As the Eagles and Cardinals prepare to do battle this Sunday, I’m sure Bruce Arians will be giving his team some extra motivation this week. He’ll likely be reminding them of the game between the two teams last year and how they were apparently robbed of a victory by the refs.
Last year in Week 13, the Eagles and Cardinals played a high-stakes game that had potential playoff ramifications for both teams. The Eagles dominated early but had to hold on late to win, 24-21 at the Linc.
Arians was steaming after the game due to what he felt was extremely poor officiating by the refs. In fact, he called the NFL to complain and to advise them he’d be sending in 15 plays for review…all before leaving the locker room after the game. It irritated him so much that he couldn’t even wait until the next day to address the issue.
From Bob McManaman of AZ Central the day after last year’s game:
The first-year head coach told reporters that he sent copies of 15 plays from that game to NFL headquarters for review and was confident the matter would be dealt with swiftly by Dean Blandino, the league’s vice president of officiating.
“There were obviously problems in the ballgame,” Arians said. “There’s protocol to follow, and we followed the protocol. We sent the tapes into the league office. Dean Blandino does a great job as far as being very honest on the calls. We’ll follow up more with the answers and what will be done and what can be done later.
“That’s all I’ll say about the officiating in that ballgame. The proper channels have been followed, and there obviously were very many problems.”
But Arians didn’t stop there.
Arians acknowledged he called the NFL before even departing the stadium on Sunday, demanding to talk to someone about several plays in question.
“I’ve already gotten most of the answers. I got them before I left the locker room yesterday,” he said.
“I’m not going to comment too much on it,” he said. “There were some plays we could have made as a defense and as an offense, also. We can’t get those plays back, but you can’t really harp on what the referees do or how they call the game.
“But that was a tough moment, especially since Patrick caught that interception.”
Arians confirmed his gripes to the league about the officiating included no-calls regarding defensive pass interference on Andre Roberts and Michael Floyd during the team’s final, last-ditch possession.
Asked if the 15 plays in question were an unusually high number to send into the league office, Arians said, “That’s pretty high. I think that’s considered a problem.”
The last call that bugged the Cardinals was a holding penalty on pass rusher Matt Shaughnessy on third and 4 that would have led to Arizona getting the ball back one last time.
Instead, the Eagles were awarded an automatic first down and were allowed to end the game in victory formation.
“He was blocking Matt on a bootleg play and Matt threw him to the ground and sacked the quarterback,” Arians said, maintaining there should have been no penalty on the play.
Arians wasn’t the only one who was displeased (to say the least) with the refs:
After the Shaughnessy penalty, linebacker Daryl Washington went ballistic and was hit with a penalty of his own for abusive language directed at a referee.
“I had to calm down myself and then I tried to talk to the other guys,” defensive end Calais Campbell said.
To refresh your memory of what went down, he’s a quick recap…
In the fourth quarter after Arizona just scored a TD to make it a three point game at 24-21, the Eagles took over with just under five minutes to go and really needed to put together a drive to both eat the clock and at least get a field goal to force the Cards to get a TD to win it.
Three plays into this drive, Nick Foles threw a bad interception to Patrick Peterson that would have set Arizona up in field goal range immediately. However, as luck would have it, the Cards’ defense (CB Tyrann Mathieu) was called for holding and it negated the interception.
The next issue happened after the Cards got the ball back. On a fourth-down pass, Bradley Fletcher had a little contact with Michael Floyd as the receiver was going for the ball. It was a good play by Fletcher but we’ve seen referees call pass interference on plays with less contact.
The final straw came when Eagles took over on downs and already in field goal range to extend their lead to six if they needed to. After three plays it appeared that’s exactly what would happen until another third-down defensive holding call on the Cardinal defense gave the Eagles another first down.
They were then able to just run out the clock. However, if not for that final defensive holding call, the Eagles would have kicked a field goal and then Arizona would have gotten the ball back with roughly a minute and 20 seconds to go for one last chance.
After that game, I did feel that while it was a good win for the Eagles, it did come with question marks due to the officiating. There is no doubt in my mind that the Cardinals remember what happened and will try to use it as motivation this week. They probably feel cheated and feel they would have won had there not been some questionable calls (and non-calls) by the refs.
That is, unless they took what Cary Williams said to heart after he called them out and basically told them to man-up. After he was told about the Cards’ complaints, Williams stated:
“Let’s not be crybabies, man,” he said. “I thought the refs kept them in the game to some degree at times. But it’s football, man. It’s about going out there and executing. If they came in here with a different attitude, maybe not so nonchalant, thinking it was going to be a cakewalk…
“I’m not big on teams sending stuff in, and ‘This is what needs to be called.’ Play the game, dude. It’s football, man. Either you come in and win or you blame it on the refs. Don’t blame it on the refs, blame it on your preparation that week. I’ve never been a fan of coaches sending stuff into the refs unless it was blatant. To me I didn’t think there was anything blatant out on the field.”
I think both sides of the argument have their merits. I don’t like seeing the outcomes of games decided by questionable calls from the refs at key times. At the same time, I can subscribe to the “it’s part of the game” mentality and that all teams benefit as well as get screwed by the refs at certain points over the course of a season. It usually all evens out in the end.
With that said, I think the Cards will be extra motivated this week to prove their belief that they should have won last year. And while early, this is another matchup between these two teams that could have playoff implications down the line for tie-breaking purposes.
I’d love to hear the chatter on the field this week. You just know the Cards will be closely monitoring how the refs call the game. Hell, if there is a bad call against Arizona, Arians probably won’t even wait until the game is over to call the NFL and submit his plays for review.
He’ll have his cell phone with the NFL’s competition committee on speed dial.