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NFL chooses its Super Bowl officiating crew

The NFL has named its Super Bowl officiating crew, according to an officiating source familiar with the selection process. No one is authorized to talk about the names before the league announces them next week.

The referee for the Super Bowl crew will be Terry McAulay, who, in a season marked by controversial calls, has been freshly touched by criticism too.

McAulay, who refereed Super Bowl XXXIX between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles in 2005, worked last week’s AFC divisional playoff game won by the Baltimore Ravens over the top-seeded Tennessee Titans -- an outcome decided by Baltimore’s 43-yard field goal in the final minute.

That kick was preceded moments earlier by a third-and-two play in which McAulay’s back judge failed to throw a delay-of-game penalty flag on the Ravens when television coverage showed the play clock had expired by about two seconds before Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco took the snap from center.

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Flacco launched a 23-yard completion to tight end Todd Heap on the play, moving the Ravens to the Titans’ 45-yard line and setting up the winning kick in a 13-10 outcome.

McAulay told reporters afterward that his back judge, Robert Lawing, “has the clock. When it hits zero [on the clock], which is high here [in Tennessee], he goes to the ball. So there is going to be a natural delay from zero to getting to the ball. And when he gets to the ball, if it is being snapped, we don’t call it. So there can be a natural delay.”

Tennessee Coach Jeff Fisher, co-chair of the league’s competition committee that’s charged with maintaining the league’s integrity, later called the mistake “costly” and “unacceptable.”

An NFL spokesman declined to confirm the Super Bowl crew’s identity, and declined to make Mike Pereira, the league’s vice president of officiating, available for comment.

The league plans to officially announce the crew next week, after this weekend’s AFC and NFC championship games.

The crew, selected on the strength of high grades done by supervisors during the season, is one of the least experienced to be trusted with the Super Bowl, the officiating source said. No one other than McAulay has more than 10 years’ experience in the league. McAulay is in his 11th season.

Umpire Roy Ellison and head linesman Derick Bowers joined the league in 2003, and have the minimum six years of experience necessary to be eligible for Super Bowl crew consideration, the source said.

Line judge Mark Perlman and back judge Keith Ferguson have worked in the league since 2000, and side judge Michael Banks and field judge Greg Gautreaux have officiated since 2002. Banks works on McAulay’s regular-season crew.

McAulay beat out conference championship referees Walt Anderson (NFC) and Bill Carrollo (AFC) for the honor. He has worked four conference title games since 2001. He refereed a memorable 2001 game in Cleveland, when members of the “Dawg Pound” and other Cleveland fans showered the field with plastic beer bottles after a replay overturned a critical, late Cleveland pass completion.

Nothing that violent has happened this season, but the year has been stained by wrong or questionable calls.

In Week 2, referee Ed Hochuli blew a last-minute play dead as Denver quarterback Jay Cutler fumbled while pulling his arm back to pass, and the Chargers recovered in an apparently decisive play. With new life given by the Hochuli whistle, Denver scored the go-ahead touchdown and two-point conversion. No one from Hochuli’s crew pulled Super Bowl duty.

In November, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning had an important first-down completion against the Philadelphia Eagles reversed in his favor by replay after NBC footage originally made it appear Manning was beyond the line of scrimmage when he released the ball. Also that month, gamblers were outraged after officials mistakenly failed to award the Pittsburgh Steelers a last-second touchdown against the Chargers.

Last month, the Steelers wrapped up the AFC North division when a replay awarded Pittsburgh receiver Santonio Holmes a touchdown reception against Baltimore on a late fourth-quarter pass that was ruled short of the goal line on the field.

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com


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