PITONIAK: Botched officiating contributes to devastating defeat

NFL Buffalo
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    I usually dismiss complaints by players, coaches and fans who blame losses on the officiating. To me, it’s a loser’s lament, a way of deflecting blame from the real cause of defeat. Namely, that the players and coaches didn’t do their jobs.
               That said, I believe the Bills got hosed by the officials in a 31-25 road loss to the Seattle Seahawks Monday night. Referee Walt Anderson totally botched things with three seconds remaining in the first half, costing Buffalo a field goal that wound up having a bearing on the outcome of the game.
               Let’s recap the bizarre sequence of events. As the Bills lined up for a field goal just before intermission, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman went off-sides and rolled into Dan Carpenter’s knees to block the kick. Sherman was flagged five yards for being off-sides, but was not given a personal foul. “Ridiculous,’’ Bills Coach Rex Ryan said afterward. “Absolutely ridiculous. “(The officials’ explanation) doesn’t matter (because) it was wrong. It’s clear what happened. The guy roughed our kicker. Jumps offside and roughs our kicker.”
               Couldn’t agree with Rex more. It was a dirty play by Sherman that could have resulted in a serious injury. It was so egregious, in fact, not only would I have flagged Sherman, I would have ejected him from the game.
   The NFL talks ad nauseam about player safety, and here was a case where a guy purposely bowls into a defenseless kicker’s legs. This wasn’t a tough call. It was pretty obvious what occurred. There should be no place in the game for this kind of dirtiness.
                Blowing this call was bad enough, but things only got worse. Because a Bills trainer came onto the field to check on Carpenter after the hit, the kicker had to leave the game for one play. Buffalo spiked the ball to count as the play Carpenter missed, but the referee was late resetting the ball after the kicker returned. The snap was made and Carpenter’s kick was good, but Buffalo was called for a delay of game. With the kick moved back for a 54-yard attempt, Carpenter missed wide right and the Bills went into locker room trailing by 11.
                The three points would come into play late in the game, when Buffalo, trailing by six, drove deep into Seattle territory, but couldn’t convert a fourth-and-goal. If the field goal at the end of the first half had stood, the Bills would only have needed three points to send the game into overtime.
                Dean Blandino, the NFL’s head of officiating, acknowledged Anderson’s comedy of errors after the game and said the league would look into it. Anderson could be suspended or he and his crew could be taken off highly visible games. (I’ve never understood the rationale behind that latter move. You guys screwed up, so we’re taking you off the Patriots-Seahawks game and assigning you to Bills-Browns. What you’re saying is that the integrity of the Bills-Browns game isn’t as important to the league as the integrity of the Patriots-Seahawks.)
                Lots of good a suspension or public apology will do the Bills now. Last night’s game is history. What might have been a crucial victory goes down as a crushing loss.
                Look, I realize the officials have a very difficult job and they work hard at what they do. And they are going to make mistakes, just like players, coaches, sportscasters and sportswriters. But this sequence of events was embarrassing and contributes to the crazy conspiracy theories out there that the league only cares about the so-called elite franchises.
                I think the NFL has to take a serious look at employing full-time officials. The NFL is a $13 billion a year industry. It’s the only major professional sports league that doesn’t have full-time officials. We’re talking about the integrity of the game here. And Monday night, the NFL’s integrity suffered another blow.

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