Last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, Corey Liuget was called for a phantom facemask penalty inside of two minutes that gave the Chiefs an extra 15 yards, paving the way for rookie kicker Cairo Santos to nail a 48 yarder and give the Chiefs a 23-20 win.
The ref's aren't expected to get every call right every time. The Chargers didn't play well enough to win, regardless of that penalty call.
Last night's 35-21 victory for the Denver Broncos over the Chargers can be considered a joint effort - the referee's and the Broncos put in an equal amount of effort to ensure that the Broncos defeated the Chargers and moved to 6-1 on the season.
Everyone's heard the conspiracies that "certain" QBs get preferential treatment from the ref's. Or that the ref's always give certain teams a little extra boost. After last night, I'm starting to think that those theories are less and less crazy.
I still don't completely buy into the notion that the referee's are working for some teams - but it certainly seemed that way last night.
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Bad calls started early
The first noticeably bad call was with 3:03 left to go in the first half and the score tied at 7. Andre Caldwell was returning a kickoff when Kavell Conner stripped the ball loose, and Ladarius Green recovered. The ruling on the field was that it was a fumble, and the Chargers ball at the 26.
To overturn a call, there has to be conclusive evidence that the original decision was wrong. The replay seemed to show that the strip was attempted and the ball was spinning just before Caldwell's forearm hit the ground, meaning that he'd lost control of the football and that the call would be confirmed.
CBS refereeing expert Mike Carey agreed, and said that it looked like being the Chargers ball. Unbelievably, the ref's overturned the call and gave the ball back to Denver. Even if they didn't think that the ball was moving much before his arm hit the ground, the call should have stood as there wasn't enough evidence to overturn it. Well, apparently, the ref's saw something no-one else did. Denver would go on to score a touchdown on that drive.
The other major call occurred at the start of the 4th quarter. With the Broncos having a first and goal from the 2 yard line, Eric Weddle jumped in front of Wes Welker and made an amazing one handed interception, taking the ball out to the Chargers 20. The only problem was that Gilchrest was flagged for holding what must only have been the invisible man, and the play came back.
Gilchrest had made minimal contact with Welker, simply brushing his back as he followed him into the endzone. It was inside 5 yards, which means that some contact is legal as long as there's no holding. According to anyone watching the game (once again, including Mike Carey) there was no holding. According to the ref's, there was. Denver would once again go on to score a touchdown.
Broncos received plenty of lucky calls
There were multiple other bad calls in favour of the Broncos. An illegal block in the back on Kendall Reyes went unpunished on the play that gave the Broncos their first TD of the night. Antonio Gates was clearly impeded on a vital third and goal, and despite a flag originally being thrown, the referee's "conferred" and decided that there was no pass interference on the play. If Gates hadn't been able to score on 4th and goal, things might have turned really ugly.
However, some bad calls are expected in each game. The referee's aren't perfect. But even if you take just the two mentioned first. The fumble would have meant that the Broncos didn't score the 7 points they did on the drive, and with the ball at the 26 yard line it's safe to assume that the Chargers would have at least kicked a field goal. If Weddle's incredible interception stands, the Broncos again lose out on 7 points. Presuming that the Chargers only managed to score 3 points on the two drives that they would have had, that's still 17 points they've gained over the Broncos. They lost by 14.
I'm not definitely saying that the referee's were biased. Indeed, when one of them called the Chargers defense the "receiving team", it appeared they were downright incompetent. I'm also not definitely saying that the Chargers would have won if the game had been called correctly. But it would have been close.
Referee's have access to replays from multiple camera angles and can slow things down to see exactly the moment a player steps out of bounds or a ball is fumbled. There's no logical reason that they would reverse a ruling that appeared to be correct with no evidence to support their decision.
Which begs the question.. are the referee's purposely biased? Are they not good enough at their job? Do they need more technical help to make decisions?
Regardless of your answers, one things for sure. Too many games are decided by the referee's.
The NFL stands for the National Football League. So let them play Football.
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