By Scott M. Johnson
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Instant replay is turning into Mike Holmgren’s Frankenstein.
He helped create this monster, and now it’s coming back to haunt him.
The latest instant replay frustration came Sunday, when a questionable call could have cost the Seahawks dearly in a 23-20 win over Buffalo.
“We’re getting killed,” said Holmgren, who was one of the main proponents of bringing back instant replay while he was on the competition committee a few years ago. “That’s two games. The Miami game earlier, and then this one. Clearly, they’ll look at that (Monday) and realize.”
The play in question certainly looked like it would go in Seattle’s favor.
Tight end Christian Fauria appeared to catch a 12-yard pass on third-and-10 during the third quarter. But Fauria’s less-than-conventional methods – he kicked the ball with his left foot before snagging it out of the air – caused officials on the field to rule it an incomplete pass.
Holmgren challenged the decision, but the subsequent instant replay proved inconclusive.
“I get no love from this league,” said Fauria, who also was involved with a questionable instant replay decision last year in a loss to Kansas City. “I can’t believe how I get robbed. I kind of put my foot out, and (the ball) bounced up. I was so surprised that (officials) even challenged it. I was amazed by it.”
In real time, it appeared as if Fauria may have caught the ball on a hop off the turf. But replays made it look like the ball actually bounced off the toe of his left foot, not the turf. Unfortunately for the Seahawks, the only clear view the television replays had were slightly shielded by another player. As much as it looked like a catch, the play was still inconclusive.
And Fauria was adamant about what he thought.
“I was so sure of it, I was ready to bet my life on it,” Fauria said. “Good thing I didn’t. I guess they didn’t have the right view, or someone was in the way. It’s completely a crock.”
Holmgren was quick to point out that the call wasn’t necessarily a mistake by the officials as much as it was a technological flaw. While games with more national attention might carry unlimited camera shots, only two angles were available of the Fauria catch. Neither angle proved to be conclusive.
“We all knew, those of us that wanted instant replay back, that there was going to be a difference between a Monday Night Football game and another game,” Holmgren said. “I can live with that. I understand that. But if they do have the pictures, call it right. If they don’t have the pictures, they don’t have the pictures. But if they have them, let’s get that thing right. That’s inexcusable to me.”
Not that the Seahawks were the only team burned by questionable calls Sunday. Buffalo took issue with two non-calls on throws into the end zone during their final drive of the first half. Both occasions included borderline pass interference calls on the Seahawks, but instead the Bills had to settle for a field goal.
Another key call that went against Buffalo came early in the fourth quarter, when the Bills were driving for the potential go-ahead touchdown. A 12-yard pass play that put Buffalo at the Seattle 6-yard line was called back because of a holding call on wide receiver Eric Moulds.
“They were not calling anything all day, letting those guys fight,” Buffalo quarterback Alex Van Pelt said. “I don’t think that we got one interference call in the first half, so as a player you need to realize that you will get away with a little more. I don’t know if (Moulds) was or was not holding, but this is a physical game. That would have been huge if we got down there.”
Instead, the Bills settled for a field goal attempt – which kicker Jake Arians missed from 45 yards away.
The thing that frustrated Holmgren about the Fauria call was that a similar situation happened about three weeks ago, when instant replay did not reverse what he saw as a blatantly botched call. In that game, running back Shaun Alexander was charged with a fumble even though the Dolphins’ Zach Thomas appeared to have stripped it well after Alexander was down.
“Something upstairs is wrong,” Holmgren said following Sunday’s call. “That’s not the referee’s fault. The mechanism didn’t work the way it was supposed to work. That’s the only explanation I have.”