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Refs deal with rust factor in return
Death, taxes … and criticizing NFL officials. Some things are just inevitable.
The good news is that the real referees were back on the field Sunday and while I didn't agree with every call, I do think things for the most part went much smoother than the first three weeks of the NFL season.
I'm sure the folks in Green Bay won't agree with me — and I don't blame them. Less than a week after their now-infamous loss to Seattle, the Packers had some tough calls go against them at home against New Orleans in Week 4. But the Packers still pulled out a 28-27 victory.
This only reinforced what I thought the real officials would struggle with when the day began: rust, especially since they haven't officiated any live action in nine months.
Overall, however, I think the officials did a good job Sunday in two key areas: establishing control of games and maintaining a solid, consistent pace.
I thought the rust showed the most in the decision-making process during instant replay. There were several plays I thought that could have been reversed but weren't, and some that were reversed but maybe shouldn't have been.
There were two unusual plays I want to focus on, one that happened in the San Francisco-NY Jets game and the other that happened in the Seattle-St. Louis game.
In the 49ers-Jets game, here was the situation: The Jets had the ball, second-and-12 from the San Francisco 40-yard line as the fourth quarter began. The 49ers led 17-0. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez completed a 4-yard pass to Santonio Holmes, who was injured on the play and fumbled after he went to the ground untouched.
The ball was picked up by San Francisco's Carlos Rogers, who returned the ball 51 yards for a touchdown. After a booth review, the replay official upheld the ruling of a fumble and a touchdown.
Occasionally you get a play that is so unusual that you hardly know what to think.
This play involved two decisions that needed to be made. The first dealt with Holmes declaring himself down.
A point of emphasis this year addresses this issue of the runner declaring himself down. To quote the 2012 Competition Committee points of emphasis: "The proper application of the rule, that a runner who goes to the ground untouched will be considered to have declared himself down if he does not make an immediate attempt to advance, will be emphasized to officials prior to the 2012 season."
Holmes was obviously hurt, and I think he gave himself up without making an "immediate attempt to advance."
Second, Holmes appeared to me to flip the ball forward, which was ruled on the field as a fumble. The question is whether it was a forward pass.
The rule book says that if a runner intentionally fumbles forward, it is a forward pass and may be a foul. It would be considered a foul if the forward pass was beyond the line of scrimmage. It appeared to me that Holmes intentionally flicked the ball forward. That would either make it an intentional forward fumble or a forward pass.
I actually think that this play should have been reversed, resulting in the Jets keeping the ball for either of these two reasons.
The other play was in the Seattle-St. Louis game. Here was the situation: St. Louis had the ball, fourth-and 2 from the Seattle 2-yard line with 1:15 left in the second quarter. Seattle led 7-3.
What do coach Jeff Fisher and former coach Buddy Ryan have in common? They both like trick plays and Fisher learned from Ryan.
There is a rule to prevent "hideout plays," but it didn't apply here.
An offensive team may not line up a player within five yards of its own sideline if the player is in front of his team bench. By the way, the bench extends from one 32-yard line to the other 32.
The rule states that an incoming substitute must go onto the field inside the numbers before setting up in a wideout position.
Amendola, however, was in on the previous play and therefore was not an incoming substitute. The officials initially threw a flag on this play, but when it was determined that Amendola had been in on the previous play, the flag was picked up.
So Fisher runs another trick play … and it works. Thanks, Buddy.
Speaking of thanks, I'm thankful the regular officials are back on the field.
Welcome back, men.
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