The NFL's replacement referees have been absolutely terrible. Throughout the first three weeks of the 2012 season, they've missed glaringly obvious calls, overcompensated with ticky-tack penalties and, most unfortunately, put guys at risk of injury. They've affected the outcome of several games, and now, apparently, we have confirmation that these refs weren't even good enough to call a lingerie football game.
Although athletes should never let the refs decide a game, we've seen too many truly terrible decisions on the field this season to avoid talking about the issue. We easily could have made this a Top 20 list. For now, here are the five worst calls from the NFL's replacement refs.
5. Cowboys WR Kevin Ogletree Slips on a Hat
Late in the first half of the Week Three game between the Cowboys and Bucs, Dallas WR Kevin Ogletree stepped out of bounds while running toward the endzone. The ref threw his hat onto the field to denote that Ogletree could not catch the ball, but the ref threw his hat all the way into the endzone. Ogletree planted on the hat, slipped, and hit the turf. That's an ankle sprain waiting to happen.
4. Darrius Heyward-Bey Scary Moment
Also this past Sunday, the Steelers and Raiders witnessed one of the scariest plays of the season when Darrius Heyward-Bey got rocked by a hit that wasn't flagged—but clearly should have been. Smashed between two Steelers defenders, Heyward-Bey suffered a concussion and a strained neck as a result of a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit that put him in the ER. Again, no flag for something the NFL has called a priority—player safety. Heyward-Bey has since been released from the hospital.
3. Players Are Fighting. A Lot.
Maybe the scariest part of the replacement ref debacle is that the players seem to realize that they can absolutely get away with more than they could with the regular refs. There have been way more skirmishes, shoving matches and borderline fights than ever in recent memory. It's tough to pinpoint one or two of these, because during every single NFL game so far, receivers have locked up with DBs, swinging wildly. These incidents seem to getting more dangerous as the season progresses. Even when the refs throw flags during these fights, they're letting guys who are throwing punches stay in the game. Not good. Not good at all.
From the Sunday night game between the Ravens and Patriots, we could highlight dozens of plays that were questionable and went unflagged. Receivers and DBs were all over each other on nearly every play, yet when the refs did call pass interference, it seemed to be for very minor infractions. But by far the biggest miscue of the game came when the Ravens kicked a game-winning FG at the end of regulation, but the ball sailed awfully close to the right upright. The refs didn't review the controversial kick, awarding the Ravens the win—and causing Pats coach Bill Belichick to grab an official as he ran off the field.
1. Refs Get Game-Winning TD Call Wrong
This might be the tipping point that gets the real NFL refs back to work. On the last play of the Monday Night game between the Seahawks and the Packers, Hawks QB Russell Wilson heaved a Hail Mary pass into the end zone. Receiver Golden Tate shoved a defender out of the way, and although Packers free safety M.D. Jennings intercepted the ball, the Seahawks were awarded the TD thanks to simultaneous possession. Green Bay was so stunned, it took ten minutes to get the extra point kicked. No penalty was called on Tate, and the refs handed the win to the Seahawks. No one outside of Washington State thinks the play was called correctly.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock