In the confusing aftermath of the final minutes of the Dallas Cowboys' 24-20 Wild Card win over the Detroit Lions, the officiating crew assigned to the game made an attempt to clarify just what happened.
Referee Pete Morelli spoke with reporter Todd Archer following the game and described how the officials decided to pick up a flag that had initially been declared as pass interference on the Cowboys' Anthony Hitchens.
"The back judge threw his flag for defensive pass interference," Morelli told Archer, via a pool report released by the Cowboys. "We got other information from another official from a different angle that thought the contact was minimal and didn't warrant pass interference."
The other official Morelli referred to was head linesman Jerry Bergman, who thought the play was "face-guarding," according to Morelli. Face-guarding is illegal in college football, but not in professional football.
Morelli announced the infraction as defensive pass interference before picking up the flag with no explanation, prompting confusion and outrage from the Lions and many of those watching the game. In explaining the sequence of events, Morelli acknowledged he likely should have waited for all information before announcing the call.
"Probably, yes," Morelli said. "The information came and then the officials got together a little bit later, after it was given to me, the first information. It would have probably been smoother if we got together."
Morelli went on to reassert that the official with the better view of the play was Bergman.
Football Zebras has confirmed that Clete Blakeman will lead the crew for the AFC Championship game and Ed Hochuli will be the referee in the NFC Championship.
In an interesting development, several officials have received their second on-field playoff assignment for this season. Traditionally, those officials who receive two playoff assignments are the Super Bowl officials, who also work a Divisional playoff. However, in this case, these assignments are the first doubles in a single season, without a Super Bowl assignment, since 2004. There was some indication that the procedures were going to be altered slightly this year, as more than 20 officials will not get any assignment this postseason.
Officials are eligible for the Conference Championships in their third NFL season, provided that they also have an assignment in a playoff game in a previous year. Two officials, Aaron Santi and Shawn Smith, are in their third season, with two more in their fourth season.
Three alternates are assigned to each game: generally, one is designated for the offensive backfield (a referee or umpire), one is on the line of scrimmage (down judge or line judge), and one is a deep position (side judge, field judge, or back judge). When alternates are listed, their position during the regular season is also given. The prior playoff experience that is listed for the crew chief includes his service as an NFL official, including as referee and any other crew position (excluding alternate assignments).
All times are Eastern.
Sunday, January 21
AFC Championship Game, Jaguars at Patriots, 3:05 p.m. CBS
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Clete Blakeman is the referee, who is in his 10th season and 8th as referee. This is Blakeman’s 7th postseason assignment and his first conference championship; he also has worked 3 Wild Card Playoffs, 2 Divisional Playoffs, and Super Bowl 50, his most recent playoff assignment.
Before becoming an official, Blakeman was a second-string quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers from 1984 to 1987. He started a handful of games, most notably a 70-0 shutout of the Kansas Jayhawks in 1986.
Blakeman, 53, came to the NFL from the Big 12 Conference in 2008. After a couple of seasons at field judge, he was promoted to referee in 2010. His career has been relatively clean of controversy, although Patriots fans will be quick to point to his crew’s role in 2013 as a pass interference flag in the end zone was picked up. The umpire and the back judge determined in a conference that there was no foul, prior to Blakeman joining the huddle, although his position on the field would not have given him any perspective to influence the decision.
Blakeman is a personal-injury attorney in Omaha, where he lives with his wife and two children.
|U||11||Fred Bryan||9||Allen||Northern Iowa||superintendent, juvenile correctional facility|
|DJ||28||Mark Hittner||21||Wrolstad||Pittsburg State||investment broker|
|LJ||79||Kent Payne||14||Cheffers||Nebraska Wesleyan||teacher|
|FJ||50||Aaron Santi||3||Torbert||Southern Oregon||middle school principal|
|SJ||109||Dyrol Prioleau||11||Blakeman||Johnson C Smith||manager, law firm|
|BJ||112||Tony Steratore||18||Boger||California (Pa.)||co-owner, supply company|
- Replay: Carl Madsen
- Alternates: John Parry (R), Patrick Turner (DJ), Greg Gautreaux (FJ)
NFC Championship Game, Vikings at Eagles, 6:40 p.m. FOX
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Ed Hochuli is the referee, who is in his 27th season and 25th as referee. This is Hochuli’s 26th postseason assignment, the most of any active official, which include 11 Wild Card Playoffs, 5 Divisional Playoffs, 9 Conference Championships, and Super Bowls XXXII and XXXVIII.
Hochuli, 67, worked his last playoff assignment in the Wild Card Playoff between the Falcons and Rams on Jan. 6. Along with other officials this year, he is working more than one game, and he is the first referee since Walt Anderson and Bill Carollo in 2004 to have multiple non-Super Bowl assignments in a postseason.
He ties Terry McAulay and Mark Hittner (working in the Jaguars-Patriots game) with 11 assignments to title games, combining conference championships and Super Bowls, as the most among active officials.
Hochuli lives in San Diego and is a founding partner of the Arizona-based law firm Jones, Skelton & Hochuli.
|R||85||Ed Hochuli||28||Texas-El Paso||attorney|
|U||14||Shawn Smith||3||Hochuli||Ferris State||internal auditor|
|DJ||48||Jim Mello||14||Allen||Northeastern||facilities manager|
|LJ||59||Rusty Baynes||8||Hochuli||Auburn-Montgomery||general manager, safety services*|
|FJ||103||Eugene Hall||4||Boger||North Texas||federal agent|
|SJ||88||Brad Freeman||4||Cheffers||Mississippi State||sports park director|
|BJ||30||Todd Prukop||9||Corrente||Cal State-Fullerton||medical sales representative|
*indicates full-time official
- Replay: Tom Sifferman
- Alternates: Carl Cheffers (R), Carl Johnson (LJ), James Coleman (SJ)