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The rash of bad calls in the NFL is reaching epidemic proportions, or at least it seems that way. Officials erred badly in at least three games yesterday, and in one instance, a missed call had a major impact on the outcome.

In the Washington-Seattle game, Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss was involved in a shoving match midway through the second quarter with cornerback Josh Wilson after a play had ended. Matters got so heated that Moss took a swing at Wilson, which should have warranted an ejection.

With Moss out of the game, the Redskins are a completely different team, and Seattle may have been able to devote an extra defender to stopping the run more often. But officials assessed only an unnecessary roughness penalty, allowing Moss to remain in the game.

On the next play, Moss drew a 21-yard pass interference penalty, and Washington went on to score a touchdown in a 20-17 win.

Then in the San Francisco-Dallas game, officials missed a call that did not impact the outcome but left many football watchers wondering what the heck they were thinking. The call in question came late in the second quarter after a muffed exchange between 49ers center Eric Heitmann and quarterback Shaun Hill.

The ball squirted free, and Dallas linebacker Zach Thomas landed on it before getting up and running into the end zone. No 49ers player came close to touching Thomas, and replays confirmed the only time he was touched was by teammates after he fell on the fumble.

But after a conference with the rest of officiating crew, referee Mike Carey said the play had been whistled dead, thus nullifying the touchdown.

How officials could have missed two obvious calls is mystifying, and it's not just this week. It has been a season-long string of errors that does not bode well for the playoffs, especially because some of the league's best-rated officials -- Carey and Ed Hochuli -- have been involved in blown calls.

Imagine the ramifications if officials got it wrong under similar circumstances during the postseason. Imagine if your favorite team lost because officials accidentally blew a whistle when they shouldn't have.

The league needs to take a serious look at how it handles replay in this instance, or risk living with the consequences of human error deciding a game on its biggest stage. Such a tragedy could easily be avoided with a few tweaks to the system.

By Gene Wang  |  November 24, 2008; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Hey Wang,

Here's a blown call for you and your Newspaper.

Are you in charge of posting the NFL standings for your Newspaper? Cause it sure looks like it considering you have the Cowboys in 2nd place in the NFC East and the Redskins in 3rd (Gene Wang is a huge Cowboys fan). If the Playoffs started today the Redskins would own the final Wild Card spot with the Cowboys on the outside looking in. You see the Redskins have a better Conference record (6-3) then the Cowboys (5-4) which is a tie breaker when teams have the same overall record. Look i understand The Cowboys are America's team and everybody is dying for them to do well, but facts are facts. Please change this if you are to have any credibility.

Posted by: Matthew Eisenberg | November 24, 2008 4:21 PM

The NFL standings posted in the paper do not use tiebreakers to separate teams with the same record. Instead, they are sorted alphabetically.

Gene, how would you tweak the system to account for whistles blown too early? This goes back to the Denver-SD game too? Once a whistle is blown, how can you assume what would have happened had it not blown? Players are taught to play UNTIL the whistle, but once it is blown, the play is over, or else you might be called with a late hit penalty. I think this is the human element that will remain. I'd be curious as to how you would "fix" an premature whistle.

Posted by: Dsmac | November 25, 2008 7:51 AM

I saw the play and it was Josh Wilson that started the fracas. He then said something obviously disparaging for the mild-mannered Moss to throw the punch. The official was there the whole time and saw and heard everything and yet still gave Moss the penalty. I find it ridiculous to hear the talking heads pontificate that it is always the one the responds to an insult that get flagged. My way of thinking is the person that causes the incident should be flagged. If what Matthew said is true, and you are a patties fan, you should try to keep your bias out of your reporting. You remind me of Don Meredith during Cowboys Monday Night Football games. His drunken praises of them sickened me.

Posted by: Mark Hamblett | November 25, 2008 6:57 PM

DSMAC, you are DEAD wrong... I just looked; the ONLY two teams that aren't shown IN TIE BREAKER ORDER (and that includes, for example, taking Tampa Bay over Carolina, Jacksonville over Houston, and Miami over Buffalo) are Dallas listed higher than Washington, while Washington has the tie breakers (better conference record).

Someone at the >WASHINGTON

Posted by: RGMBill | November 27, 2008 6:31 AM

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