Wow. The Dolphins game was quite a game to watch (especially at a sports bar sandwiched by Miami fans that are as easily roused up as I am for their team). While this game was rich with storylines, both leading up to the game as well as afterward, one thing that stood out to me and still irks me is the lack of success on instant replay. Two calls yesterday stand out:
First, the 3rd down catch and drop by Davone Bess in the first quarter. The play was ruled a catch on the field, but multiple replays showed the ball come out of his hands, hit the ground, and Bess gather it back in his hands with his left thigh. Even worse, it happened right in front of Sean Payton, who reached for his challenge flag with zero hesitation. Usually, I hate it when he does this because we have wasted challenges in the past early in games, but he was right to do so. Unfortunately, the referees announced that the replay system was malfunctioning, and so the play could not be challenged and that the Saints would not be charged a timeout (or at least that's what I gathered, not hearing any audio from the game due to another game's sound being piped through the bar I was at). There is simply no excuse for this to happen as a critical function of a hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars operation. Is there not a backup system that can be utilized in this situation? With the incorrect call standing, the Dolphins were able to pin the Saints back inside their own 10 with a punt from closer to midfield, forcing the Saints to play with their backs to their own end zone (although their false start and delay penalties aided that cause).
Second, the Porter-to-Sharper tip drill interception in the 3rd quarter. The multiple angles on the replays shown on the FOX broadcast of the game clearly showed the ball come loose before Sharper crossed the goal line (at least that's what it looked like to me). This should have led to one of two calls: either it would be first down Saints around the Dolphins 1 OR first down Dolphins at their own 20 following a touchback. My assessment of what happened: Either the replay official did not have all of the angles that the television network has and could not see when the ball came out OR they saw the ball come out but it was unclear where it went out of bounds (either outside the pylon or inside the pylon and out of the end zone), so they upheld the call on the field.
Here is how I feel about both of these situations: The replay officials (if they don't already) should have access to the crystal clear high definition feeds from the networks, as it is obvious that the number of cameras and camera angles they use, more often than not, provides a clear picture of what happens on a particular play, unless there is a total dogpile around the spot where a play in question occurs. On both of these plays, there were slow motion replays showing pretty clearly how they transpired (with some help from Charles Davis' use of the telestrator or however you spell that). The point of instant replay is to help the officiating crew get the calls RIGHT, not get coaches stuck in a strategic challenge chess match, wondering if there will be enough "indisputable visual evidence" to overturn a call they feel was made incorrectly. The fans watching a game on TV should not have more insight into a play under review than the professionals determining the proper ruling, and I believe that was the case at Land Shark Stadium on Sunday.
All of that being said, I do not feel that replay had an overwhelming effect on its outcome, but I cringe at its potential to do so in the future. What a turnaround by our boys in the 2nd half. I mean, even when the Dolphins were ahead in the second half, it just looked like they were losing! Geaux Saints. WHO DAT!