This needs to be said up front: the officials didn't cost the Patriots Super Bowl LII. But they did make a pair of glaring mistakes that allowed two Eagles touchdowns to stand.
Most reasonable observers would agree that Corey Clement's third-quarter score shouldn't have counted. He momentarily lost control of the football and his second foot was clearly out of bounds. There's talk that commissioner Roger Goodell talked to NFL head of officiating Alberto Riveron about adjusting his calls to make fewer reversals, which would've been unconscionable to change right before the Super Bowl instead of waiting until next season.
Another controversy has risen from what will go down as the game's most iconic play, the "Philly Special" trick play in which quarterback Nick Foles caught a fourth-down pass from tight end Trey Burton to put the Eagles up 22-12 late in the second quarter.
Now, one of the NFL's most prominent officiating experts agrees that the play should've been flagged for illegal formation.
"They Lined Up Wrong"
Mike Pereira, former NFL vice president of officiating, said on the Talk of Fame podcast that Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery was not lined up properly.
"I know the league came out and said that it’s a judgment call, which it is," said Pereira. "The down judge ... they felt that it was his judgment, and [Jeffrey] was close enough. Well, he wasn’t. They lined up wrong.
"Not only that, it’s a trick play. And if you’re going to run a trick-type play, then you have to be lined up properly. You could either have six men on the line, or you could have an ineligible number lined up at the end of the line, which was the case. I know what the league has said, but they would have been a lot more comfortable if they would have called an illegal formation."
Pereira added that the officials typically give about a half-yard of a cushion on plays like that, hence the "judgment call." Jeffery needed to be on the line, but could've gotten away with a yard or so. You can see here that he's clearly about two yards off the ball, which should be a clear penalty:
The fourth down trick play TS to Nick Foles was an illegal formation, should have been called back...extended WR to the top of the screen is off the ball (needs to be on the line with just the OT on inside him). #SB52 #Eagles #Patriots pic.twitter.com/tdX7hIpiGu
— Matt Chatham (@chatham58) February 5, 2018
Did It Cost The Patriots The Game?
The source of the ire of many Patriots fans is that the Eagles would've lost five yards and had to replay fourth down. Perhaps they would've opted to kick a field goal instead of go for it again. However, you could reasonably argue that the ultra-aggressive Doug Pederson would've still gone for it anyway. And even if they took the three points and went up 18-12 instead ... assuming the second half goes exactly the same way, the Eagles win by four points instead of eight.
So to point to that particular officiating mistake as a legit reason the Patriots lost the Super Bowl wouldn't be the most reasonable argument. But the officials are lucky that they didn't cost the Pats the game in the end. It's clear that they have some work to do to be better in the 2018 season. Same can be said for the Patriots defense.
-- By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].