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Faceguarding call lead to bizarre pass-interference flag pickup

During the fourth quarter, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a third-down pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew, and there was a flag for pass interference on Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Referee Pete Morelli announced the penalty, but then picked up the flag. The television broadcast did not carry the second announcement, but all that could be heard in the background was Morelli saying, “There is no foul on the play” followed by something else indiscernible. The timing was incredibly strange, as the announcement for the penalty had already been made and subsequently rescinded.

After the game, Morelli said that head linesman Jerry Bergman offered that it was faceguarding, which is not a foul in the NFL, and that there was minimal contact. Back judge Lee Dyer accepted that opinion from the second angle and picked up his own flag.

Morelli can only facilitate the conference; he cannot interject his opinion in the conference (except if there is an objective rule misapplication), because he has responsibility for the quarterback, and is not watching the flight of the ball. “I’m a hundred miles away,” Morelli said when a pool reporter asked what he had seen.

“The better view was from the head linesman.”

Unfortunately, it can easily be pinned as turning point in the game, as the Lions punted, and the Cowboys scored a go-ahead touchdown on the ensuing 11-play, 54-yard drive that consumed the next 5 ½ minutes.

Hitchens told reporters after the game, “No media for me today, guys,” according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post.

Hitchens clearly contacted the receiver, restraining Pettigrew’s arm. Earlier in the play, Hitchens also committed a slight jersey tug, which amounts to an uncalled defensive holding penalty. Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant also came off the bench and was complaining to the officials; he could have been flagged for not staying in the bench area, although it was, arguably, a substitution period, even though he did not have his helmet.

Pool report

Q: Can you talk about the decision to overturn the call and why you overturned the call?

Morelli: The back judge threw his flag for defensive pass interference. We got other information from another official from a different angle that thought the contact was minimal and didn’t warrant pass interference. He thought it was faceguarding.

Q: Which official?

Morelli: The head linesman.

Q: What did you see?

Morelli: It’s not my responsibility. I’m a hundred miles away.

Q: Faceguarding is not a foul?

Morelli: Faceguarding is not a foul. It is a penalty in college, but not in professional football.

Q: What is the process you go through after you announce the call? Should you have waited before you announced the call?

Morelli: Probably, yes. The information came and then the officials got together a little bit later, after the first information was given to me. It would have probably been smoother if we got together.

Q: Do you remember this type of play happening before?

Morelli: No, not particularly.

Q: So, one more time, on who the person was that had a better view?

Morelli: The better view was from the head linesman.


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Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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48 thoughts on “Faceguarding call lead to bizarre pass-interference flag pickup

  1. The head linesman? Who was 16 yards away (snap at the 46, foul at the 30)? This was egregious — and will likely cost Morelli working on Feb. 1.

  2. I like Morelli A LOT, and he is admitting the process of discussion was not handled well. I am glad he did that. Only error (albeit minor) is that face guarding is not a college, but a HS rule.

  3. I was guessing they overturned because another official saw Pettigrew grabbing Hitchens face mask as Tim notes above. The poor communication/ slow timing on the reversal is what the NFL gets for using “all star” groups of officials vs crews that worked together all season

  4. Why would it coldt morrelli? The HL and BJ should be the two, if any that get penalized. Remember that playoffs are “as individuals” not crews.

  5. How about it’s so obvious and they have the opportunity to see what everyone else has seen and get it right

  6. Wow, the explanation actually makes it sound worse. No wonder so many fans don’t trust NFL officials.

    Given this non-explanatory explanation, it’s hard to discount the possibility that the screaming of 90,000 fans and the players of what is clearly one of the league’s and the networks’ darling teams, and the knowledge that that team may be ousted from the playoffs if the penalty were to be assessed as originally called, didn’t have some significant bearing on the decision to pick up the flag.

  7. Never thought much of Morelli, and this game didn’t improve my opinion of him. I wouldn’t have even had him out there in the postseason. As is, the whole game was filled with questionable calls and it spoiled it for me.

  8. I highly respect Ben, his opinion, and this site, but as I did on Twitter, I must disagree with the referee not having some responsibility for the crew in this situation.

    The point about that the referee having the quarterback as the key and shouldn’t give his opinion on the actual call, is of course, correct. Yet, the referee has responsibility to take charge when a situation such as this arises. He has a flag on the ground by the B. The H, trying to get the call right, calls the B off the flag. I believe the referee really should not just accept the H reasoning in that situation and have a conference with the B. The first question from the R should be “Why did you throw the flag?” If the R gets an answer to justify the flag, he can then ask the H about why he saw. After getting both pieces of information, the referee can then make an informed decision with the input of the two crew members whether to go with the call or pick it up. In that situation, with the game on the line, how could any referee just go with what the H and B worked out on their own and NOT get involved. Why are you the referee if you’re not going to provide some leadership in this situation? It has nothing to do whether he saw the play, it had everything to do with adjudicating the two differing views of crew members.

    Based on replay, we agree they should have went with the B’s flag, correct? So, where was the referee to make sure that the B had confidence enough to stick with it? As an R, I’m definitely asking my B what the hell he threw a flag for if he’s so willing to be called off of it.

    The H thought he was saving the crew. It was the R that could and should have been the crew saver here. Hey, if the B told the R that he kicked it, then fine. The R would be absolved. The fact that he didn’t even investigate what the hell was going on was the problem.

