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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The NFL's Top 10 Worst Referee Calls Of 2014

Referee Bill Leavy (right) with crew


The 2014 regular season is over, and unfortunately as usual, there were some bad and controversial calls. Even that the National Football League referees claim that they got the calls right more than 97% of the time, there were some prominent blunders that did affect the outcome of the postseason.

This year there were two important new adjustments by the NFL to the referees and the fellow officials:

1) All officials now wore headsets to comunicate better between themselves.

2) All reviews by instant replay will be at the NFL main office at Park Avenue, in New York City.

It's worth noting that this year there were 13 new officials, including three referees, the most in a non-expansion year ever.

Unfortunately, some veteran referees like Jerome Boger, Bill Leavy and Ed Hochuli were household names all season like the star players. 

Let's review the ten (well, let's put fourteen) most prominent bad or controversial calls (in chronollogical order) of the 2014 NFL season:

1) Seattle at San Diego, week 2 (Referee: Peter Morelli)

In the first quarter, Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin scored on a 51-yard touchdown run on a reverse. Replays show clearly that Harvin stepped out of bounds at the Chargers 21-yard line, and even that side judge Rob Vernatchi was in position, he did not marked it. More inexplicably: even as every touchdown is reviewed and not only in the stadium, but also in New York City, Morelli let the call stand. The NFL office admitted the mistake the next day.

2) Chicago at N.Y. Jets, week 3 (Referee: Jerome Boger)

With less tan two minutes to play in the second quarter of this nationally televised Monday Night Football game, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was sacked by Jets linebacker David Harris and fumbled. Jets linebacker Demario Davis picked the ball and ran 46 yards for a touchdown. But Boger blew his whistle and called the play dead, because he thought Cutler's knee had touched the ground before the fumble. Replay showed that in fact was a fumble and Davis was credited with the recovery, but not the touchdown. This was critical, as Chicago was leading 17-13 at that point, and after Boger's mistake they didn't lose the lead and they went on to win 27-19.

3) New England at Kansas City, week 4 (Referee: John Parry)

In the fourth quarter of this nationally televised Monday Night Football game, Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah intercepted a Tom Brady pass and returned 39 yards for a touchdown. Abdullah, a Muslim, fell to his knees in the endzone. Parry and his crew flagged the Chiefs 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. The NFL office admitted the mistake the next day, even that the officials defended the call, saying that by rule it was an "excessive celebration" and the penalty should have been called.


4) Washington at Arizona, week 6 (Referee: Ed Hochuli)

In the fourth quarter, Redskins wide receiver (and former Cardinal) Andre Roberts fumbled after a catch and Cardinals safety Tyrann Matthieu recovered the ball at Washington's 36-yard line, advancing it to the 27. Replays showed clearly that Roberts' left knee hit the ground before the fumble, but Hochuli let the play stand. It was a critical play to the outcome, as Washington was losing 20-13 at that point, the Cardinals then kicked a field goal after the fumble, and the Redskins eventualliy lost 30-20.



5) N.Y. Jets at New England, week 7 (Referee: Bill Leavy)

With 5 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of this nationally televised Thursday Night Football game and the Patriots leading 27-25, Jets kicker Nick Folk attempted a 58-yard field goal. But Patriots linebacker Dont'a Hightower lined up in a standing position directly in front of long snapper Tanner Purdum, which should be called a penalty. But umpire Carl Paganelli told Hightower to move just before the field goal attempt, thus there was no flag. Folk's attempt was blocked by Chris Jones and the Patriots went on to win the game.

Interestingly, just last season there was a similar play between these two teams in the game at the Meadowlands, but this time the officials did called the penalty, and replayed the kick, and Folk made it and the Jets won.


6) Seattle at St. Louis, week 7 (Referee: Brad Allen)

With 1:14 left in the fourth quarter and St. Louis leading 28-26 and facing a 3-and-1 on its own 45 yard line, Rams running back Tre Mason fumbled after being tackled by Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith at Seattle's 41-yard line, then the ball went into a pile of players of both teams. Allen called that the Rams recovered it for a first down, and even that all turnovers should be reviewed, there was no instant replay on the play, much to the dismay of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. Dean Blandino, the NFL's Vice President of Officiating, admitted that there was no clear evidence who recovered the fumble. In the next play, Rams quarterback Austin Davis took a knee and the Rams won.

7) St. Louis at San Francisco, week 9 (Referee: Jerome Boger)

In the last play of the first half, 49ers kicker Phil Dawson attempted a 55-yard field goal. The attempt was short and was picked by Rams returner Tavon Austin, who got out of the endzone and came back, where he was tackled by Derek Carrier for an apparent safety. But Boger called that Austin's progression had stopped at the 1, thus negating the safety. It was a critical play on the game, as it was tied 10-10 at this point.

