Originally written on BroncoTalk  |  Last updated 9/18/12

CHARLOTTE,NC - NOVEMBER 21: Head coach John Fox of the Carolina Panthers watches from the sidelines during the first half of the game against the Arizona Cardinals on November 21, 2004 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

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.


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