We saw our fair share of blunders from the NFL's replacement referees, but these guys didn't have many issues in the NFL's opening night.
The head official for Wednesday night's game was Jim Core. For his day job, he's an activities director at Sawtooth Middle School in Meridian, Idaho, according to Danny Ciacco of the Idaho Statesman. His previous experience before this summer consisted of "stints in the Frontier Conference and Arena2 football," according to Yahoo! Sports' Doug Farrar.
He and his crew got off to a rocky start, but for the most part they did as well as any regular officials could do under the same circumstances.
It didn't take these guys long to mess up in a big way.
At the 12:09 mark of the first quarter, on the first call of the game, the refs called a clipping penalty on a Domenik Hixon punt return—a personal foul.
Per the NFL Rules Digest, a clipping foul is defined thusly:
Clipping: Throwing the body across the back of an opponent’s leg or hitting him from the back below the waist while moving up from behind unless the opponent is a runner or the action is in close line play.
The replays clearly showed a penalty on the return, but it was in no way, shape or form a clipping penalty. It was simply a standard block in the back by Jayron Hosley, but somehow the officials got it dead wrong.
The Cowboys went for it on 4th-and-inches at the 36-yard line with 2:42 left in the first quarter. They were just outside of field-goal range, so it was the right call by Jason Garrett, as far as I'm concerned.
Fullback Lawrence Vickers was stuffed on the play. Antrel Rolle made the initial stop, and the rest of the Giants defense cleaned up the mess.
The refs got the spot right, and the Giants took over on downs.
The score was 0-0 with 9:16 remaining in the second quarter. The Giants had a 3rd-and-goal at their 4-yard line when Eli Manning threw to Victor Cruz right at the goal line.
Cruz was clearly held by Orlando Scandrick on the play...but alas, no call was made. To be honest, the refs could have called either holding or pass interference and either one would have been valid.
But, they didn't.
Clearly a defensive hold for the grab at the break. Looked like the defender played through the back on the pass also.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) September 6, 2012
To be fair, it is a call that the regular officials don't make every time, either, so I'll cut them a little slack.
At the 14:55 mark of the fourth quarter, the Giants had the ball at their own 23-yard line. They were down 17-10 and had a third down with five yards to go.
Jason Hatcher got off the snap really well for the Cowboys, and he forced Eli Manning to dump the ball off to Ahmad Bradshaw, who dropped the pass.
Sounds great for the Cowboys, right?
Unfortunately, Hatcher hit Manning in the head with his hands and slightly with his own helmet, drawing a personal foul for roughing the passer.
It was exactly the right call to make.
The Cowboys were down at their 14-yard line with 7:07 left in the fourth when Mackenzy Bernadeau was correctly called for illegal hands to the face on a running play on 1st-and-10.
The penalty moved the Cowboys back to the 24-yard line, and it became 1st-and-20.
On the next play, Doug Free was correctly called for a holding penalty against Jason Pierre-Paul, moving the Cowboys back another 10 yards.
In the end, it didn't matter, as Tony Romo hit Miles Austin for a 34-yard touchdown pass over two Giants defenders. Still, it's worth noting that the officials didn't hesitate to pull the trigger and make a critical call late in the game with the outcome still yet to be decided.
With 2:11 remaining in regulation, the Cowboys were up by a touchdown and had a third down with two yards left.
DeMarco Murray took the handoff and started sweeping around the left side. He got enough for the first down, but Jason Witten was called for holding against Antrel Rolle.
It was the right call and the Cowboys were forced into a 3rd-and-12, which they successfully converted.
The replacement refs did a darn good job in the NFL's opening night. The Associated Press concurs: "'No problems, just as we said there wouldn't be,' league executive Ray Anderson said at halftime. Nothing changed in the second half."
While there were two glaring mistakes, for the most part they did a fantastic job of making the right calls and keeping the game moving at a reasonable pace.
It remains to be seen if the rest of the replacements can continue this solid start, and I'll wager that before Week 1 is finished we'll all be calling for the regular guys to come back as soon as possible.
Final Grade: B
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