The replacement refs are no more. Led by 10-year NFL veteran Gene Steratore, regular officials took the field for the Week 4 Thursday Night Football game between the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns. Steratore's crew was showered with appreciation from players, coaches and fans.
The NFL and NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) agreed to an eight-year collective bargaining agreement on September 26, 2012. The NFLRA must ratify the agreement. That didn't keep a regular officiating crew from working the Thursday Night game.
The agreement came two days after the imbroglio that involved the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. On September 24, these teams were involved in a game that had 24 combined penalties for 245 yards. During the fourth quarter, the Packers were affected by three egregious officiating errors: two bad penalties and one miscall.
The worst of those mistakes was on an offensive pass interference that wasn't called on the Hail Mary touchdown reception from Seahawks receiver Golden Tate. What made it worse is that Packers safety M.D. Jennings had intercepted the football. The officials weren't in a position to see what happened. They ruled that it was simultaneous possession between Tate and Jennings. The Seahawks won 14-12.
For the Packers, there was a fourth mistake that was much-less severe than the aforementioned three. Ironically, this mistake could have played a key role in creating "The perfect storm" following the final touchdown reception.
With 8:44 remaining in the game, the Packers scored a go-ahead touchdown. This gave them a 12-7 lead. The Packers went for the two-point conversion. They wanted to make it a touchdown-plus-extra point advantage (seven points).
The Packers failed on the two-point conversion attempt. However, the official reportedly made an error when he set the play up with what's known as a "K-ball." This is also referred to as a "Kicking ball." Apparently, the replacement officials had anticipated an extra-point attempt. According to Aaron Rodgers, it was never replaced.
What's the difference between the game ball and a K-ball? K-balls are reserved for punting and kicking plays. They're slicker than game balls. One of them slipped through Tony Romo's hands during a 2006 playoff game. This occurred on what would've been a game-winning field-goal attempt.
How did that affect the two-point conversion attempt? Rodgers has admitted that he made a bad throw. It probably wouldn't have made a difference. Regardless, had the conversion been successful, there wouldn't have been as much drama at the end of the game. There also wouldn't have been as much drama had an extra point been successfully converted.
After the Hail Mary was ruled a touchdown, the Seahawks took a 13-12 lead. Because the extra point meant nothing, the Packers (and replacement officials) had exited the field. However, by rule, the Seahawks had to complete the sequence with an extra point or two-point conversion. In a bizarre scene, the Packers had to send out 11 spiritless players to defense an extra-point attempt.
What if Rodgers hadn't thrown that slicker football on the two-point conversion attempt? What if it were converted successfully? The Packers would've led 14-7. Following the Hail Mary touchdown, they would've never left the field. Barring an unlikely two-point conversion attempt by the Seahawks, the game would've gone into overtime. Since the Packers would've had a chance to rectify the situation in overtime, there wouldn't have been nearly as much of a media backlash as there was when the Hail Mary ended the game.
What if the Packers had kicked the extra point? The Packers would've led 13-7. The Hail Mary would've made it 13-13. The Packers wouldn't have left the field until the Seahawks had attempted their extra-point attempt. That would've created for a less-dramatic scene.
What transpired on Monday Night Football was the perfect storm. It created for the ultimate media firestorm. The NFL couldn't have looked more foolish. They couldn't have taken a bigger hit in their integrity or perception. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had to respond to the incident in an immediate manner. He couldn't afford to play another week with replacement officials.
Who knows. Without the K-ball, maybe Rodgers makes a better throw. The Packers aren't cheated out of a victory. The media firestorm and fan backlash never occur. The NFL and NFLRA don't progress in their negotiations. The Week 4 games are called by replacement officials. There's no end in sight.
The Packers took the fall for the other 31 teams. Fortunately, they're good enough to recover from it. The short-term inconvenience will hopefully pay off with the long-term benefit of having the regular zebras back. The replacement officials had severely affected the rhythm and momentum of games. Will the Packers' offense take advantage of the improved pace?
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 as he completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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