From the Sidelines

Latest officiating gaffe isn’t a breaking point for NFL

22 December 2013: Referee Walt Anderson (66) and field judge Buddy Horton (18) discuss a play before a review during the NFL game between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA. Photographer: Orlando Ramirez/ Icon Sportswire
Orlando Ramirez/ Icon Sportswire

On the heels of New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton joining the chorus for full-time officials, one of the veteran part-timers, Walt Anderson, had a real tough stretch in Seattle last night during the Seahawks’ 31-25 win over the Buffalo Bills.

The cluster-you-know-what happened in the waning moments of the first half when Richard Sherman raced offsides unabated and ran into Bills kicker Dan Carpenter, who was about to attempt a 53-yard field goal.

The All-Pro cornerback was flagged for his obvious infraction, but it should have been upgraded to an unnecessary roughness penalty, according to the NFL’s senior VP of officiating Dean Blandino.

And that’s a sharp distinction because not only does it up the penalty yardage, it also affects the mechanics of the next play because Carpenter was shaken up and trainers had to come out onto the field.

So, the butterfly effect here was a missed call forced Anderson, a retired dentist, into enforcing another rule correctly, the fact that the kicker had to leave the field for one play.

That meant the Bills were forced to spike the football in order to get Carpenter back into the game for another attempt. However, Anderson never reset the play clock despite the official standing over the football in order to allow substitutions.

Carpenter’s kick split the uprights but the snap came late and the Bills were penalized five yards. A 54-yard mulligan was no good and viewers across the country were shaking their heads watching Anderson implode in real time.

“Ridiculous,” Bills coach Rex Ryan said after the game when asked about the sequence. “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.”

Anderson, though, was indeed forced to face the enemy of any NFL referee, the pool reporter, to explain his actions and for some bizarre reason continued to defend his actions instead of admitting culpability and going the mea culpa route.

“I didn’t feel like the actions and the contact, because we were shutting the play down, warranted a foul,” he said while acknowledging the noise at CenturyLink was a problem because the whistles couldn’t be heard easily.”

“One of the things we’re just looking for is, does the player have a chance to realize that we’re shutting the play down from that standpoint,” Anderson continued, “and whether or not he has an opportunity to avoid any type of contact once he realizes that we’re getting the play shut down.”

His boss, Blandino, didn’t agree.

Blandino clarified even further on the NFL Network’s “Total Access” show after the game.

“The officials were in the process of shutting the play down,” he explained. “Sherman jumped offside and he was unimpeded to the kicker so we shut that down. The referee didn’t think that the contact was severe enough. He felt that players were coming together and he just didn’t think it was a foul. We looked at it and it is a foul. It is no different than a defender coming offside and hitting a quarterback after the whistle blew, so it should have been unnecessary roughness.”

The fact that it ended up being a six-point game only complicated matters for the NFL because Buffalo was in the red zone going for the winning score.

If Carpenter gets the field goal at the end of the first half and it’s a three-point game at the end of regulation, he likely ties it and we head to overtime, a flawed thesis because the second half as a whole doesn’t play out the same way under different circumstances. That said, the league is stuck with the narrative that middle-aged men in striped shirts are again affecting the outcomes of games.

Full-time officials, while still needed, isn’t the argument for this gaffe, though. It’s the overlegislation of the game that has even 20-year veterans like Anderson looking like incompetents.

-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @JFMcMullen — Also catch John each week during the NFL season ESPN South Jersey, ESPN Southwest Florida, ESPN Lexington, KDWN in Las Vegas, and check @JFMcMullen for John’s upcoming appearances on SB Nation Radio, FOX Sports Radio, CBS Sports Radio as well as dozens of local radio stations across North America.

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