The NFL welcomed back its real officials on Wednesday night, but that doesn't mean we can't remember the train wreck that was the replacement officials through three weeks of the 2012 NFL season. The 49ers had some interesting calls go for and against them as a result of the second-rate officiating.
Former 49ers Hall-of-Fame quarterback Steve Young was particularly disappointed in the outcome, and said as much on ESPN's broadcast of the Week 3 Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers.
The real officials have returned, and the casual fan that enjoyed episodes of The Three Stooges with a little bit of football mixed in will have to go back to watching reality TV.
With that in mind, here are the top five calls by replacement refs that gave the 49ers and their opponents fits during their infamous tenure.5. Week 1 at Green Bay: Aldon Smith removes his helmet after sack of Aaron Rodgers Second year 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith was in pursuit of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers when his helmet started to come off as he made the tackle.
While it did appear that he deserved the penalty at first glance because he was demonstrative and in the midst of celebrating the sack, one would have to believe that an experienced crew may have conferred and picked up the flag since it was already halfway off his head in the first place.
4. Week 3 at Green Bay: Clay Matthews gets called for roughing Alex Smith on routine tackle
Obviously there's a trend here. The game at Lambeau Field was one of the most poorly officiated games of the season's opening week -- and that says a lot, because it was awful across the board.
Even 49ers' faithful had to admit the officials made a mistake when Clay Matthews was called for a roughing the passer penalty on a routine play just as Smith released the ball.
To be fair, the regular officials get these wrong too, but this was a tough one to swallow for the Packers as they were involved in a dogfight at Lambeau.
3. Week 3 at Minnesota: Jim Harbaugh is such a nice guy, he gets free challenges
The officials somehow allowed Niners coach Jim Harbaugh to challenge a play despite not having any timeouts left late in the second half.
By rule, a coach cannot challenge a play without timeouts because the penalty for an incorrect challenge is the loss of said timeouts. By the officials failing to recognize this, the 49ers had a distinct competitive advantage because they won the first challenge on a critical play.
What's worse is that the officials did it again just minutes later.
2. Week 1 at. Green Bay: Randall Cobb returns a TD that shouldn't have been
Back to this game, again. When the NFL historians years from now talk about what a disaster the 2012 replacement officials were, they will point to this game as one of the finest examples why.
There were two issues with this play, which resulted in key points for the home team. First, the illegal block in the back that was called on Cobb's punt return TD didn't actually happen. Even sillier was the fact that the entire crew missed a blatant actual block in the back that should have been called and negate the touchdown. It was instead upheld.
These calls happen, but the fouls in question were obvious, and announcer Troy Aikman was quick to point it out during the broadcast. The play took place in the fourth quarter and put the Packers back in the game, cutting the score to 23-15.
Thankfully, San Francisco overcame it to win the game. If the 49ers lost, then it could have drawn some of the same nationwide ire the NFL saw following the debacle in Seattle.
1. Week 3, Green Bay vs. Seattle: The Monday Night Football travesty
The Insert-Your-Adjective-Here Bowl in Seattle on national television during Monday Night Football left the 49ers fans and players in an outrage along with most of the league's followers not living in the Pacific Northwest. The division rival Seahawks were gifted a win that they didn't earn, and that could have serious implications moving forward, potentially affecting the team making the playoffs.
As it stands now, the 49ers, Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals each having winning records. Should San Francisco miss out on a home playoff game, bye, or somehow the entire playoffs, this travesty will be the game that everyone points to.
Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the San Francisco 49ers. He is a California-based sports journalist, editor, and blogger, and you can read him at SB Nation, Bleacher Report and Examiner.com. He is also the Editor and Founder of Sports Out West.
Follow Michael on Twitter @MikeJonesTweets
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