After a fairly uneventful Week One for the replacement officials while the NFL and referees continue to squabble, Week Two saw some issues arise. The New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers were affected by some questionable calls that had an impact on the game and though they probably didn’t change the ultimate outcome, are still a cause for concern moving forward. Calls went against both sides that caused some head scratching.
Phantom pass interference calls on Ike Taylor: The Jets benefited from two very questionable pass interference calls levied against Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor. The first came on the opening drive, and if anything maybe could have been justified as a defensive holding. Even that would have been a stretch, but instead a 12-yard penalty saved the Jets from facing a third down and 10 yards to go situation.
The second call came in the fourth quarter, with the Jets trailing 20-10 and starting out the drive on their own 20 yard line. The Jets offense was desperate for something to go right and on the very first play of the drive the officials handed it to them on a 19-yard pass interference call against Ike Taylor. Once again he was covering Santonio Holmes and once again there wasn’t any pass interference. This time, there wasn’t anything that even came close to being any type of foul.
The Jets ended up punting away and were unable to capitalize, but the ends doesn’t justify the means here. That kind of call could have undone three-plus quarters of work by the Steelers to build a 10-point lead. Down the line, an iffy call could lead to scoring drive that changes the outcome of a game.
Isaac Redman fumble/tackled for loss challenge: On the next Steelers possession, the Jets challenged that running back Isaac Redman fumbled when he was tackled by safety Yeremiah Bell after a six-yard gain. Replays seemed to show the ball starting to come out prior to Redman’s knee touching down, but it was a close call and another aspect of the review is more troublesome. When a play is reviewed, all parts of the play come under review, as pointed out by the CBS broadcasting crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms while the review was going on. CBS replays showed that Isaac Redman’s knee touched the ground as the result of contact in the backfield, which should have put the Steelers in a second down and long situation.
Instead, the original ruling on the field was upheld and the Steelers faced second down and four yards to go, We have no way of knowing what the replay official was looking at, but it would appear that the start of the play wasn’t reviewed, as it should have been. The Steelers went on to score a touchdown on that drive and went up 27-10. They very well could have done so if the play was ruled down in the backfield, but we didn’t get a chance to see that scenario play out.
The ultimate outcome of the game wasn’t changed by the actions of the officials – the Steelers were the better team on Sunday and deserved to win. The score, however, likely was impacted. There’s a good chance the Jets don’t score on their first drive without the help of the first pass interference call on Ike Taylor and the Jets would have been given a great opportunity to stall the Steelers if Isaac Redman was ruled down in the backfield.
The NFL’s use of an on-field administrator (read: babysitter) to ensure penalty yardage is enforced correctly underscores the lack of trust the league has in the replacement officials. Consider this: the NFL doesn’t trust these officials to follow through on things clearly spelled out in the rule book, but is being forced to trust them to make judgment calls that will ultimately impact final scores. It may be only a matter of time before the replacement officials are the difference between a win and a loss. In this league, that could be the difference between making and missing the playoffs. With four Wild Card teams having won the Super Bowl since 2000, that means an official’s call could be the difference between a Super Bowl Championship and sitting at home during Wild Card weekend.
Check out some great articles at Sports Media 101, btw..