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Titans play through the whistle
I know that I am still a bit prejudiced, but I thought the officiating this week was the best it has been in the first three weeks. Really not that much was controversial.
To me, most impressive were the calls in the downfield passing game. Many big pass interference calls were made, including the call inside of two minutes against Green Bay on Monday night that led to the Bears’ game-winning field goal. Some of the calls were in the end zone. Most of the calls were for defensive contact when not playing the ball, as well as contact through the back before the ball arrived.
There is always a play or two that could have been called but overall the officiating was as good as it has ever been. Kudos to supervisor Neely Dunn and his three downfield trainers who are responsible for training the officials in the area of pass interference, illegal contact and defensive holding.
• The New York Giants fell victim to the aggressiveness of the Tennessee Titans. The Giants were called for five unnecessary roughness calls and one chop block. The Titans try to get you to play that game. They play on the edge and do a lot of pushing and shoving after the play is over but not enough to draw a flag. They want their opponents to retaliate. It gets you out of your game.
It is never smart to retaliate, as more often than not it is the second guy that gets caught. The Titans have a history of doing this — their team reflects the personality of their coach. Tennessee needs to be careful, though, as these things have a way of catching up to you.
• The instant replay system and the people that run it — including the replay assistants and the referees — had a great weekend. I can’t imagine the game without it.
There were over 20 stoppages, and I agreed with all of the decisions that were made. Referees and replay assistants have gotten a good grasp of “indisputable visual evidence” and are not reversing decisions that are made on the field without it.
The biggest reversals involve change of possessions and scoring plays. An apparent touchdown by Denver on a fourth-and goal play was reversed to the runner being down short of the goal line, which gave Indianapolis the ball.
A Seattle touchdown was taken off the board when replay showed the ball was punched out from behind by a San Diego player before the ball had broken the plane. The result of the play was a touchback and San Diego got the ball at the 20.
Replay has become an integral part of the game.
• My sense after three weeks is that the placement of the umpire to the offensive backfield is an unqualified success. I have yet to see him interfere with a no-huddle offense. There have not been any injuries to the umpires and, in fact, I have not seen any of them get knocked down.
Offensive holding calls are up, which will please the competition committee. But what ought to please them most is that the quality of the calls is better and more consistent. There are a few holes, however, and one appeared on Sunday night when the Dolphins’ Ricky Williams was ruled to have fumbled with 13 minutes to go in the third quarter. He was clearly down by contact and the umpire, in his old position, would likely have seen that.
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Replay did correct the ruling and that will have to happen in plays like this. I still don’t agree with moving him back to his old position at the five-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Keep the umpires out of harm’s way as much as possible.
While you rarely see an imbalance like this, the calls were all there. Sure, there were a couple more that could have been called against the Bears, but there were others that could have been called against the Packers. The game was fairly officiated, and I have never heard Jon Gruden say so many times that the call by the officials was a “good call.” Stunning!
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