock was running, and I don’t know. It was on the other side of the field. You guys saw it better than I do. If there’s a gripe about it, you guys write about it.”

OK, coach. That rule is there to keep the defense from dragging an otherwise downed opponent out of bounds in order to stop the clock. That wasn’t the case on this play. It sure seemed like Hightower was tackled out of bounds in the flow of the play. The clock should have stopped, saving the Seahawks either one timeout or about 30 seconds of game clock since Seattle couldn’t stop it again before the 2-minute warning.

Let’s pause now for at least a pinch of perspective. Two weeks ago against Atlanta, Seattle got the benefit of a no-call when Sherman was not flagged despite holding the right arm of Falcons receiver Julio Jones on a fourth-down play. There was also the ball that linebacker K.J. Wright illegally batted last year against Detroit and the whole game-winning interception … errr … touchdown that Russell Wilson threw to Golden Tate in Week 3 of his rookie year.

The point is that it’s hard to see an anti-Seahawks conspiracy in the NFL, and if there is, it probably relates to the way defensive backs are officiated in general as opposed to Seattle’s team specifically.

But put a microscope over Sunday’s game, and it was certainly possible to find more than a few flaws.

“It looked pretty obvious the way the game was officiated,” Sherman said. “I don’t think they were trying to hide anything. Some of the calls or lack thereof were pretty egregious. We’ll let you guys decide. All we can do is keep playing, and sometimes, the game falls like that.”

See, told you that these stories evoke the word egregious.

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Seahawks on wrong end of some questionable officiating decisions in loss to Saints