"Holy Toledo!"

December 4, 2007

Was Last Night’s Patriots-Ravens Game Fixed?

Filed under: NFL — Bill @ 2:42 pm

Can an NFL referee alter the outcome of a game?

Yes, and if you need an example simply turn to last nights Patriots-Ravens game.

Not once but TWICE on 4th down plays the fair-haired Patriots had penalties that extended the game (and their winning drive), giving them the help they needed to beat the Ravens. The call that ultimately affected the outcome of the game was a defensive holding penalty that was at best borderline, at worst a blatant attempt to keep the Patriots undefeated.

What would motivate an NFL referee to do such a thing?

NFL refs work for the league and what is good for the league is also good for the referees. In the most recent example the league stands to gain by the Patriots going undefeated. Media attention from such a historic accomplishment creates interest, which in turn creates higher TV ratings, which ultimately means money in the league’s pocket.

It’s difficult for this longtime NFL fan to respect such an accomplishment given that:

– It is done by a team caught cheating league rules on several occasions and their punishment was nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

– The accomplishment is tainted by the obvious bad calls that were made to benefit the team trying to achieve said accomplishment.

– It’s bad enough that we have to watch guys like Mercury Morris & Larry Csonka pop champagne corks when the last undefeated team finally loses every season. The thought of seeing Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Randy Moss do the same makes me ill.

Let’s give the Patriots credit, they are a very good team, perhaps one of the best teams ever. They are difficult enough to beat, they don’t need the officials help. Besides they already got enough help to last them a lifetime back in the 2001 AFC Playoffs when they benefited from the infamous “Tuck Rule” call.

The NFL has had many skeptics who feared game fixing or helpful officiating dating back over 40 years. The surprising Super Bowl III victory by the AFL’s N.Y. Jets was perhaps the most written about example (see the book written by Bubba Smith). Over the years there has been many strange & unexplained bad calls that alter the outcome of games. This topic was obviously hinted about in a book by former NFL player Pat Toomay called On Any Given Sunday (not to be confused with the movie with the same title). To the league’s credit no actual proof of such a thing has ever been made public.

The debate about bad calls and possible game fixing in the NFL could go on until the cows come home, but one thing is certain: Last night’s officiating was either incompetent or fishy. Neither bodes well for the NFL (or should we call it the WWFL?).



  1. The Ravens seem to be a penalty-plagued team — often an undisciplined one. But sometimes, I have trouble figuring out the penalties. The defensive holding penalty you mentioned is surely one of them.

    Why didn’t the referees catch: the holding the Pats were doing to the Ravens D that were never called; the unsportsmanlike conduct/roughing the passer penalties that should have called against the Pat’s defense but weren’t. Or Harrison taunting Billick on the sidelines?

    In the end, it’s coulda, shoulda, woulda. It is what it is. (as Coach Billick is fond of saying)

    Frustrating, heartbreaking… but nothing to be done about it.

    I’m just glad the Ravens played so well against players who were deemed by the experts to be so much better.

    Comment by Kathy — December 4, 2007 @ 6:44 pm

  2. BUT if you have to lose, it always better to lose against a respected oppoenent (a talented one) than a loser team. Unfortunately, we’ve had our share of losses to teams that we should have one against.

    Congrats to you on your Raiders victory!!

    Comment by Kathy — December 4, 2007 @ 6:48 pm

  3. Well said with your usual dignity Kathy.

    The officiating in Monday Night’s game was terrible at best. Losing a game that way is tough for anybody let alone us passionate fans.

    I was impressed with QB Kyle Boller. It’s the best I have seen him play in some time. Perhaps he is finally maturing into what many had hoped he would be.


    Comment by billkuhn — December 4, 2007 @ 8:56 pm

  4. I always suspected the nfl is fixed, after watching ravens vs pats, im almost sure its fixed, and the patriots are going to go undefeated and win superbowl. The league wants them too, just like a couple of years ago the league was helping P manning vs steelers in playoffs . it was soo obvious the refs were giving peyton manning every oportunity to win that game.

    Comment by Antonio — December 12, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

  5. Antonio,
    The play you are referring to was the interception by Troy Polamalu in the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoffs. It was a clear interception but “after further review” they ruled it an incomplete pass. It was among the 5 worst calls in playoff history in my opinion.

