Enough already: Give refs a break!

BY foxsports • October 15, 2012

Officials get a bad rap. There, I said it.

I already know what you're thinking. It's just the former head of NFL officiating defending his guys — and his profession.

Listen, I'm not saying the officials don't make mistakes. But there were several plays that took place during Week 6 on Sunday that were called into question, and I think the officials got a lot of unwarranted flack.

The calls from the wild came from everywhere — people at the games (announcers), people at the office (NFL on FOX crew watching the games), and from people outside the office on Twitter.

What frustrates me is that there is an automatic bias against officials from almost everyone involved in the game. Each call that's made is assumed to be incorrect. At least it seems that way to me. When they're wrong, everyone jumps down their throat.

I get it: Football fans are passionate about their teams. But I also understand the officials have a very tough job and sometimes even when they get it right, people still want to criticize and say they're wrong. That goes for game announcers as well.

Here are few plays to help illustrate my point. The first two come from the Dallas-Baltimore game, won by the Ravens 31-29.

On the first one, here was the situation: Dallas had the ball, second-and-7 at the Baltimore 29-yard line with 1:18 left in the fourth quarter. Baltimore had the lead, 31-23. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo attempted a pass to Kevin Olgetree that was incomplete. Dallas was called for a chop block by running back Felix Jones and guard Nate Livings against Ravens linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.

Contrary to what was said by the announcers on the air and by many Dallas fans (on Twitter), this is a classic definition of a reverse chop block. Here is the rule: It's an illegal chop block if A1 (Jones) blocks a defensive player in the thigh area or lower, and A2 (Livings) simultaneously or immediately after the block by A1 engages the defensive player high.

That's exactly what happened on this play. You can see from the end zone shot that Jones contacts Ellerbe with his helmet on the thigh and then Livings contacts him high from the side. This is not only the right call by referee Mike Carey, but also will likely result in a fine for both players by the league office.

On the second play, a call helped put Dallas in position to win the game. Here was the situation: Dallas had the ball, first-and-10 from the Dallas 46-yard line with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Baltimore had the lead 31-29. Romo was attempting another pass to Ogletree that fell incomplete. But Baltimore's Chykie Brown was called for pass interference, putting the ball at the Ravens’ 34-yard line. One play later, Dan Bailey attempted a 51-yard field goal to win the game, but missed.

This was correctly called defensive pass interference for an arm bar, which kept Ogletree's arm down and also for contact to his face before the ball arrived. Our crew here inside the FOX studios were screaming bloody murder, but this was the right call in a big situation.

And finally, let's look at a play from the Detroit-Philadelphia game, won by the Lions, 26-23 in overtime. Here was the situation: Philadelphia had the ball, second-and-goal at the Detroit 3-yard line with 4:36 left in the third quarter. Philadelphia led 10-6.

Eagles quarterback Michael Vick completed a 3-yard pass to Brent Celek for a touchdown. However, Celek was called for offensive pass interference, nullifying the score.

The Eagles eventually had to settle for a field goal, losing four points in the exchange.

They lost by three.

Celek went downfield from the line of scrimmage and turned directly into the Lions' DeAndre Levy. Celek blocked Levy and then turned outside to catch the pass. The rule book states: It is offensive pass interference if an offensive player is blocking downfield prior to a pass being thrown. That was correctly called.

I realize that if you haven't officiated before, it's hard for you to comprehend the frustration. Yes, there were some misses this weekend. But there were a far greater number of good calls. It was not nearly as bad a weekend as most people made it out to be.

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