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Published on 09/18/2012 at Tue Sep 18 08:41.
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John Fox and replacement refs

This photo of Denver Broncos coach John Fox shouting at the NFL replacement refs went viral Monday night. (US Presswire photo)

A conglomeration of red and white jerseys wrestled with each other on the Georgia Dome turf, a football somewhere within. Three under-experienced, under-qualified, over-uniformed men sifted through the mass of Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos players, trying to determine who had possession of the ball.

One replacement ref indicated the football belonged to Atlanta. Moments later, Broncos tackle Orlando Franklin, and not a Falcons player, emerged from the pile with the football in hand.

Chaos ensued.

Players cleared the benches. Players attacked players. Coaches verbally assaulted the refs. Players actually put their hands on the replacement refs. One personal foul penalty was given out, but otherwise, Monday Night Football was delayed over six minutes as refs tried to settle the madness — and figure out the administration of the football’s placement and game clock setting.

The replacement refs lost control Monday night. They cost the Broncos possession of the football in field goal range, with the Falcons able to kick a field goal in their resultant possession.

That’s at least a six-point swing, and possibly a ten-point swing. The Broncos lost by six points Monday night.

The NFL prides itself for being the pinnacle of the sports landscape, yet they have a bunch of high school and middle school referees trying to administer men who have spent their lives in this professional arena.

Other replacement ref calamities from Monday night:

  • John Fox had to use his two challenges early Monday night — the first was to offset a bogus defensive pass interference penalty that should not have been called because of a tipped ball. The second, Fox’s frustration with the refs got the better of him, and he challenged an illegal substitution penalty, which was upheld.
  • The refs initially called Demaryius Thomas‘ highlight reel-worthy touchdown catch incomplete and had to overturn it in a booth review. Had the catch not happened in the last two minutes of the first half, the Broncos wouldn’t have been able to challenge it. They would have lost that touchdown.
  • There was no consistency in holding calls, either defensive or offensive, with the home team getting the benefit of the doubt far more often than not. The tiniest, incidental, momentary tug of a shoulder pad would see Broncos players flagged almost every time, especially in the first half. Meanwhile, Elvis Dumervil‘s jersey was nearly being ripped off without penalty against the Falcons.
  • Administration of the game interfered with the flow of the game, a point hammered home by ESPN’s commentator John Gruden as Matt Ryan tried to hurry up his Falcons player at the goal line in the third quarter. The refs were confused about where to spot the ball after a Champ Bailey defensive holding call on a Ryan scramble — which shouldn’t have been possible anyway. How do you administer a defensive hold on an offensive scramble?
  • The game went incredibly late due to the refs’ struggling administration of the game, about an hour over the usual three-hour NFL game time.

The NFL and referee dispute cost the Broncos an efficient, accurate, fair game Monday night. It’s time to stop allowing a tiny percentage of league revenue affect a large percentage of the integrity of the game.

  • Robert Thompson

    I completely agree these replacement refs are a joke. Let’s get the real refs back. Denver was raped with the calls and the falcons get away with it. How much longer do we have to deal with these worthless replacements. If it goes to much longer I might just stop watching

  • Mike Birtwistle

    Every time there’s a blown call Ed Hochuli does ten bicep curls. His arms will be huge when he’s back.

  • Jeffrey Koch

    i couldnt watch the second half after so many bad calls in the first half that was the worst officiating ever

  • herc_rock

    One of the most egregious calls was marking off twelve yards on
    a five yard penalty. It benefited denver, but the point is the same…these
    goons are a gd embarrassment and the league needs to get this resolved

    Shoot, I reffed PAL and intramural flag-football games for a couple years, can I be an NFL ref? F’ing joke.

  • Benjamin DeRita

    Its safe to say our Broncos were victims of the worst officiated game in at least 20 years.. and they still were in it with 3 minutes left

  • Gene LeSage

    are you kidding me????? this is stupid. Tell Manning to not throw 3 picks and have that back up running back hang on to the ball. thats why Denver lost last night. Get over it Denver. Grow up.

  • Greg Burch

    I’m not sure why a horse collar tackle wasn’t called when Peyton Manning was pulled down by the back collar when he was sacked in the third quarter.

  • herc_rock

    Horse collars are allowed on a QB in the pocket.

  • TD30isMVP

    The calls were bad, and they generally were not bad for both sides. But we lost the ball 4 times in 15 minutes and that had little to do with officiating. Rough night…

  • AZDynamics

    So we’re being told the refs weren’t part of the loss.

    Really? Take the ball out of the Broncos’ hands and give it to the
    Falcons? And that doesn’t contribute to the loss? Give 15 yards to the Falcons on a miserable call against Champ, and that doesn’t contribute? Call PI when there is no PI, and that doesn’t contribute?

    It’s true: Every year, every game, there is reason to gripe about a call or two. But the whole game? Hochuli, please come back. I’ll let you drive my car . . .

  • Joshua Manning

    I didn’t cared about the replacement refs because all refs make questionable calls in every game (even last year). But after last nights game, I’m livid. That was a game the Broncos should’ve won. It went to the Falcons way too many times. It wasn’t a fair game. At the same time, Peyton threw 3 picks and Knowshon fumble the ball is what caused the demise of the Broncos winning the game. So there two sides: Peyton threw too many interceptions or the replacement ref cost us the game. I’m going to admit that the 3 INT’s by Peyton was the reason we lost, not the refs.

  • Bryandotcom

    Which boggles my mind why that’s even legal.

  • Bryandotcom

    The INT’s are the reason we lost, no doubt about it. We’ve all said it before, it’s hard to win games when you’re turning the rock over. With a -4 differential, it amazed me it was a 6 point game with 3 and change to play. However, it’s easier to over look the officiating when all the calls are going in your favor.
    The idea that the ref’s couldn’t regain control of the game after the melee and making calls on player/fan reaction is ridiculous. I’m sure the NFL will issue a statement saying something to the effect that there were 100 people on the field, of course it’s hard to get everyone under control. But it’s going to be hard to cover up these deficiencies on primetime TV.

  • D3Ref

    Really? You cant even pretend to be serious? The most egregious call was giving Denver 7 extra yards, not taking away a scoring chance on that fumble or continuing a drive on a phantom pass interference? Really? That was AT LEAST a 10 point swing in ATL’s favor, but 7 yards was the worst of it? WOW! Manning was obviously bad to start forcing passes, but after 3 INT’s they were down only 10-0. Give them the ball back on the fumble, which was obvious, and its at the very least 10-3 instead of 13-0.

  • herc_rock

    I like how you ignored the qualifier “one of.”

  • D3Ref

    Probably because it was not even close to “one of.” It was probably about 10 or 15 egregious calls down the list.

  • Tim Lynch

    1 of them was do to officiating.

  • Tim Lynch

    Well, the NFL must have said something to those asshat refs, because in the second half the calls were relatively fair – or at least the Broncos got a few their way. And what happened? The Broncos were competitive…holy shit!

  • Tim Lynch

    Those 3 picks resulted in 10 points…the fumble resulted in 3…in most cases 3 picks would be a bad deal, but the Broncos could have come back thanks to the defensive stands.

  • TD30isMVP

    The refs didn’t cause the fumble…or did they…have to watch the game again to see…

  • Tim Lynch

    No, they caused the change of possession, which is all that matters….

  • Speer999

    The bad call on PI, (on 3rd down may I remind you) and the bad call on the fumble recovery cost us the game. The 3 INT’s should have cost us the game but it didn’t. Our defense stopped their run game, hands down we were the better team 3 quarters of that game. If we had 2 more possessions we would have won. Those 2 possessions were given to the falcons by the refs. There were bad calls on both sides but don’t compare that to the PI call and the fumble recovery, it doesn’t even compare.

  • Speer999

    One more thing, the refs changed the outcome. “Outcome” Do you not get that? Let me spell that out for you. O-U-T-C-O-M-E

  • Toxik Zine

    did you even watch the game Gene?

  • DougEngland

    I understand that the replacement officials are not nearly as good as the regular guys. Still, I think the gap is much closer than is being presented.
    The real problem lies with the Coaches. A comparison has been made that the players are showing the replacement officials the same respect high school kids show a substitute teacher.
    I would take it a step further. The players are treating the replacements like high school kids would treat a substitute teacher WITH their parents permission to be as obnoxious as possible.
    The coaches are telling their players to push the envelope. The irony being… if they really want the regular guys back they would be as tame as possible to make it seem like the regular guys are not really missed.

  • herc_rock

    How many times have you seen a phantom PI call made? Hundreds? Thousands?

    How many times have you seen a guy come out of the bottom of a pile w/ the ball after it’s been awarded the other way?

    oth of those were terrible, terrible calls that were seriously detrimental to us, but you see them ALL THE TIME. They’re judgment calls. The official exercised poor judgment on both calls, but that stuff can go either way.

    Not knowing how many yards to walk off on a penalty? That’s down and distance and quantifiable numbers. Addition and subtraction. Screwing that stuff up is inexcusable at any level.

  • anthony33

    Broncos lost because of turnovers and a failure to stop Atlanta on their last drive. It was still a very good effort and I think a building block to a great season.
    Yes, the refs have struggled, but let’s not forget, the regular refs are certainly more experienced at this level and they to have made plenty of ridiculous calls.
    In time, you could completely replace the old batch with a new batch. You have to weed out the bad one’s, which I am sure they are already doing and eventually get back to the same level… it’s not rocket science. I think you need 2 or 3 guys upstairs making quick decisions and getting direction back down to these guys to help them out. Again, practice make perfect and they will only get better.
    I don’t like people calling these guys scabs… they need jobs too. They didn’t create this, but rather view it as the opportunity of a lifetime. No one is hold a gun to the regular refs to go on strike and most of them do this part time. So let’s give these guys a break and help them instead of blasting them.

  • AZDynamics

    Who gave you the neg? Must have been a replacement ref. lol

  • AZDynamics

    Had me wondering, too . . .

  • AZDynamics

    Actually, Tim, the fumble represented at least a 6 point swing (if the Broncos would have had to settle for a FG). Interestingly, the Falcons won by . . . 6 points . . .

  • Josh Temple

    I was thinking the same thing…