With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell committing to Peyton Manning as the face of the league, a pattern of refereeing bias seems to be showing up uncomfortably often in big games involving the Colts. In the Steelers-Colts playoff game in Jan of 2006, a 4th quarter interception of Peyton Manning by Steeler Troy Polamalu was ruled a complete pass/interception on the field. When Tony Dungy challenged the call, referee Morelli overturned the interception, even though the replay clearly showed this was the wrong call. Luckily for the Steelers, Colts kicker Vanderjagt missed a tie-ing field goal, and the Steelers advanced in the playoffs. Steeler Joey Porter after the game said, "I know they wanted Indy to win this game; the whole world loves Peyton Manning. But come on, man, don't take the game away from us like that." With questions and pressure quickly mounting, Referee Pete Morelli tried to weave some post-game damage control and gave to reporters a deeper explanation of why he overturned the call, but his own description of events on the replay did not match with the replay itself. The immediate storm of controversy and the spectre of favoritism forced the NFL to break it's usual silence on its in-house silence of officiating reviews, and the NFL publicly acknowledged that Morelli was wrong to have overturned the interception call.
Fast forward to the great Pats-Colts AFC championship game on Jan 26, 2007. The score is Pats 21, Colts 13, Manning on 2nd-and-7 from the Pats 19 yd line, and from Kyle, "Reggie Wayne, who's given Ellis Hobbs the slip and is streaking down the sideline for a touchdown catch. But Hobbs stays with the Colts No. 2 receiver. He closes on Wayne, chopping his feet to avoid bumping into the wideout, a sure penalty since his back is to the passer. Wayne's eyes widen, indicating the ball is on its way. Free from contact, Hobbs jumps up but doesn't turn to look for the football, which strikes Hobbs' left biceps from behind and falls to the turf dead. Penalty flags fly, and referee Bill Carollo turns on his mic to let everyone that the penalty is "Defense. Automatic first down." But Replay Official Dean Boylston who was present at the game said this was the wrong call. "Ellis Hobbs should not have been flagged for pass-interference. He made no contact with the receiver and in no way did Hobbs impede Reggie Wayne's ability to catch the pass." Instead of a chance for the Pats to hold the Colts to a field goal, the Colts were awarded the ball at the Patriot one-yard-line, the Colts scored a touchdown AND a two-point conversion to tie the game at 21-21. An unfortunate call against the Patriots? Or a golden opportunity by the league office to give "the face of the NFL", Peyton Manning, the legitimacy they both wanted.
Questions about refereeing favoritism to the Colts were never more obvious than last week's game against the Patriots when a series of integrity-questioning calls took place
1) As Pats safety Rodney Harrison was going to make an end-zone interception, Dallas Clark tackled him from behind, but no interference call was made.
2) On an uncatchable ball, Pats cornerback Asante Samuel was called for interfering with Colts Anthony Gonzalez.
3) Pats defender Ellis Hobbs was flagged in the endzone for pass interference when video replay showed that this call was clearly and blatantly wrong.
4) In another end-zone moment, the refs again tried to influence the outcome of the game by calling Pats receiver Randy Moss for offensive pass interference.
5) The Colts only had 25 yards of penalties, yet the Patriots were flagged a FRANCHISE HIGH of 146 yards in penalties.
6) (First reported by Hank Gola of the N.Y. Daily News) Referee Parry tossed the coin, Patriot Captain Teddy Bruschi called heads, and only after it was seen that the coin landed tails did the referee claim that he "dropped" the coin, not flipped it, and therefore he had to toss it again. Bruschi called heads, but this time the coin came up tails and the Patriots lost the toss. Parry asked Bruschi which goal he wanted to defend, and Bruschi said, "You need to worry about getting the coin toss right first. Do your job!"
BAM! PUT THAT IN YOUR PIEHOLE, YOU CHEATING COLT-LOVING ZEBRAS!