It was only fitting that Monday night’s game came down to a call by the refs, and like Sunday games, the replacements made questionable calls —especially when looking at the game- deciding touchdown, which was clearly an interception by the Green Bay defense. Instead of a Packer’s win, the officials gave the TD to Seattle wide out, Golden Tate. The Packers, distraught by the call, went to the locker room and refused to come out for the extra point — showing both disgust towards the league and disregard towards the officiating crew’s power. Aside from the fiasco in Seattle and assorted fines pending for abusing replacement officials, Ravens’ defensive tackle, Art Jones, was also heated about the officiating during the Sunday night game. After the Ravens’ 31-30 victory, Jones went into the locker room chanting, “These refs can’t hold us back.”
I found this very interesting because usually post-game victory chants usually aren’t inspired by officials. I think Jones may speak for many across the league and brings to light the new 3-way game formula that is on the horizon: home team versus visiting team versus the replacement refs. “They’re amateurs at best,” NFL insider, Adam Schefter, stated Monday morning on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
When asked if the replacements will get up to speed, former running back Merle Hodge isn’t too optimistic. “It’s only going to get worse,” Hodge stated in an ESPN segment that highlighted the replacements assorted blunders from Sunday’s games.
When comparing the penalties for the first three weeks of the 2011 and 2012 season, some interesting issues present themselves.
In the first three weeks of the 2011 season, there were 623 accepted penalties for 5,198 yards.
In the first three weeks of the 2012 season the replacements have made 655 calls, accounting for 5,503 yards. The slight increase does not seem too substantial, but there are some underlying messages in the numbers.
The past three weeks have seen over 80 pass interference or illegal contact calls. This is the most the league has had in over a decade. This has caused many to question what exactly constitutes pass interference, or even if the refs understand.
Conversely, personal fouls have dropped. This, again, can be seen as a comment on the lack of control the replacement refs have over the players and games.
Two clear-cut examples of this lack of control were seen during the Oakland-Pittsburgh game. Aside from the constant fights breaking out (also seen throughout the league), there seemed to be a disregard for player safety. This is ironic due to the recent rule changes that try to promote and rectify this issue.
In the game, two blatant illegal hits were seen. Darrius Heyward-Bey was victim to a ruthless helmet-to-helmet hit in the back of the end zone. He ended up getting carted off the field and was released from the hospital Monday. He suffered a concussion.
The next mishap happened to the Steelers’ defensive end, Ziggy Hood. During the play, Hood was chop-blocked, while already engaged with another Oakland player. This is one of the NFL’s clearest rules: chop-blocks are only allowed if the defensive player is not already being blocked. Hood had to leave the game with a knee injury and his playing status for Week 4 has not been reported yet.
The officials’ lack of control of the games makes what Chris Berman said all the more pertinent. During Monday Night Countdown the esteemed analyst compared the replacements to substitute teachers, who do not receive respect from the students.
Now with player safety supposedly being the NFL’s number one priority, these replacements seem to be off-cue. Also, with this idea in mind, the recent questioning of the league’s integrity seems more warranted than ever.
With player safety, game control and an onslaught of questionable calls becoming more and more of an issue, hopefully the NFL and the striking officials can reach an agreement soon.
The league reported Monday that a discussion between the two parties is still ongoing. Until then, it looks like the organizations, players and fans are stuck with the replacement officials.
While the majority suffers, there is one group who loves all this controversy: the regular officiating crews. You can bet they are going to use the past three weeks as leverage in their negotiations.