Week Two in Denver: NFL 39, San Diego 38
At a loss for words, San Diego fans?
There are times when even the most red-blooded football fan finds a string of four-letter epithets inadequate. After a hell of a game in Denver, Mike Shanahan and Co. will treasure a huge victory in their home opener over the Chargers.
But, did the Broncos deserve the victory?
Admittedly, "winning's winning" doesn't really cut it sometimes, and even the most subjective Bronco fans have to feel a little hollow after their Week Two win.
San Diego had two key calls go against them, as they fell to the Broncos by one point in a finale reminiscent of their Week One loss against Carolina.
In the first half, Chris Chambers caught a short pass from Phillip Rivers at the beginning of a San Diego drive deep in their own territory. Chambers would be stripped by Champ Bailey (after Chambers was down by contact).
After an obvious challenge by Chargers coach Norv Turner, the play stood because, amazingly — the review equipment was malfunctioning. Denver promptly marched down the short field for a touchdown.
Denver's offense manhandled the Chargers' defense throughout the first half, taking a 31-17 lead at halftime. In the second half, San Diego stormed back and scored 21 unanswered points to take the lead late in the fourth quarter, 38-31.
Bronco QB Jay Cutler—who had thrown an interception in the red zone earlier—fumbled the ball in an attempted pass. Chargers LB Tim Dobbins recovered at the Denver 10, but the play was ruled an incomplete pass.
After a booth review (as the play was after the two-minute mark), referee Ed Hochuli pointed out that although the play was a fumble, he had blown the whistle when Cutler's fumbled ball fell to the ground; the play was effectively dead.
The Broncos scored two plays later and defeated the Chargers on a two-point conversion.
Official blunders and malfunctions accounted for two momentum-changing plays that gave Denver the opportunity to score 15 total points.
In the era of instant replay, shouldn't we use this tool to make sure every call is correct?
Why is it ultimately the referee on the field the man who gets to correct the mistake every time? If the replay device on the field isn't functioning, why can't the referees in the booth make the call?
What is it with obscure NFL rules that take the power out of the players' hands to win or lose a game? Sure, Hochuli might have blown the whistle, but neither Dobbins nor Cutler stopped running toward the ball after it fell to the ground.
Referees should only make sure that calls go the right way and should have less responsibility for determining when and how a play is over if a replay can set the issue straight.
Today, the NFL revives ugly precedents: The Holy Roller game and the infamous "Tuck Rule" playoff call. It's time to punish both players and referees for their mistakes.
Non-calls by referees can't be challenged, but penalties called by referees against players can't be challenged either!
With each passing year, referees gain more power and influence over the way a game goes, with their possibility for human error surpassing even the technology put in place to correct those mistakes.
If this is the way the NFL thinks is fine for games to be handled, then we must ask the following question:
Why not just let 22 referees take the field and play each other?
Eric Gomez is a Mexican writer currently attending San Diego State University. He covers San Diego-area sports and a bevy of other sports, such as soccer, boxing, basketball and tennis. You can find his archive here.
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