So, not only have NFL refs cost two teams a loss, maybe three, players are getting injured on their watch and the replacement referees don't even assess a penalty on the play!
In the first week of NFL action this season, there were few complaints on the reffing situation. But it has gotten significantly worse over the last two weeks. It's tough to question the refs on judgment calls - holding, pass interference, etc.,. There will always be calls that are tough to make. But there are some obvious erors where the refs just don't know the rules. That is unacceptable. I'll try to present a concise list of all the major errors that have been made thus far.
i) Seattle was given an extra timeout in a loss to Arizona. Obviously, did not affect the outcome of the game.
ii) There were 29 pass interference calls. The average for the previous eleven years in Opening Week was 13. But, the number of total penalties, 206, was almost the average, 208, over that same time frame. So, it's almost a wash. Tighter calls on pass interference but looser calls on the rest. Again, they are judgement calls, not simply not knowing the rules.
So, nothing that serious.
i) The NFL pulls an official two hours before the Saints when it is revealed the official in question is BIG fan of the Saints on Facebook. Does anybody ever question Ed Hoculi's allegiange?
ii) Did not correct an error when reviewing as fumble in the Jets-Steelers game. While the Steelers player did not fumble, his knee touched down in the backfield and it should have been a three-yard loss rather than a six-yard gain. Nine yards is a significant swing for one play.
iii) Rams' coach Jeff Fisher challenges a fumble call in the second quarter.. Problem is, all turnovers are automatically reviewed this year. In the above play, there was no turnover, so it can be challenged. But Fisher should have been assessed a fifteen-yard penalty. They overturned the call, and the Rams kicked a field goal on that drive. Their margin of victory was a field goal.
iv) Cincinnatti throws an incompletion in the second quarter in their game against Cleveland. The refs mistakenly keep the clock running and twenty-nine seconds elapses before the next snap. Cleveland does not have much time on their subsequent drive and ends the half. Probably not much impact on the game, it's the Cleveland offense after all, but not knowing when to start and stop the clock is fairly basic stuff. No, it's not up to the timekeeper, either. The head referee signals the clock to stop and start.
v) At the end of the Baltimore-Philly game, the Eagles' Michael Vick throws and incompletion which is initially ruled a fumble. I was watching this game at home, and it was clear Vick was in the throwing motion. The ref calls it a fumble. He's standing right there, which to me is scary how he missed such an obvious call. But, as we said prior, the video review process kicks in for all turnovers and it is correctly ruled an incompletion. On the next play, the Eagles score the winning touchdown with barely any time left on the clock.
vi) Finally, the players from a few games note how chippy and physical after the play it was this week, which would be a sign the referees don't have control. This is a bit of foreshadowing.
So, a few more signs that is was getting worse. But, nothing that could be definitively stated as game-changing.
Which brings us to infamous Week 3
i) A referee throws a hat in the Cowboys game that receiver Kevin Ogletree steps on and appears to lose his footing. A thrown hat is meant to indicate a player has stepped out of bounds, and is supposed to be thrown on the boundary. Ogletree did not appear to step out and stepped on the hat in the end zone. Still, the Cowboys won.
ii) San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh is mistakenly awarded two challenges following timeouts. Coaches are not allowed to cahllenge plays after calling timeout. No matter, the 49ers lose still.
iii) Tennessee is awarded 27 yards on a penalty instead of 15. Detroit is issued a helmet-to-helmet penalty in overtime from the Titans 44-yard line. The officials mark it off from the Detroit(!) 44-yard line, a difference of 12 yards. So, Tennessee gets the ball on the Detroit 29-yard line and kicks the go-ahead field goal on the drive. Now in fairness, Detroit had a chance to tie when it was 4th-and-goal from the 1 and got stuffed. But, twelve extra yards in overtime to put you in a scorin position is a big deal.
iv) In the Kansas City-New Orleans game, there were five reversed calls. The most significant call was one they did not reverse. Late in the fourth quarter, up by 5, the Saints are deep in their own end, when Saints QB Drew Brees is apparently sacked and a safety is called giving the Chiefs two points and the ball back. But, upon review, Brees does not touch the ground when he is being tackled, rather he rolls on top of the Chiefs player and reaches the ball out over the goal line. This call is not overturned, the Chiefs kick a tying field goal and win the game in overtime.
v) The most talked about play is the end of game Hail Mary simultaneous catch that allows Seattle to pull victory out of the jaws of defeat. Sure, pass interference was not called on the Seahawks' Golden Tate, but in my opinion, along with the majority of people watching, it was not a simultaneous catch. Green Bay's Jennings had the ball, in his chest with Tate reaching around him. Tate actually takes his hand off the ball when they are falling to the ground. That makes it almost impossible to say it was simultaneous.
Finally, vi) The worst missed call is the hit on Darrius Heyward-Bey. These are types of hits that the NFL wants to get rid of. A defenseless receiver leaves his feet and is hit with a helmet on his chin, the classic head shot. So, on three counts it's illegal - a head shot, helmet-to-helmet, and a defenseless receiver. But, no flag on the play!!! It's an easy penalty to call, to say the least. Yes, Ryan Mundy, the Steelers player may have still thrown this hit with regular refs, but he would have been flagged for it. What message does this send to the players, you're health is not worth it anymore? This is a garbage hit and and a garbage non-call.
So, there you have it - three weeks of reffing regression. Bring back the refs, to protect the players and the integrity of the league.