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Madden, Michaels adjust in second half

Like Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher and the game officials, ABC play-by-play man Al Michaels wasn't flawless during Pittsburgh's 21-10 victory over Seattle in Super Bowl XL on Sunday night.

But after one surprisingly shaky first-half moment, Michaels and analyst John Madden had the kind of game that makes you hope Michaels will flee ESPN and the duo will team up again when NBC gets the NFL's prime-time package on Sundays in the fall.

Michaels' uncharacteristic lapse came on the game's most controversial play -- the disputed rushing touchdown by Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger inside the two-minute warning of the first half.

Michaels wondered if Holmgren was going to challenge because it was unclear if Big Ben had gotten over the plane of the goal line. Then Michaels realized it was the replay official's call, not Holmgren's, because it was inside the half's final two minutes.

Michaels and Madden correctly predicted that referee Bill Leavy wouldn't overturn the ruling on the field, even though Steelers fans were more likely to agree with that assessment than Seahawks fans. At the very least, you might have expected ABC, with all of its cameras, would provide a better angle for Leavy and for Leavy to take more time before he ruled the play stood.

The first touchdown was one of several questionable calls that went against Seattle. Things went so badly that even the normally cautious Michaels and Madden were noting how many tough calls were going against them.

When a holding call negated a Seattle reception to the Steelers' 1-yard line that could have led to a fourth-quarter go-ahead touchdown, Madden said: "I didn't see holding. There may have been holding. It wasn't in that picture."

When Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was penalized for hitting below the waist when he tackled the player who intercepted his pass, Madden said: "The officials thought they saw something they didn't see. [Hasselbeck] was making a good play and got penalized for it."

In the first half, Madden said of an offensive interference call on Seattle receiver Darrell Jackson that negated a touchdown: "When you think about push-offs, that's not the type you think about really." But, he added, it was done right in front of the official.

Two members of ABC's halftime team, Steve Young and Michael Irvin, were much more opinionated. Both said it was a bad call.

"You've done that a thousand times," Young told Irvin.

Madden's second-half analysis was sharp. He noted a few plays before Pittsburgh's Willie Parker bolted for a Super Bowl-record 75-yard touchdown that a Steelers TD could allow them to play their game. He predicted Pittsburgh would run a gadget play long before the game-clinching touchdown from receiver Antwaan Randle El to Hines Ward.

Michaels also was filling in missing details, like the surprising lack of production from outspoken Steelers linebacker Joey Porter.

However, occasionally Madden and Michaels were talking over video that illustrated penalties had negated big plays before the announcers realized it. They were praising a punt return by Seattle's Peter Warrick while the cameras caught him and an assistant coach complaining about a penalty that negated it.

>More highs of Super Bowl XL:

*Best Interview: Before halftime, Holmgren was heard complaining to Leavy about the Roethlisberger TD as sideline reporter Suzy Kolber waited to interview the Seattle coach.

"They're telling me upstairs the ball didn't cross the line," said Holmgren.

*Best Stat: Before Leavy stayed with the original first TD call, Michaels noted Leavy had reversed only 23 percent of challenges, the lowest rate over the last three seasons.

*Best Ads: Leonard Nimoy needing arthritis medicine to form his signature Mr. Spock Vulcan hand signal; the FedEx ad featuring a cave man who couldn't get his package to the right location; and the commercial featuring several Seahawks and Steelers practicing saying, "I'm going to Disney World." It turns out only Hines Ward needed the practice.


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