DENVER (AP) Denver Broncos safety T.J. Ward, one of the most-flagged and heavily fined players in the NFL this season, recently ripped the officials, suggesting the way to fix the league's spotty officiating is to give the men in stripes full-time jobs.
''I mean, how would you feel if you came to watch a game on Sunday and you had part-time players?'' Ward asked.
The ever-thickening rule book and the more-focused microscope have officiating crews tied in knots, with each week bringing a slew of debatable calls, many of them determining the outcome of games.
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''I'm playing a game, and I've got a guy who spends half his time on carpentry. … He barely knows the rules,'' complained Ward.
That carpenter may very well be as good at his craft during the week as Ward is at his on the weekend.
''Well, then stick to that,'' Ward said. ''Don't come over here throwing those flags.''
Week 12 brought another long list of penalties that had fans, players and coaches confused and complaining. It began with the offensive pass interference whistle in Green Bay that helped spoil Brett Favre's homecoming, and ended with two similar flags on Rob Gronkowski that had Tom Brady fuming as the Patriots limped out of Denver even more banged-up and no longer unbeaten.
LAMBEAU BLEEP: The flag on Packers receiver James Jones was costly in Green Bay's 17-13 loss to Chicago and led coach Mike McCarthy to suggest the league was maybe doing too good of a job with its focus on flags.
Officials said Jones picked the defender covering Randall Cobb, a whistle McCarthy termed ''just a flat poor call.''
''He missed the call. You can shake that any way you want,'' McCarthy said. ''They're looking for it.''
McCarthy said he thinks NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino ''does an excellent job with the continuing education. The videos they put out are very informative. I think the instruction of them is excellent, better than prior seasons, something that I know we continue to use as teaching tapes just because of the quality is so much better.
''But in the same breath, officials are human, too. I think when you emphasize things, you may look for them a little more.''
Cobb's 4-yard catch to the 1 was nullified and the flag moved the Packers back to the 15. They settled for a field goal and ended up losing by four.
HOLD ON: Among the more puzzling penalties Sunday was one that helped the Raiders emerge with a 24-21 win in Tennessee after Oakland appeared to turn it over on downs with 1:50 remaining.
Derek Carr looked left and threw to Andre Holmes in the end zone, where Titans safety Michael Griffin batted down the pass. But officials flagged B.W. Webb for holding on the other side of the field, and two plays later, Seth Roberts hauled in the winning TD pass.
Carr and Raiders coach Jack Del Rio insisted Amari Cooper was held, but Cooper himself sounded surprised he drew the flag: ''It was the last down, so I thought we had a turnover on downs,'' he said. ''But then I saw the flag. Penalties are a part of the game. So I was glad it was in our favor.''
Webb said he never held the receiver, and Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey complained the call ''changes the outcome of the game. It's frustrating.''
FLAG FOOTBALL: There were 20 flags thrown in the Cardinals-49ers game.
''The officials were struggling mightily. They can't count to three. I got so many explanations that I got tired of them. Because they kept running out of them,'' said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.
And his team won!
Arizona's first series of the second half told the story. San Francisco committed five penalties, including four pass interferences and an illegal hands to the face, as the Cardinals finally reached the end zone on their way to a 19-13 win.
The 49ers were flagged 13 times in all for 81 yards, including a costly roughing-the-passer flag on Quinton Dial during the winning drive.
''There's no debate here,'' Carson Palmer said. ''He hit me right in the face with the crown of his helmet.''
Dial thought he was making a legal play as it unfolded.
''When I watched the replay, I saw he kind of ducked into it,'' Dial said.
San Francisco coach Jim Tomsula said Monday that Dial was trying to hit Palmer in the safety zone – the ''strike zone'' as the 49ers call it.
''I am not here to critique officiating,'' Tomsula said.
One of his players went off, though.
''I'm not really too worried about getting fined, I thought those refs (stunk),'' left guard Alex Boone said in the locker room Sunday. ''If you don't like what we say then don't like what we say, don't throw a flag for it. That's what I'm sick about this league. This is supposed to be a man's game. Be a man. That's what (ticks) me off, because guys like that work in this league and work on that field, and we have to deal with it. Whatever.''
LEAP OF FAITH: After Adam Vinatieri's fifth field goal was wiped out when Tampa Bay was called for leaping, Matt Hasselbeck found T.Y. Hilton for a 3-yard TD pass that capped Indy's 25-12 win over the Bucs.
''They said we used one of our guys as a brace,'' Lovie Smith said of the call against Chris Conte. ''Good call.''
Actually, it looked like Conte might have jumped cleanly over the center without using another player as leverage or landing on another player. But he also ran into the holder and could have been flagged for that, too.
LIMBO, LIMBO, LIMBO: Fans in Florida booed Chargers coach Mike McCoy's seemingly insensitive decision to challenge the play in which Jaguars receiver Allen Hurns was hurt with 3:44 remaining in San Diego's 31-25 win.
They were livid that McCoy, whose team was leading 31-19 at the time, wanted the incompletion changed to an interception. The pass landed on Hurns' stomach after he rolled over – a San Diego defender picked up the ball – but officials ruled it touched the ground before he turned, and the call stood.
AP Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker and AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley, Mark Long, Michael Marot and Genaro Armas contributed.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton