Let’s try to be polite about this: Head referee Wayne Elliott and his replacement crew got overwhelmed Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
They didn’t know the rules. They missed calls left and right.
Worst of all, they lost control of the game — setting up a “Thunderdome” scenario as the Rams and Redskins took liberties with each other during and after the play.
At times, the hapless Elliott looked like a substitute shop teacher trying to break up a classroom hammer fight.
“They were doing a lot of dirty stuff after every play,” Redskins receiver Santana Moss complained to the Washington Post.
FoxSports.com analyst Mike Pereira, a former vice president of officiating for the NFL, was appalled at the bedlam he tracked in St. Louis and elsewhere in the league. He wrote:
I'm not saying the replacement refs aren't trying their best, because they are. A look at the average penalties called during Week 2 won't differ much from Week 1, but much of the confusion that reigned supreme came from the replacements just not knowing the rules the way the regular officials do.
You can't expect replacements to know the intricacies of the NFL rule book in two weeks on the job. It takes years. But it doesn't take long — two weeks — to see this is not working.
Among the myriad issues in the Redskins-Rams game were two plays involving Rams running back Steven Jackson near the goal line. First, the Redskins pried the ball away from him after he was down. The referees ruled this a fumble, Rams coach Jeff Fisher challenged the call and a video review reversed it. Wrote Pereira:
This should never have happened. A coach is not allowed to challenge a play when a turnover is ruled on the field. It's an automatic 15-yard penalty. Also, depending on when the challenge flag came from St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, the play likely shouldn't have been reviewed anyway. If Fisher threw the challenge flag before the replay official initiated the review, then a review is not allowable by rule. If the review is initiated first, before the challenge flag is thrown, it's still a 15-yard penalty, but you can review the play.
On the next play Jackson believed he scored with a one-yard plunge. The referees called nothing and focused on breaking up the ensuing melee. Jackson came out of the pile and spiked the ball. That earned him a dubious 15-yard penalty.
A video review might have resulted in the touchdown, but Fisher opted not to pursue that in the wake of the penalty. But that spike was a dead ball foul, after the play was over. If the video review detected the TD, wouldn’t the refs mark off the penalty on the kickoff?
Fisher passed on some other challenge opportunities, like on an incomplete pass that might have been a touchdown and a suspect spot that cost the Rams a first down. Perhaps all the blown calls left him somewhat dazed.
Rams fans were outraged for much of the game. But the replacement refs gained safe passage off the field with a late unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Redskins receiver Josh Morgan. It seems Morgan snapped after agitating Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan delivered one last post-whistle shove.
That moved the Redskins out of range for a potential game-tying field goal and secured the Rams victory. Amazingly, Mike Shanahan’s head did not explode.
“Never have I been involved in a game like this,” the Redskins coach told reporters afterward.
And that was not meant as a compliment.
MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE
Questions to ponder wondering if the Cardinals can handle the Astros this week:
Will Jay Cutler entice a little better effort from his offensive line in Week 3? Or will the Bears allow him to take another beating?
Will the replacement referees find work in the Lingerie Football League when the real NFL refs return? Would they be able to control the violence in that sport?
How come the Kansas City Chiefs can't get their act together on Missouri's West Coast?
QUIPS ‘R US
Here is what some of America’s leading sports pundits have been writing:
Ian O’Connor, ESPN.com: “The Tampa Bay Buccaneers knocked down Eli Manning on the last play, drove his offensive line into him while he was taking a knee, and Greg Schiano would say he did this kind of thing at Rutgers all the time, a claim that explains more than Schiano even knows. The Tampa Bay coach came off as an amateur-hour novice, and calling this stunt bush league would be an insult to bush leaguers everywhere. Tom Coughlin rightfully scolded him afterward, turned the postgame handshake into a loud and profane lecture on NFL protocol.”
Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports: “Coughlin is correct of course, this isn't something that's generally done in the NFL and it's a perfectly dumb way to get someone injured. Schiano has a side also, though. He's going to coach his team his way, and if building an identity that speaks to the intensity of the new guy in charge and the belief that toughness and all-out, until-the-final-gun effort are the only ways to build a Super Bowl contender, then so be it. Schiano didn't come here to roll over. Two weeks into his tenure and that much is clear. Hurt feelings, a lecture over unspoken rules and the label of bush-league are the price worth paying. There's little doubt he would, and will, do it again.”
David Whitley, FanHouse: “It’s a good thing the Jaguars gave away 50,000 fake mustaches on Sunday. It made forensic identification a little easier. They had Blaine Gabbert’s dental records and Shad Khan’s facial hair. Not much else was left of the Jaguars after Houston got through with them. The Texans won 27-7, and it could have been 127-7.”
Chris Burke, SI.com: “Jacksonville had a shot to win in Week 1 at Minnesota. That wasn’t the case Sunday against the Texans. You can blame just about anyone you want for this — the Jacksonville defense couldn’t stop the run, Maurice Jones-Drew had just 67 total yards on 15 touches, and the offensive line coughed up three sacks. But the Jaguars’ issues always seem to come back to Gabbert, and his 7-for-19 line won’t give them a chance any week. He did throw a TD pass to MJD but managed a measly 53 yards through the air before leaving the game with a thigh injury.”
Tommy Tomlinson, Sports on Earth: “Arkansas -- which had a lifetime of hopes riding on this year -- lost 52-0 at home to Alabama, and I don’t know how to say this gently, but it wasn’t that close. QB Tyler Wilson, who didn’t play because of an injury, said after the game that some of his teammates ‘gave up’ on the field. I’m not sure that’s the kind of talk that gets your teammates fired up. I’m also not sure it matters. Arkansas dreamed of being 3-0 at this point; now it’s 1-2, and the phrase ‘Rutgers in Fayetteville on Saturday’ sounds a lot more terrifying than it did four weeks ago.”
“We didn't expect to come in here and lose the game the way we did. It's disappointing and we need to get better as a football team. We need to do those little things that move the chains, stop them, punt and kickoff return, there's a million things. You look out there today and I can literally think of 10 things that are like, 'Well, you can't do that and win football games,' and we had them all in one game. That's tough to overcome.”
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, chatting with reporters after a 27-7 loss at Seattle.