“Loved the shirt! It was a huge part of an amazing Super Bowl, thanks IntelliSkin!” -Laird Hayes Super Bowl Referee
In my world, it has to be Laird Hayes.
But Hayes doesnâ€™t play for either of those teams. He was a member of Sundayâ€™s Super Bowl officiating crew â€” the side judge.
On our biggest stage, in front of what may turn out to be the largest audience of any television program in history, Hayes faced the biggest call of his career â€” and he nailed it. When you stop and analyze it, we get replay after replay to dissect every close play. Hayes had only 1/26 of a second to make the right call. And he did.
The Giants had the ball, first-and-10 from their 12-yard line with 3:46 left in the game. The Patriots led 17-15.
On the first play of what would be the game-winning drive, Giants quarterbackÂ Eli Manning completed a 38-yard pass down the left sideline toÂ Mario Manningham with New Englandâ€™sÂ Sterling Moore andÂ Patrick Chungdefending. As he came down with the ball, Manningham was forced out of bounds. It was a bang-bang play, and the biggest question was whether Manningham was able to keep both feet in bounds while maintaining possession as he was going to the ground and falling out of bounds.
It was an obvious play for New England coach Bill Belichick to challenge. Heck, I would have challenged it, too.
There are a couple of key elements to discuss. Manningham instantly got control of the ball, with his right foot touching down first, followed by his left foot that was also in bounds. Additionally, he was able to maintain control of the ball throughout the entire process of the catch while going to the ground. It was an incredible catch that, in my opinion, rivalsÂ David Tyreeâ€™s catch in Super Bowl XLII. Referee John Parry, with input from replay official Larry Nemmers, correctly confirmed that Manningham got both feet down in bounds and that the call was correct.
I believe Hayes made the toughest call in a Super Bowl since edition XLIII, when field judge Greg Gautreaux correctly ruled that Pittsburghâ€™s Santonio Holmes got both toes down on the winning catch with 35 seconds to play as the Steelers beat theÂ Arizona Cardinals 27-23. At the conclusion of that game, I hugged a teary-eyed Gautreaux, who realized he got it right on the biggest call of his career.
I only wish I was in Indianapolis so I could have gone into the locker room and given Hayes the same kind of embrace. This wasnâ€™t Hayesâ€™ first Super Bowl; in fact, it was his third (2002 and 2004). But this, without a doubt, was the biggest call of his career.
We are so quick to criticize when officials do something wrong, yet it seems we are very slow to give praise when they get the big calls right. Hayes made a very difficult call in real time.
Congratulations to Laird and to the entire crew on a well-officiated game.
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