Is it too soon to start complaining about the officiating? Of course it isn’t. That’s why you heard so much chirping from coaches after Week 1 of the NFL season. Let’s just say it was not a great start for Alberto Riveron, the NFL’s new senior director of officiating.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll had a full list for the NFL’s complaint department, starting with the first-quarter ejection of cornerback Jeremy Lane during an interception return for a touchdown that was nullified by a separate and equally atrocious flag against the Seahawks.
After Green Bay receiver Davante Adams grabbed Lane by the facemask, the two tumbled to the ground and the Seattle cornerback gave a minor retaliatory elbow to the face. It was not enough for either assault charges or a game ejection, especially after what Adams had done to him.
Referee John Parry announced that Lane was ejected for a punch to the face.
“I didn’t see the punch at all,” Carroll said after the Seahawks’ 17-6 loss to the Packers at Lambeau Field. “I’m disappointed that play would have such magnitude on the game. It’s just such a drastic thing to do.”
In addition to depriving them of a starting cornerback for most of the game, the play also cost the Seahawks six points because defensive end Cliff Avril was flagged for a block in the back against Aaron Rodgers while the quarterback was in hopeless pursuit of defensive tackle Naz Jones. Perhaps Avril was foolish for unnecessarily getting anywhere near Rodgers. On the other hand, unnecessary officiating is an even greater offense.
Here’s what should have happened: All scoring plays and turnovers are reviewed anyway, so why not make everything that happened on the play reviewable, too. Once the referee and replay officials see that the block in the back and the ejection were both improper calls, they could be overturned.
Neither, however, could be overturned because they are not reviewable fouls, which is just stupid. Mike Pereira, the former vice president of NFL officiating, was able to watch the replay for Fox and announce to the TV audience that both calls were wrong, so wouldn’t the league be better off reviewing the play and getting it right?
The NFL does not have a problem with games taking too long, as Paul Domowitch pointed out in his Friday column. Ten of its 15 games on opening day were played in less than three hours.
Of course, sometimes the league has the benefit of replay and still gets it wrong. We saw that Sunday, when the Eagles sealed their victory at Washington with a Fletcher Cox fumble return for a touchdown that clearly was nothing more than an incomplete pass. It is unfathomable that the league has so many eyes looking at replays and still could not get that call right.
Again, Pereira told the Fox audience that referee Brad Allen’s ruling was incorrect, and even the Eagles defense was convinced Cox’s TD would be erased by the replay. Allen told the Washington Post, “There was nothing conclusive that would overturn the ruling on the field. All the views we had were inconclusive, so we have to stay with the ruling on the field.”
Except there was that view from behind that clearly showed Allen was wrong.
Meanwhile, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin was OK with an unnecessary-roughness call against Steelers cornerback William Gay, but disturbed that the officiating crew did not throw the flag until it saw the replay on the giant screen at Cleveland’s FirstEnergy Stadium.
“That’s why I was irate,” he told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. “I’m a big player-safety guy. I’m on the competition committee. Very rarely are you going to hear arguments from me regarding calls relative to that provided they are done in real time. I thought they called it off the JumboTron, and I won’t accept that.”
So they got it right for the wrong reason. That’s still better than getting it wrong for no good reason.
The Eagles were hit hard in Week 1 with the injury losses of cornerback Ronald Darby (dislocated ankle), kicker Caleb Sturgis (hip injury), and tackle Jason Peters (groin). Only Peters is expected to return Sunday in Kansas City. It is important to remember, however, that player losses hit every team hard every week.
Andy Reid’s Chiefs might have been hit worst of all in Week 1, when they lost all-pro safety Eric Berry to a season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon.
The Houston Texans, meanwhile, had 21 players on their injury report after their Week 1 loss to Jacksonville, including four players in concussion protocol.
It is a brutal game.
Jacksonville was one of the Florida cities hit hardest by Hurricane Irma because of storm surge from the St. John’s River, but the lifting of spirits in the northern part of the state came from an unexpected source: the Jaguars. Down in Houston, the Jags took over first place in the AFC South with their first win on opening day since 2011. The team also set a franchise record with 10 sacks.
The Bengals, despite opening the season with two games at home, have failed to score a touchdown. The last team to do that was the 1939 Eagles, who finished 1-9-1 while playing their home games at Philadelphia Municipal Stadium, future site of Live Aid and pretty much Lincoln Financial Field, for that matter.
Games of the week
Pittsburgh at Minnesota
How ridiculously good was Sam Bradford in his season debut against the New Orleans Saints? Play like that again against the Steelers and the Eagles might wish they had a quarterback that talented. Calm down, folks. Just kidding. It helped Bradford a lot that rookie Dalvin Cook looked a lot like a young Adrian Peterson.
Dallas at Denver
Jason Witten had seven catches for 59 yards and scored the Cowboys’ only touchdown in their opening-night win over the New York Giants. That made him the Cowboys’ all-time receiving leader with 11,947 yards. Would this be a bad time to point out that the Eagles took another tight end – L.J. Smith – eight picks ahead of Witten in the 2003 draft? Smith has not played since 2009, but he does still have one more Super Bowl TD catch than Witten.
Green Bay at Atlanta
The Packers’ brutal early-season schedule, which opened with a stellar defensive performance at home against Seattle, continues with a rematch of last year’s NFC championship game in Atlanta. Penn Charter’s Matt Ryan and the Falcons put up 44 points and 392 passing yards en route to last season’s Super Bowl game. This will be the Falcons’ inaugural regular-season game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Detroit at N.Y. Giants
Without Odell Beckham Jr. in the lineup, the Giants limped to an ugly opening-night loss against the Cowboys. The bigger problem could be that the Giants still do not appear to have a legitimate running threat. Since starting the 2015 season 1-7, the Lions are 16-9 in the regular season and Matthew Stafford has thrown 47 touchdown passes and just 13 interceptions.