The real refs triumphantly returned yesterday, and they quickly reminded us of something we all forgot during the replacement ref era: Referees make mistakes.
Everyone assumed that the replacement refs weren’t just bad, they were exceptionally bad. But just looking at two games yesterday, we’re reminded that refs make obvious errors all the time, we just don’t harp on them.
The worst mistake came late in the second half of the Packers-Saints game. Green Bay was up 28-27 when Darren Sproles of New Orleans clearly fumbled the kickoff. The refs missed it, but there was nothing the Packers could do because they used up all their challenges earlier in the game:
Photo: SB Nation
Luckily for the refs, Green Bay held on to win. But if the Saints were able to drive down the field and win, it would be the second straight week that the Packers lost a game after a pivotal call went against them.
The second near blunder came in last night’s Eagles-Giants game.
The replacement refs were hammered for calling a bunch of pass interference calls late in games in the first three weeks of the season. They took the games out of the players’ hands, everyone argued, and that was a function of inexperience.
But even with the real refs back, that trend continued in Philly.
There were three pass interference penalties called in the final 60 seconds as the Giants were trailing 19-17 and driving for the game-winning field goal.
The first two penalties were called on the Eagles, putting the Giants comfortably in field-goal territory. But the third one was an offensive pass interference call on the Giants, and it ultimately put them out of range for their kicker, who missed a 54-yarder to give the Eagles the win.
Here’s that call against the Giants:
Photo: SB Nation
You could argue that all the calls were legitimate. But it’s inconsistent to bash the replacement refs for reducing games to a succession of pass interference calls while letting the real refs off the hook for doing the same thing.
And that leads us to the big takeaway from yesterday — we scrutinized the replacement ref’s far more closely than any set of referees has ever been scrutinized. As a result, errors that are common were viewed as exceptionally bad mistakes.
Missed calls like we saw in the Packers-Saints game happen all the time, so do multiple penalties at critical points like we saw in the Eagles-Giants game, no matter who the refs are.
The replacements were bad, but the notion that the outcomes of games are not affected by the real refs is just wrong.
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