You can stop holding your breath. Following the whiplash from the game-ending call on Monday night, the replacement referees have been excused and the regular refs are back for the remainder of the 2012-13 NFL season after signing a labor contract rumored to be an 8 year deal. In Monday’s slug fest between Green Bay and Seattle, the game came down to a Hail Mary bomb into the back of the end zone from rookie QB Russell Wilson. As receiver, Golden Tate, reached for the ball, the Green Bay defender grabbed it out of the air. On the way down, Tate was able to get a paw on the ball but only after the defender had it in his hands and had control. The play was called a touchdown due to the rule of “simultaneous possession”. This would have made sense if both players had possession of the ball. However, Tate only had one hand on it.
Although the NFL is reviewing all scoring plays, according to the rule, a call of simultaneous possession in the end zone cannot be reviewed. This may speak more to the league’s flawed and confusing rule book rather than the flawed and confused replacement officials. It wasn’t only the bad call but the complete lack of control that really had people questioning the replacements. I think they lost control of the game right after the touchdown call. The Packers walked off the field and back to the locker room before the extra point was kicked. The refs didn’t seem to think anything of it until they all huddled up and read the rule book. Eventually, they were able to get Green Bay back on the field and finished the game. This was, most likely, due to an unprepared officiating crew that was only briefed on the league rules days before the first game. Never the less, numerous game-changing calls have been questioned over the course of the young season as well as some actions of the replacement refs.
In a Dallas game, an official threw his hat on the field, tripping Cowboys tight end Kevin Ogletree in the end zone as the ball was coming to him. This instance stuck out to me because I had Ogletree on my fantasy team that week. But, the league isn’t only concerned with the behavior of the referees. This season, a handful of coaches, most notably Bill Belichick, have been fined for their aggression towards the replacements. Belichick was whacked $50,000 for grabbing an official in last week’s game. With all this going on, it had become obvious that the replacements had lost control of the games. We’ve seen coaches chasing refs down the sidelines for years trying to sway their opinions but, it’s never worked…until now. The less-than-confident new guys seem to allow themselves to be persuaded to change their minds. I’ve never seen so many flags thrown and then picked up. I’ve never seen so many referee huddles to determine the simplest off-sides. And, I’ve never seen so many blown calls.
Of course, the regular referees have made plenty of bad calls in the past. Buffalo fans, along with Wide Right and No Goal, will undoubtedly remember the 2000 AFC Wild Card game (The Music City “Miracle”) in which the Titans won on an uncalled forward lateral, snuffing out the Bills’ playoff run. But seriously, no hard feelings.
Yes, the replacement refs were horrible. Yes, the regular refs aren’t always great but, they usually have control over the game and can quickly make decisions. So, after being locked out for the first few weeks, the lesser of two evils took to the field in last night’s Baltimore-Cleveland game and did surprisingly well. The game had its flow back.
Now, the real test will be Sunday as the Bills host division rival New England. Bills fans have been complaining for years about the referees protecting Tom Brady. Maybe a new contract and a renewed confidence will lead the refs to make the right calls. We can only hope.
– Josh Paufler