Fine whine

O, BY THE WAY

December 05, 2007|By BILL ORDINE

The Ravens certainly have had their moments of drama this year with the officials, such as the "after no further review because we're not permitted to, but at least on second thought" reversal of the Cleveland field goal that tied that game in regulation and set up the Browns' overtime win.

And Monday night, of course, there was the critical fourth-down defensive holding penalty on defensive back Jamaine Winborne. The penalty put the ball at the Ravens' 8-yard line and revived the New England Patriots' winning drive that seemingly had died for the third time.

But like the serial killer in the slasher movies, the Patriots' final drive kept coming back from the dead after New England appeared to have been stopped three times on fourth down (once on a Ravens timeout, once on the Patriots' own penalty and then on the defensive holding call).

New England would need to have the game officials decide in its favor one more time, on the final 8-yard touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney in the left side of the end zone with 44 seconds remaining. The play had to be reviewed because it was unclear whether Gaffney had control of the ball as he stepped out of bounds.

It was so close that the Monday Night Football announcers couldn't decide among themselves with absolute certainty how the review would go. Of course, it should be remembered that the determination to reverse the on-field call is supposed to be based on "indisputable" observable evidence, so anything that is so close that there is that much debate among the broadcast crew is probably not indisputable - still, we've all seen reversals based on razor-thin differences.

It didn't happen. But even if the catch had been erased, let's also recall that the Gaffney play was on first down. And there would have been Ravens linebacker Bart Scott's two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to account for. So, a Patriots touchdown was nearly inevitable.

After the game, the Ravens did their share of moaning about the officiating, implying the NFL wants the Patriots to go undefeated.

Chris McAlister said: "It's hard to go out there and play the Patriots and the refs at the same time. They put the crown on top of them. They want them to win."

Samari Rolle said: "It's a travesty when you go out there and play that hard and the refs decide the outcome. Nobody really likes us because we earned the reputation we have, but you have to let the players play, man. It's sad."

Rolle also said some of Scott's explosion that cost the Ravens 30 yards on the final kickoff was precipitated by head linesman Phil McKinnely's referring to Rolle as "boy."

"He did it five times," Rolle said, referring to McKinnely. "You don't call a grown man with a wife and three kids `boy.' ... If he put on a helmet, he wouldn't say that to me."

You could see Scott being restrained from going after McKinnely as the conversation heated up after the second of those two flags.

Unfortunately, the complaining will do nothing more than reinforce the Ravens' reputation to which Rolle referred. And that's too bad. Because for most of Monday night, for a change, the Ravens were not NFL villains, but heroes.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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