The 5 worst calls in NFL postseason history

Controversial Call In Lions-Cowboys
Controversial Call In Lions-Cowboys

Hey, bad calls from officials are a part of sports. It can't be helped. Referees, umpires and the like are all only human and can make mistakes.

In the NFL, the instant replay system and coaches challenges are supposed to minimize those mistakes, and keep bad calls from becoming game-changers or flashpoints for controversy, but even that doesn't always seem to work out.

Even with video replay, high definition slow motion cameras, and more angles to view than ever, it still seems that there are calls that are just plain blown.

Just ask the Detroit Lions, who would seemed to have been victimized by a poor call in their playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys this past weekend. Will the now-infamous "pass interference that wasn't" make our list of the worst blunders by officials in NFL playoff history?

Check out these five blown calls to find out.

No. 5: 1998-99 NFC Wild Card Game

In the 1999 Wild Card game, the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers met in Candlestick Park.

Near the end of the game, 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice fumbled the ball, and it was recovered by Green Bay. However, officials ruled that Rice was down by contact prior to the ball coming out, and the Niners retained possession of the football.

Replay showed that Rice did indeed fumble the ball, and it should have been ruled a turnover.

This led to one of the most dramatic playoff wins ever, when Steve Young hit Terrell Owens in the end zone as time expired to give San Francisco the win, as seen in the video above.

No. 4: 1980 AFC Championship Game

In the late 1970s to early 1980s, the Houston Oilers and Pittsburgh Steelers had one of the most fierce rivalries in the NFL, and in 1980, the two division foes were meeting for the right to play in the Super Bowl for the second straight season.

Down by seven late in the game, Houston quarterback Dan Pastorini drove the Oilers down the field to attempt to tie the game.

Houston wide receiver Mike Renfro makes a great catch in the corner of the end zone for what seems to be the game-tying score, but the official gave no touchdown signal, despite standing right in front of the play.

Replay showed Renfro was clearly in-bounds, and the lost touchdown helped give the Steelers a 27-13 win that sends them to their fourth Super Bowl.

No. 3: 1999-2000 NFC Championship Game

It's the NFC Championship game and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are down 11-6 to the St. Louis Rams, and their "Greatest Show on Turf".

As the Bucs attempt to move down for a go-ahead score, on 2nd-and-23 from the St. Louis 35 yard line, Bucs QB Shaun King hit receiver Bert Emanuel on diving catch near the the Rams' 20 yard line.

Emanuel had both hands under the ball and rolled over with it against his chest. The Bucs called a timeout to set their next play, but the officials came over to tell head coach Tony Dungy that they play was under review.

After reviewing the play, the officials ruled that the tip of the ball had touched the ground as Emanuel rolled over, and therefore it was an incomplete pass. Now, by the letter of the law, this may have been correct. However, it was clear that Emanuel had complete control of the football and it was in his possession.

The Bucs lost 11-6 to the Rams, and that rule has since been changed.

No. 2: 2014-15 NFC Wild Card

As mentioned earlier, this one might be on the list, and it surely ranks up there with the worst.

As the Lions are driving down the field to attempt to win the game, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a pass in the direction of wide receiver Brandon Pettigrew. As the ball floated down towards Pettigrew, Cowboys defensive back Anthony Hitchens made sure it wasn't going to be caught.

This play ranks at number two not just because of how recently it occurred, but by the number of penalties that were missed by the officials. As Pettigrew broke towards the sidelines, you can clearly see that Hitchens grabs his jersey, pulling it away from the body (supposedly a "point of emphasis" for NFL officials this season).

Then as the Pettigrew reaches to attempt to catch the ball, Hitchens pushes his right shoulder, forcing him away from the falling football.

A flag is dropped for pass interference, but then later picked up and called no foul. However, to make matters worse, once the flag was thrown, Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant comes out on to the field of play without his helmet on (see photo in slide no. 1), another clear penalty not called.

The drive is halted, and the hometown Cowboys go on to win the game 24-20.

No. 1: 2001-02 AFC Divisional Playoff

In what will probably always go down as one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in NFL playoff history, the New England Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl via the now defunct "Tuck Rule".

Tom Brady, who had played in place of an injured Drew Bledsoe that year, dropped back to the pocket in near blizzard conditions at Foxboro Stadium, and was crushed by Oakland Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson as he tried to bring the ball back down from a pump fake.

The ball was jarred loose, and the Raiders recovered, putting them in excellent position to win the game.

But hold on, after further review, the officials overturned the fumble call, and suddenly every NFL fan watching knew what the Tuck Rule was:

"When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble."

On the next play, Brady hit receiver David Patten for 13 yards, setting up Adam Vinatieri to kick the game-tying field goal as time ticked off the clock. Vinatieri would later hit the game winner in overtime.

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