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Friday, February 10, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Explanations of six key plays

The play: Darrell Jackson is called for offensive pass interference, nullifying a 16-yard touchdown catch with 2:08 left in the first quarter.

The gripe: The general consensus is that, while Jackson touched safety Chris Hope, it shouldn't have been pass interference.

Conclusion: NFL rules state: "Initiating contact with a defender by shoving or pushing off, thus creating a separation" is grounds for pass interference. Replays show contact with Jackson extending his arm, and, as former NFL official Jim Tunney explains, "There was contact, and it looked like the defender took a step backwards. He [Hope] is closing, and all of a sudden he stops. From the standpoint of the back judge, he sees that separation and makes the call."

The play: Jerramy Stevens drops a pass from Matt Hasselbeck early in the second quarter that would have given the Seahawks a first down. Replays show that Stevens might actually have made a catch then fumbled.

The gripe: Was that a catch and fumble? And if so can the Seahawks challenge and keep the ball, since it went out of bounds?

Conclusion: Because the play was ruled incomplete and blown dead, it cannot be reviewed. Had the play been ruled a fumble, Steelers linebacker James Farrior would almost certainly have recovered the ball.

The play: Late in the second quarter, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger dives for the end zone and is met at the goal line by Seahawks linebacker D.D. Lewis. After a brief hesitation, head linesman Mark Hittner signals touchdown.

The gripe: There were two on the play. One, that Roethlisberger didn't break the plane of the goal line, and two, that Hittner signaled the quarterback down and appeared to be spotting the ball before he ruled touchdown.

Conclusion: According to both NFL spokesman Greg Aiello and Tunney, Hittner's initial one-handed signal did not indicate fourth down, but rather that the play was over. As for whether Roethlisberger scored, that was a judgment call and replays did not provide enough incontrovertible evidence to overturn the ruling.

The play: In the final minute of the first half, Jackson catches a long pass but gets only one foot in bounds before stepping out of the end zone.

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The gripe: Some fans wondered if getting one foot in while kicking the pylon with the other constitutes possession.

Conclusion: While replays seem to indicate that Jackson kicked the pylon with his right foot, that alone does not establish possession. "A completed pass is having both feet on the ground," Tunney said. "He came from the air, caught the ball, and the second foot knocked over the pylon. He has to hit the second foot down to be a catch."

The play: Early in the fourth quarter, right tackle Sean Locklear is flagged for holding linebacker Clark Haggans, negating a Stevens catch to the 1-yard line.

The gripe: Fans, writers and broadcasters all seem to agree that there was no hold on the play. Also, there was a question of whether Haggans was offsides on the play. Hasselbeck said he thought he had a free play because Haggans had jumped early.

Conclusion: Haggans seemed to have the snap count figured out that drive, as he timed several plays to get a head start on Locklear. In slow motion, it looks like he crossed the line right at the snap, not early. As for the hold, NFL rules state that "hands or arms that encircle a defender — i.e., hook an opponent — are to be considered illegal." It was borderline whether Locklear hooked his arm around Haggans, and certainly similar plays frequently go uncalled, but Locklear did appear to briefly get his right arm around Haggans' neck.

"I would need to see it from where the umpire was standing. But if he sees him [Locklear] restricting that player from getting to the quarterback with his arm wrapped around him, then he can call a hold," Tunney said. "As I remember the play, he got his arm around the neck, so by the letter of the law that's restricting, and it's a hold."

The play: Three plays after Locklear's questionable hold, Hasselbeck throws an interception to Ike Taylor. On the return, Hasselbeck takes out Taylor by diving in front of him, and is flagged for a 15-yard illegal block.

The gripe: How can a tackler be penalized for an illegal block?

Conclusion: The official who threw the flag did so because he thought Hasselbeck was going low to take out a blocker, which is a penalty on returns. Every replay, however, seems to show Hasselbeck missing lead blocker Deshea Townsend and touching only Taylor.

Even Aiello left the door open when asked about this play. "If Hasselbeck did not make contact with the blocker, then a flag should not have been thrown."

John Boyle

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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