Rob Woodfork, wtop.com
WASHINGTON - In my NFL preview, I said one of the storylines to watch this year would be the on-going referee lockout. In Week 1, it didn't really register on a national level because the replacement refs didn't really effect the outcome of games in a major way. In Week 2, they did.
We'll start with the game of most interest here in town, the Redskins/Rams tilt. The Josh Morgan play was something that probably doesn't happen if the referees had gotten control of the chippiness. "Chippy" emerged as the buzzword for week two from the start.
Anyone who knows Cortland Finnegan's schtick knows he's always looking to get a rise out of the receivers he's covering. In case you forgot, just look back at his duel with Andre Johnson. While it's on the receiver to check his emotions, the refs also have to make sure the Dennis Rodman of football isn't picking fights on a play-by-play basis.
If that weren't bad enough, the refs missed what easily should have given the 15- yards back to Washington. After the bone-headed Morgan penalty, Chris Long was chirping at the Redskins sideline with a referee right there watching. The Skins get all blame for blowing a 15 point lead, but the calls down the stretch certainly affected the outcome.
It wasn't just the Redskins game either. The Ravens had a Joe Flacco-to-Jacoby Jones touchdown overturned for offensive pass interference; a ticky-tack call that probably isn't made in the game's late stages by a more seasoned ref. The game's momentum shifted to the Eagles' favor from there on out.
Those games and several others, including the Niners/Lions game in prime time, were very physical as well perhaps more than we're used to witnessing. San Fran is typically rather physical, but I can't remember the last time I've seen this many unchecked skirmishes in this many games in a given NFL week.
Referees aren't on the field to just throw flags and accept the brunt of the frustration of coaches and fans. If you break the job of an official down to the simplest definition, they are there to keep order. Yes, that includes throwing a flag if a player is in violation of the rules. But it also includes issuing warnings to players before certain actions and/or words merit a flag.
ESPN's Mike Tirico made a great point during the Monday Night Football broadcast: this situation is like school kids trying to see how far they can push the envelope with the substitute teacher. Lineman will try and hold on the sly, defensive backs will go for some added contact beyond the allotted five yards, and everybody's getting chippy after plays because the striped shirts won't do anything about it.
Like in most professions, you gain confidence and perform better with experience. These officials have none. It's one thing if these guys (and gal) had been a part of a minor league system to train referees or had some sort of long-term heads up that they'd be in this position.
The NFL isn't the same without the Ed Hochuli Gun Show.
In pro sports, nobody wants to hear any belly-aching. They earn a king's ransom playing a kid's game and get millions whether they win, lose or draw. But it's hard not to look at the results of Week 2 and think things might be a bit different if the regular refs were around. So let me sum this up in just two words: Free Hochuli!
Now let's put Week 2 to bed:
- Packers 23-Bears 10
This game played out exactly like the movie "Taken." Observe the Packers secondary: "I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you."
Jay Cutler: (after long pause) Good luck.
- Eagles 24-Ravens 23
Let's give Philly credit, even though they've appeared to win their first two games by accident, they've won them and grabbed an early lead in the division in the process. These were the kinds of games they lost last year.