When someone says an offensive tackle was on skates, that’s never a good thing.
But on a play in the first quarter of Super Bowl 50, Michael Oher looked like he actually ice skating on the field at Levi’s Stadium.
The Carolina Panthers left tackle slid nearly 5 yards on a DeMarcus Ware rush late in the first quarter on a third down. On video from several different angles, it doesn’t look real.
Many observers have pointed out it looks more like a video-game glitch than an actual football play.
On third-and-4 from the Denver 49, Cam Newton took a shotgun snap and looked for Jerricho Cotchery for the first down. Ware, an outside linebacker, rushed Oher, who engaged with Ware near the 46.
Oher stuck his left foot into the turf and tried to anchor, but he got no traction and slid all the way inside the 42, almost to the 41.
Right guard Trai Turner also slid on that play, though not as much.
After the game, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said his team didn’t have any issues with the field.
“Both teams played on the same field,” Rivera said. “As far as I’m concerned, for me to be able to blame the field and try to blame it is kind of a cop out. The truth of the matter is we both played on the surface. The surface was outstanding. I thought everything about this week was terrific. I thought the league and the community of Santa Clara, San Jose and San Francisco were tremendous in terms of the way the Super Bowl went off.”
Rivera had that same response with Carolina was on the winning side of poor field conditions, too. After the Panthers’ divisional round victory against Seattle, players and coach Pete Carroll lamented a wet, soft Bank of America Stadium field.
Seattle’s equipment manager even gave the Cardinals a heads up that week to wear longer cleats that would work better on the softer grass.
Levi’s Stadium, a $1.3 billion facility that opened 2014, went through five resods in its first season because of multiple turf issues. By comparison, Bank of America Stadium had a stadium-record three resods this past season.
A 49ers open practice in August 2015 had to be moved to the practice facility because of turf issues, but the San Jose Mercury News reported there had not been any other issues since.
The NFL laid down a new turf less than four weeks before the Super Bowl. The league used the same company – West Coast Turf – that the 49ers used to put down the hybrid Bermuda 419 overseeded with perennial rye.
According to ESPN, the league hadn’t used West Coast Turf sod in a Super Bowl in more than a decade, and it was largely based on geography.
“The footing on the field was terrible,” Denver cornerback Aqib Talib told reporters after the game. “San Fran has to play eight games on that field so they better do something to get it fixed. It was terrible.”
Oher was not asked about the field conditions after the game.
Both Denver outside linebacker Von Miller and Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said after the game that they changed their cleats early when they realized what the playing surface felt like. It’s unclear whether Oher did.