    The call allowed the Colts (and Manning) to climb back into the game. Had it not been for a choke job by then Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt they might still be in overtime.

    Obviously not all games are fixed, only a few. The “fix” is perhaps a mild helping hand given to certain teams by calling key penalties that alter the course of a game.

    One painful such call was the Tuck Rule call in ’01. Is it a coincidence that a bad call allowed the red white & blue Patriots to win after September 11th? As Cinderella once sang, “It’s possible.” In this case the plain yellow pumpkin turned into a Patriot Super Bowl victory.

    Another strange event occurred on the final day of the 1997 regular season when the NY Jets were victims to a terrible call in Detroit that cost them a playoff berth.

    Twenty years before that the Raiders were robbed in the AFC Championship when Denver RB Rob Lytle’s obvious fumble was ruled a TD. The ruling was the difference in the game, the popular Orange Crush Broncos went to the Super Bowl, the Raiders went home. The next day the SF Chronicle ran a front page picture of Lytle at the 1 yd. line with the football on the ground.

    Bad calls occur, refs are human. When they occur on obvious plays that alter league history it does make one wonder……

    Thanks for your reply,

    Comment by billkuhn — December 12, 2007 @ 1:47 pm

  6. I agree bad calls occur, but come on twice on 4th down. New england is gonna go 19-0 this year its inevitable. I’m trying to get as many people as i can to not watch the superbowl this year, (boycott) and let the league know all the other fans are tired of patriots being the leagues darlings.
    Last year kerry rhodes int T brady and they called roughing the passer with a blow to the head, and instead of a turnover the pats got a 15 yard gift. on replay there was no helmet to helmet, and the jets Dlineman didnt even get fined. Wilfork goes for the knees and take bills Qb out for weeks and no call. Randy moss on half of his TD’s he pushes off no call. the list can go on and on. its too many and too obvious. Pats get help by refs. NO DOUBT IN MY MIND

    Comment by Antonio — December 12, 2007 @ 7:09 pm

  7. Where’s the best place/bar in Toledo to watch the Patriots game on December 23, 2007? Arnie’s? My nephew is coming for a visit and wants to watch the game with fellow Patriots fans.

    Comment by Tom Schoen — December 23, 2007 @ 2:49 am

  8. Tom,
    Not exactly on topic, but to answer your question….
    I have no idea because I have never been to Toledo (no matter how holy it is).

    I hope you found what you were looking for.


    Comment by Bill — December 23, 2007 @ 4:54 pm

  9. Well, they completed the undefeated season tonight. And, once again the officials got the ball rolling for the Pats. The bad call on the return where the Pats #31 definitely hit the man well out of bounds – clear as day. And somehow that was turned into a Giants penalty for -15 yds. That took the starch out of anything that the Giants were building and it let the Pats know that their backs were there and they only had to turn it up a little bit. The call in the Ravens game and the calls against the Colts – the NFL has picked it’s team for this year just like they picked the Colts last year!!! Super Bowl Champs – the Patriots! Mark my word, the refs will see to it!

    Comment by Tom — December 29, 2007 @ 8:43 pm

  10. The NFL Network replayed the Patriots-Ravens this week. Watching without the game on the line allowed me to carefully scrutinize the refs. It was ridiculous to say the least.

    I only caught parts of tonight’s game, so I didn’t see the call you are referring to. I did notice how with 11 minutes to go the Pats Randy Moss dropped what could have been a TD pass. On the very next play Brady threw a deep TD right back in Moss’s direction. Games, set, & match.

    Interesting was coach Belichick’s reply after the game. “We knew,” then he paused, stammered, then completed his sentence, “we thought that they were in a trap defense.”

    Does this sound like a coach who knew ahead of time what the defense had called? Perhaps a coach who is still cheating? It makes you wonder.

    At this point I don’t trust any of them.

    Comment by Bill — December 29, 2007 @ 9:18 pm

  11. What irks the hell out of me is no coach or player can even comment on a refs performance or the fines will be levied. There is a major problem with these officials and only us fans complain about it.