Then with the Rams leading 13-10 late in the game, the 49ers advanced to the Rams 2-yard line, and another two controversial calls emerged: first Michael Crabtree caught a pass in the endzone which appeared initially to the ball having broken the plane, but the officials marked the ball at the one. Two plays later, and with only 9 seconds remaining in the clock, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick tried to run for the winning touchdown, but he fumbled the ball and Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis recovered it. Replays showed that Kaepernick did broke the plane before the fumble, but the call was not overturned and the Rams won.

8) Seattle at Kansas City, week 11 (Referee: Bill Leavy)

With 7 minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Chiefs leading 24-20, the Seahawks had the ball at the Chiefs 2-yard line facing fourth down. They decided to go for the touchdown, but Russell Wilson pass to Doug Baldwin was incomplete. Replays showed that Baldwin was pushed by Chiefs cornerback Sean Smith, who was not flagged. Kansas City won on to win the game with the same score, but the NFL office admitted that pass interference should have been called. In fact, the league also said that another pass interfence on Seattle wide receiver Jermaine Kearse should have been called early in the game.


9) Detroit at Arizona, week 11 (Referee: Jerome Boger)

In the fourth quarter, and with the Cardinals leading 14-6, one of the strangest plays of the 2014 NFL season happened: Cardinals punter Drew Butler tried to coffin the ball deep into Lions territory. Justin Bethel, trying to prevent a touchback, batted the ball into play and Lions returner Jeremy Ross, very smartly, picked up the ball and returned 49 yards to the Cardinals 46-yard line (by rule, when the punting team battles the ball into play preventing a touchback, the receiving team mantains possession, no mather what happens after). But Cardinals coach Bruce Arians challenged the play, and Boger ruled that Bethel had possession of the ball long enough to bring the ball all the way back to the 1. So the return was negated and Arizona went on to win by the same score.


10) Cincinnati at Tampa Bay, week 13 (Referee: Bill Leavy)

With 32 seconds remaining on the game, the Bengals held a one-point lead, 14-13. Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown completed a 21-yard pass to Louis Murphy to move the ball to the Bengals 20-yard line. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis asked to review that Tampa Bay had 12 men on the field. Fortunatelly for the Bengals, replay showed that in fact the Bucs' had one more player, as the call cost them a time out, but they went on to win the game. This was a big downgrade for Leavy and his crew, who in every play they have to check that every team have 11 players on the field.


11) Dallas at Chicago, week 14 (Referee: Ed Hochuli)

In the third quarter of this nationally televised Thursday Night Football game, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley. Replays showed that Beasley knee touched the ground at the 1-yard line before breaking the plane of the endzone, but Hochuli let the play stand. Although the Cowboys won clearly, many other similar touchdowns are called back.


12) Kansas City at Arizona, week 14 (Referee: Craig Wrolstad)

Chiefs tight ends Anthony Fasano and Travis Kelce had each one play called back that could have won this game for Kansas City and maybe they could have gotten eventually into the playoffs. First, with The Chiefs leading 14-9 with 5:47 left in the third quarter, Fasano scored on a 19-yard touchdown catch, but was flagged for an offensive pass interference on Cardinals linebacker Larry Foote. Replays showed that Fasano barely touched Foote, and he was on his trajectory to the ball.

Then, with 5:31 left in the game, and with Arizona leading 17-14, Kelce caught a 19-yard pass to the Cardinals 22-yard line. Kelce lost the ball, but initially was ruled down by contact by safety Deone Bucannon. Then after Bruce Arians challenge the play, Wrolstad reviewed it and awarded the ball to Arizona. Wrolstad said that Kelce lost possession on the ball as he was going down, and tried to regain it, but couldn't. Replays showed that Kelce appeared to have controlled the ball back as he hit the ground. Arizona went on to win by the same score.


13) San Francisco at Seattle, week 15 (Referee: Ed Hochuli)

In the fourth quarter and with Seattle leading 10-7, 49ers linebacker Nick Moody was penalized for roughing the passer on Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Replays showed that Moody hit Wilson just as he released the ball (the pass was incomplete). Seattle had 3 down and 5 at San Francisco's 15 yard line, so it should have been a fourth down and a field goal attempt. Instead, Hochuli awarded Seattle a first down and they went on to score a touchdown on the drive and won the game 17-7. The NFL office admitted that Hochuli should have not called the penalty.


14) Cleveland at Carolina, week 16 (Referee: Ed Hochuli)

In the third quarter, Browns defensive end Billy Winn dived and intercepted a Cam Newton pass. He then lateralled the ball to cornerback Jordan Poyer, who ran 64 yards flor a touchdown. But Hochuli overturned the score, saying that Winn "gave up" and was down. Winn, a 296-pound defensive lineman, only rolled to give Poyer (a much faster player) the chance to return the interception. The Panthers were leading 10-3 (Poyer's score would've tied it) and went on to win the game.



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