Today I did something I’ve never done as a journalist in 28 years of covering sports. Today, I walked into the Baltimore Ravens locker room and the story really wasn’t as much the razor-thin outcome as the ways and means that the purple guys suffered a 24-23 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
At every end of the Ravens locker room – from veterans who I’ve never heard utter a bad word about the officials to the coaches who will be mortified when they go back and watch this film – the officiating was the central story of the bitter loss.
A late, reversed call on a phantom pass from Michael Vick that was receovered by the Ravens in the red zone?
A “no yellow flag” pass interference call on Jacoby Jones that took six points off the board for the Ravens? Joe Flacco said the official “threw a beanie.”
Multiple instances where the officials didn’t know what down it was or where to spot the ball?
And, most egregiously, the obvious punching match between DeSean Jackson and Cary Williams that any neophyte NFL fan knows calls for an immediate ejection must make anyone in the league office cringe because that’s a no-brainer and set the tone to allow four more melees to break out at different points in the game.
Several veteran Ravens players chatted with me off the record – as you know the NFL fines anyone who states the obvious about this sham going on with the zebras – and said the biggest issues are the calls being made down the field when the ball goes in the air.
No one knows where the line is for a pass interference call. No one can assess what will be called holding and what won’t. Then there’s the inherent chippiness and ability to bully and further confuse and befuddle these already confused men in black and white.
And as Joe Flacco pointed out, “I think you’re not too smart if you’re not trying to get away with that. See if you can get a call?”
Harbaugh and the Ravens have a chance each week to send notes to New York to the league offices to review plays. Clearly, with this sham today in Philadelphia, he might not even bother filing out a report.
“The challenge for us right now is figuring out what constitutes what. What constitutes illegal contact? What constitutes P.I.?” Harbaugh said in the post game.
No one in the purple locker room came out and said: “We lost the game because of the officials.” Let’s make that clear. Many just said, “It’s a shame.” Flacco says the integrity of the game is being compromised. Ray Lewis had to be pulled away by the Ravens’ PR staff before he said something that would get him fined.
But he did have a litany of interesting things to say and didn’t mince words:
Strange days for the league. Strange days for the officials. And “chaotic,” as it was called by John Harbaugh, seems to reign right now not just for the Ravens but for all teams trying to get a grip on the officiating.
Where is Roger Goodell to answer these questions?