Having played the game at the highest level, I am usually the last person to blame a loss on bad officiating. No matter how many times you get "hosed" on a call by the refs, you still generally have the ability to determine the outcome of a game with your own hands. This one time, however, I have to say something.
I don't know how old side judge Rick Patterson is -- I didn't try to look up his age when I googled him -- but I do know that he has been an NFL referee for 16 years, which is a long time. He has also worked in two different Super Bowls, which are generally supposed to be handed down to the best crews and officials in the league. Blah, blah, blah.
With all due respect (*remember the Ricky Bobby rule*), if Patterson's performance on Sunday working the Buccaneers-Falcons game is any indication, Mr. Patterson needs to go sit his ass down somewhere and enjoy retirement.
He made several calls that had a direct impact on the outcome of the game and was dead-ass wrong. Nah, actually he was absolutely certain and dead-ass wrong. Nothing worse than a man who is 100 percent sure they are and they aren't. Sure, a couple of plays I don't agree with come down to a judgment call, but that doesn't change the fact that video shows he shouldn't have been nearly as certain about several of those calls.
Let's start off with a couple of judgment calls Patterson made that give you an idea what I'm talking about.
With 1:10 left in the first quarter, the Falcons had a third-and-4 on the Buccaneers 11-yard line. Falcons receiver Harry Douglas ran what amounted to a wheel route from the slot. Buccaneers nickel back Leonard Johnson had him man-to-man in trail coverage, and while he did not look back for the ball, he was still able to tip it away from Douglas as the receiver tried to jump up and make the catch. Patterson called PI on Johnson, which gave the Falcons a first down on the Bucs' 1-yard line. Two plays later, Falcons running back Steven Jackson scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run.
And you know what, I'm completely OK with that sequence.
Later on in the game, with 14:16 left in the second quarter, the Bucs were facing a third-and-4 from their own 24-yard line. Bucs quarterback Josh McCown threw a back shoulder fade up high to receiver Vincent Jackson. Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant did not turn to look at the ball but was still able to jump into Jackson's body and swat the ball from his hands. The Bucs punted on the next play.
Functionally, there was no difference in how Johnson and Trufant covered their guys, but only Johnson was flagged for pass interference. If you are going to make a ticky-tack call against Johnson because he didn't turn his head around, then the same damn thing should have been called on Trufant, plain and simple.
Don't get me wrong, Patterson wasn't alone in his terrible performance on Sunday. The whole crew sucked, to be honest. Hell, one guy called back a Bucs conversion on third-and-20 because he said McCown had crossed the line of scrimmage before throwing the ball, when the replay showed he didn't even come close (via Bucs Nation).
It's just that Patterson sucked the most out of all of them and made bad calls all game.
For instance, there was the ghost hands-to-the-face call Patterson made on Bucs cornerback Johnthan Banks with 10:17 to go in the fourth quarter. The Falcons made it all the way down to the Bucs 16-yard line, but were facing a third-and-6 to keep the drive alive. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan took a quick three-step drop out of the shotgun and tried a deep ball to receiver Julio Jones. It was defensed well by Bucs corner Crezdon Butler and fell to the ground incomplete. The play didn't take much time at all, and it appeared that after giving up almost 50 yards on the drive, the Bucs were still going to hold the Falcons to a field goal attempt.
Then everybody noticed the flag on the ground.
I swear I've watched the TV version and the All-22 tape, and I haven't seen a single angle that shows Banks going to that receiver's head. I haven't seen the receiver's head move like Banks had hit him there either. Add to that the fact that the flag came out late after Patterson had to have already seen the pass fall incomplete on the other side of the field. Yet he still threw his flag with so much confidence you would have thought Banks must've smacked the receiver up-side his head like he stole something. There were no hands to the face (via Bucs Nation).
At the time the score was 17-16 Bucs, and Tampa Bay desperately needed to hold the Falcons to a field goal, at the most, in that spot.
And before you go there, this isn't about claiming someone was "cheating" at all. Yeah, I'm a Bucs homer through and through, but this is solely about Patterson being bad at his job. He and his crew also missed an obvious push-off by Bucs receiver Mike Evans on his first-half touchdown catch, so they weren't necessarily doing either team any favors.
Patterson's second-worst call of the day was ruling that an interception by Falcons corner Dwight Lowery in the end zone was actually an incomplete pass. He was overturned only because of replay. That's the play that basically sealed the win for the Falcons, so again I'm not "hating" on him. I'm calling him out by telling the damn truth.
Oh, but I have one more lowlight from Patterson for you, and this was his worst of the day. With 2:04 to go in the game and the Bucs facing a third-and-1, Evans ran a corner route and jumped to make the catch 13 yards down the field just before falling out of bounds. As he came down before he fell, however, he did a double toe tap to make sure his catch counted. Patterson, who wasn't much more than 5 yards away from Evans when he made the catch and had an unobstructed view, immediately singled that it was an incomplete pass. And he did so while motioning that Evans had caught the ball out of bounds, which is important.
You see this was not a tough call at all. Evans clearly got both feet down almost a foot away from the sideline. So perplexed were the announcers at the ruling that they tried to come up with another reason why Patterson might have said it wasn't a catch -- for instance, invoking the "Megatron" rule about keeping control of the ball as you go to the ground. Not that it mattered anyway, because Evans didn't lose control of the ball even for a second after catching it, but Patterson had already ruled the pass incomplete at pretty much the moment Evans hit the ground, so it's not like he would have had the opportunity to see the ball come out anyway. You can even see another ref coming up to talk to Patterson about the ruling, but the guy wouldn't be swayed.
And once again he was dead-ass wrong! (via Bucs Nation)
OK, it didn't necessarily cost the Bucs anything because they challenged the call and got it overturned, but what if they were out of timeouts and challenges at that point? Besides that, having to challenge the call gave the Falcons' defense a break and a chance to regroup before the next play, on which they happened to get an interception. Who knows if they would have been prepared to defend the Bucs had McCown lined the offense up right away and tried to throw for the end zone? The tempo was lost all because Patterson is evidently blind as a damn bat.
I try hard to never call for people to be fired, but if a player had as bad a day as Patterson and his crew had on Sunday, they wouldn't make it into the locker room before they were cut upon the ending of a game. At the least, the entire crew should be fined for that dreadful performance, and Patterson's should be a little heftier since he was the ring leader of suck last week.