    Comment by Keith — December 31, 2007 @ 8:38 am

  12. The Patriots-Ravens game earlier in the season looked like a fixed game. The referees gave the Pats extra chances to score when the ball should have been turned over to the Ravens on downs. Why does this happen? The NFL is in the business of making money and the Patriots represent a bigger market of fans than Baltimore. Also, the later Pats-Giants game looked a bit “shady” too.

    This happened again when Pittsburgh played Jacksonville last week and the refs called defensive pass interference on the Jaguars late in the game. What the refs did NOT call was the blatant facemask grab of the Jax cornerback by the Pittsburgh receiver. In an effort to get the receiver off of him, the Jaguar cornerback pushed the receiver off him and defensive pass interference was called on Jacksonville. Why the bad call? Pittsburgh represents a larger market team than Jacksonville and the league makes more money (more viewers = higher advertising dollars).

    I believe the NFL is fixed.

    Comment by Rhett — January 12, 2008 @ 4:50 pm

  13. Would someone like to know what really irks me?

    The 15 yard facemask penalty stinks and here’s why:

    1. In order to establish a 1st down in NCAA and NFL football, only 10 yards (30 feet) is needed. So why give an extra 5?

    2. The facemask penalty has two versions– the 5 yard and the 15 yard? What if an “in between” facemask actually occurred? Well, in the statistical world, this would occur about 33.3% of the time, yet there is NO (10) yard facemask penalty.

    To be honest, I really do not like any 15 yard penalty. They are unfair when a first down only requires 10 yards to achieve. Hmm…makes you think a little, eh?

    Comment by Rhett — January 12, 2008 @ 4:57 pm

  14. Something To Watch Out For:

    The league definitely prefers to see Indianapolis face New England next weekend (in the AFC Championship) rather than the San Diego Chargers. With that in mind don’t be surprised if you see some odd calls to protect the Colts.


    Comment by Bill — January 13, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

  15. Refs tried everything to get Colts through against Chargers, but failed. I would like to name the most obviously corrupt ref from that game. Zebra #59, Phil Luckett. Back judge PHIL LUCKETT.

    There’s not much we, as fans, can do to preserve the integrity of the game, and it is obvious that the NFL wants the story of the undefeated Patriots (Ravens game was a laugher). But one reason these refs get away with it is their relative anonymity. How many times have you heard a sports caster name who is behind the zebra numbers, beyond the main ref? We CAN do something about that. We can go to NFL.com, go the the ‘scores’ page, and click on the GAMEBOOK link for a game. There we can find the names behind the numbers. Let’s give them as much publicity as they deserve. Let’s name names. In as many public places as possible.

    Comment by Joe — January 19, 2008 @ 2:01 pm

  16. Joe,
    You make an excellent point.

    The obvious missed call you are referring to in the SD-Indy game last weekend was the interception by the SD defensive back just before the end of the half that Phil called back due to “holding.” The TD on that play would have given SD a 14-10 halftime lead but Phil was determined to alter history (which he did for awhile).

    Phil Luckett has a long history of making such terrible & yet game (& season) changing calls. The most obvious is the famous “Tuck Rule” game in the 2001 AFC Playoffs Oakland at New England. The zebra who made that horrible call that snowy evening was your pal Phil Luckett!

    For the record I boo him loudly at every game I attend in which he is a referee.


    Comment by Bill — January 19, 2008 @ 4:01 pm

  17. Clearly written by a ravens fan.
    The cheating accusation has already been discovered as a ploy
    You forgot to mention that ravens role model is an accomplice to murder.

    Comment by Nancy Lapier — November 26, 2014 @ 5:36 pm

  18. Dear Nancy,
    This article was written seven years ago, and is an attack on NFL officiating, not your beloved Patriots. The game that particular Monday evening (seven years ago) did have some rather curious calls that assisted the Patriots to remain undefeated. We all recall how that season ended.

    In regards to your mention of cheating, well the Patriots & Bill “Belli-cheat” did get caught. They were punished. It was a pretty crappy thing to do, and displayed a lack of character & sportsmanship. But who am I to complain? I’m a Raiders fan who wishes they would bring back Stickum!

    Comment by Bill — November 27, 2014 @ 11:09 am

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