Rams CB Cortland Finnegan has always taken pride in getting in the heads of opposing players. The scab refs inability to control the tone of games can benefit players like him.
I hope that we’ve seen enough of the fill-in refs to stop the whole narrative of “well the real refs miss calls too” and start being honest with ourselves. The fake refs are losing control of games and it’s resulted in players looking to “get away” with calls. Trying to get away with things — and being successful– has made the game chippier with lots of pushing and shoving and in some cases punches thrown.
The Ravens and Eagles game was intense from the beginning. The announcers were insinuating that “nerves were frayed” and that was the reason for the unnecessary contact. But this is week 2 not week 12. The reality is that the fighting was a result of both the Eagles and Ravens having nasty teams. And when I say nasty I don’t mean dirty–I mean a lot of guys with attitudes and who don’t mind being physical on and off the ball.
When you have two teams like that it’s important to put the kabosh on all the extracurricular activities right from the beginning, but the scabs didn’t.
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That resulted in a few late hits on Eagles QB Michael Vick, punches thrown between Eagles WR Desean Jackson and Ravens CB Cary Williams, and a lot of other pushing and shoving. Obviously, the coaches have to help change the tone (and Eagles HC Andy Reid did pull Jackson aside, for example) but it’s really up to the refs to be quick about throwing flags and step in to neutralize anything that happened after the whistle. That includes throwing the original flag right away if there’s pushing and shoving after a foul has been committed.
Of course, it’s hard to do all that when you’re already overwhelmed by the pure pace of the game. And that seems to be a huge issue for the replacements.
The Eagles-Ravens refs weren’t the only ones that didn’t have control. The Redskins/Rams game was equally testy. By the end of the game Redskins WR Josh Morgan was so frustrated he fell into Rams CB Cortland Finnegan’s trap. Finnegan takes pride in provoking opposing players on to do stupid things. After the whistle, Finnegan hit Josh on the helmet with his hand. Josh responded by throwing the football at Finnegan which ruined the Redskins opportunity to tie the game because the penalty kept them out of field goal range. I can only imagine what Finnegan was doing off the camera the entire game. I’m sure I’ll find out when I check the retake on game rewind.
And please don’t get me started on that “block” Seahawks Golden Tate laid on Cowboys Sean Lee. Completely inappropriate and unexpected from a Wide Receiver. But this has been the tone of the week. If the lax control continues I predict a huge fight happening between the Falcons agressive offensive line and the Broncos raucous front tomorrow night. Neither group is known for backing down.
Beyond that, there’s no sense of consistency on what constitutes illegal contact/pass interference. There’s also no concept of what it means to “let them play.” It may sound like I’m being nitpicky here but these are critical things for refs to nail down because it helps prevent game outcomes from being decided on one unfortunate mistake or call.
It’s not just about knowing the rules it’s about understanding the politics of those rules. When Ravens QB Joe Flacco long bombed a laser pass to WR Jacoby Jones in the end zone the refs called it back as offensive pass interference. It was probably the right call (and as an Eagles fan I’m glad they called it) but I’m not sure the real refs would have taken that play away because it was right on the borderline and the flag (or whatever blue thing the ref ended up throwing) was late.
The Ravens, who lost to the Eagles by one point, went on to complain about the refs and the Eagles players’ behavior. Side note: I found it to be interesting that the Ravens, who love to be bullies, had issues with a team that hit them right back in the mouth.
You know that the scabs are bad when people on twitter are begging for Ed Hochuli to return with his overly drawn out explanation of calls and tickets to the gun show.