Football Zebras has confirmed the assignment of referees Ed Hochuli and Bill Vinovich to the Conference Championship games on Sunday, as previously reported. Hochuli will have the AFC game between the Patriots and Broncos; Vinovich will be heading the crew for the NFC title match between the Cardinals and Panthers.
AFC Championship Game, Patriots at Broncos, 3 p.m. ET (CBS)
Ed Hochuli is in his 26th year as an official and 24th as referee. Hochuli will be working his 24th postseason game, the most by far of any active official (8 Wild Card Playoffs, 6 Divisional Playoffs, 8 Conference Championships, and Super Bowls XXXII and XXXVIII). His 10 assignments between conference and league title games is tied with Terry McAulay for the most among active officials.
His most recent postseason game was the Wild Card game between the Cardinals and Panthers — the two teams in the NFC Championship Game.
Hochuli lives in San Diego and is a partner of the Arizona-based law firm Jones, Skelton and Hochuli. His son, Shawn, joined the NFL in 2014.
|R||85||Ed Hochuli||26||Texas-El Paso||attorney|
|U||49||Rich Hall||12||Boger||Arizona||custom cabinetry|
|HL||28||Mark Hittner||19||Wrolstad||Pittsburg State||investment broker|
|LJ||101||Carl Johnson||12||Blakeman||Nicholls State||full-time official|
|FJ||109||Dyrol Prioleau||9||Triplette||Johnson C Smith||manager, law firm|
|BJ||112||Tony Steratore||16||Boger||California (Pa.)||co-owner, supply company|
- Replay official: Bob McGrath
- Replay assistant: Brian Matoren
- Alternates: John Parry (R), Mike Spanier (LJ), Jon Lucivansky (SJ)
- Supervisor: Garth DeFelice
- Observer: Al Riveron
NFC Championship Game, Cardinals at Panthers, 6:40 p.m. ET (Fox)
Bill Vinovich was the referee in last year’s Super Bowl XLIX, which means he has graded at or near the top in consecutive seasons. Although Vinovich is in his 11th year as an official — and 8th as referee — those seasons were not consecutive, as Vinovich was sidelined with an aortic aneurysm in 2006. He left the field to work in the league office as an officiating supervisor and grader. Doctors gave Vinovich a clean bill of health, and he returned to the field after the 2012 labor impasse with the referee’s union.
Vinovich was hired by the NFL in 2001, making this his 15th season of NFL service.
This is his 8th postseason assignment and 2nd Conference Championship. He has also worked 2 Wild Card Playoffs, 3 Divisional Playoffs, and the Super Bowl.
Vinovich lives in Lake Forest, Calif., and is a Division I college basketball referee and a certified public accountant.
|R||52||Bill Vinovich||11||San Diego||accountant, former NFL officiating supervisor|
|U||64||Dan Ferrell||13||Corrente||Cal State-Fullerton||director, parts logistics and supply chain management|
|HL||79||Kent Payne||12||Cheffers||Nebraska Wesleyan||teacher|
|LJ||18||Byron Boston||21||Anderson||Austin||tax consultant|
|SJ||73||Joe Larrew||14||Blakeman||St Louis||attorney|
|BJ||111||Terrence Miles||8||Cheffers||Arizona State||quality control manager|
- Replay official: Larry Nemmers
- Replay assistant: Mark Butterworth
- Alternates: Walt Coleman (R), Paul King (U), Mark Steinkerchner (LJ)
- Supervisor: Neely Dunn
From Football Zebras editor Ben Austro
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During the on-air portion of the “Official Review” segment of NFL Network’s Total Access, V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira admitted that a flag should have wiped out the third-quarter interception thrown by Vikings quarterback Brett Favre, due to a low hit applied by Saints defensive end Bobby McCray. (MDS has more on the non-call right here.)
It’s possible that referee Pete Morelli swallowed the whistle because he had called a roughing the passer penalty only a few plays earlier, extending the drive. But Pereira explained that the driving of Favre into the ground was “poster-child” evidence of a personal foul, despite the fact that FOX’s Troy Aikman strongly disagreed with the call. So there should have been no need for a make-up call — especially since the hit to Favre’s lower legs was obvious.
During the online-only portion of the “Official Review” feature, Pereira talked about several other disputed plays from the game. Specifically, he addressed two key decisions from the sole drive of overtime.
First, he discussed a catch by Saints receiver Robert Meachem that moved the game-winning field goal attempt to 40 yards. The ball seemed to hit the ground — and move — as Meachem tried to secure possession. Pereira explained that insufficient visual evidence existed to overturn the call on the field, regardless of whether the call on the field had been that the pass was complete or incomplete.
In this regard, we agreed with the decision. Though it appears that the call was wrong, the “100 drunks in a bar” standard requires clear evidence to overturn the real-time ruling. And clear evidence was not available.
Pereira also talked about the key fourth-down plunge by running back Pierre Thomas, during which the helmet of linebacker Chad Greenway seemed to dislodge the ball after Thomas achieved forward progress. Pereira again explained that insufficient visual evidence existed to permit an accurate re-spotting of the ball, even if it were determined that he lost possession and then recovered possession while in the air. (As to the possible loss of possession, Pereira accurately observed that Thomas might have maintained sufficient possession with his right hand.) The problem is that Thomas was in the air, which makes it virtually impossible to establish the kind of reference point needed to spot the ball anywhere other than where it had been spotted on the field.
So, again, the call might have been bad, but the application of the replay rules was accurate.
Finally, Pereira said nothing at all about a pass interference call on Vikings linebacker Ben Leber on a ball that seemed to be uncatchable — unless Saints tight end David Thomas were 10-feet tall.
Of course, nothing said by Pereira or anyone else after the fact really matters. Vikings fans will continue to believe that their team got a raw deal, and Saints fans will continue to point to the final score and/or the Vikings’ many turnovers and/or calls that went against the home team.
Still, we hope that the NFL will aspire to reach a level of officiating that allows no team to legitimately believe that they lost a game due to anything other than the superiority of the opponent. We also hope that, someday, the NFL will reach that goal, on a consistent basis.