    You’re wearing a white hat for a reason. Use it.

    Thanks to Ben for giving all of us the forum to comment.

  9. Where was SJ (who did not throw the flag) in this conversation? The receiver was in his zone by the time the pass was launched.

  10. I’m trying to find info on Jerry Bergmans bio, and his past career in officiating. I’m not able to find much at all, that call was really suspect. I agree with mingusal. Cowboys seem to get different treatment from the NFL , also TMZ is claiming cowboys officials and referee officials were hanging out together. NFL needs to clean up some of this stuff.

  11. Highly questionable officiating throughout this entire game. There are also multiple screen shots of the Dallas defensive player holding the Lion’s tight ends jersey as he begins to run his route prior to pass interfere once. Regardless of that call being nullified, Bryant was seen right in front of the officials face on the field with no helmet, that’s a penalty every single time regardless of the situation. Lastly, when the head VP of officiating for the NFL is filmed coming off a party bus held by Dallas Cowboys officials, it makes all the viewers of the game of football take notice. When you agree to take on the responsibility and title of VP there is a certain level of integrity that you most uphold. You automatically give away your right to partake in anything that would question your integrity, its assumed, no questions asked that you understand what you have to abstain from. If you can’t follow hose simple rules, find someone that can. Furthermore, not only is your integrity questioned but sound judgement and lack thereof, which is an essential part of the position is comprised. We don’t truly know what is going on, but when you see the facts and the sum of the parts, you can make your informed opinions.

  12. The NFL should be ashamed of itself and it’s integrity of its officials. When a former head official seen THREE fouls on play from holding, pass interference, then personal foul on Dez Bryant for coming on field to dispute call it’s unbelievable. Come on people. The NFL owes the Detroit Lions organization and it’s fans a formal public apology!

  13. If you are going to make a CSC, you better be damn sure you are correct. Here, the H was incorrect and as a result, the outcome of the game was changed. I don’t know where Teddy comes up with his idea that this is an All Star crew. It is not. I’m not sure how many crews are put together presently, I assume 16 plus a few swing officials to fill in. Here is how the playoff assignments are to work, in theory. There are 16, perhaps 17 officials at each position. The top at each position, assuming they have the pre-requisites, get assigned the Super Bowl. 2 and 3 get the conference games. 4,5,6 and 7 get the week before. 8,9,10,11 get the wild card games. 12 gets the Pro Bowl. 13,14,15,16 must be terrible, as they sit home. (ha ha the big issues arises when you are assigned that last wild card game….if you sucked just a bit more, you and your family would be spending a free week in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.) This is the little joke about the playoffs that the commoners do not understand. These are not “all star” crews but rather, the top 12 of 16 officials. Basically, assuming you are eligible, you are getting a playoff game. It just won’t be with your regular crew. Ever wonder how AB ( who worked the Lions game today) gets a playoff? He screwed the pooch on Dez Bryant’s TD catch last game of regular season, was looking right at it, not even close that last foot, (in by about 8 inches) and he still called it OOB. Had to be reversed on a challenge. What a joke. Yet he must not be in the bottom 4, as here he is working a playoff game. (his as well as many others calls are regularly incorrect, yet they return year after year after year) Why? Nepotism with no accountabilty. Ever notice how the worst of them work or are moved to the deep wing position? It is because they have so little to do back there and less opportunity to FU!, and unlike any other job, there is no accountability for your mistakes. You continue to get games. It is unfortunate that very of few of you who frequent this site don’t believe this. Until the nepotism ends, and full time QUALIFIED folks who actually can officiate a game without f-ing up call after call after call, and get bounced after making the same repeated mistakes, the officiating in the NFL will continue to be as it is today, generally speaking, sub-standard. That’s just the way it is.

  14. Is this a case where the new communication system among the officials may have worked too well. Morelli gets the call radioed to him and announces it before any discussion.

    Personally, it looked like defensive p.I. I disagree with those who think replay should look at this stuff, it would really delay the games.

  15. Even if you believe Pettigrew grabbed the face mask and it should be OPI, Dez Bryant should be flagged for being 15 yards onto the field, thus being a first down anyways.

  16. “Why would it coldt morrelli? The HL and BJ should be the two, if any that get penalized. Remember that playoffs are “as individuals” not crews.”

    I think in this instance (as with most sports) – the buck stops with the Head Referee – who will be marked down for poor use of discussion / game mechanics

  17. But it was NOT picked up because of the “facemask”…he said “minimal contact.

    So that’s a red herring and they still screwed the pooch on this one….and nothing will be done or change next season.


  18. Before the game even started I told my friends that the Cowboys would win the game no matter what and the officials would end up deciding the game in their favor. The zebras didn’t disappoint. No way were the Lions walking out of there with a win.

  19. Offsetting penalties at best – replay the down. The real issue is that the referees moved to quickly and did not take the time to get in synch. No one has a crystal ball here and knows what would have been the outcome of the drive. Understandable eveyone is angry or disappointed, but their were oppotunities and Dallas took advantage of them and Detroit did not.

  20. Hey guys. I already posted this on another page, but I wanted to remind everyone of the great deals we have when you order your tinfoil hats in bulk. We’ll only have these deals active for another few months, so get your orders in as soon as possible to ensure you don’t miss out!

  21. I agree with “Observer.” Get NEPOTISM out of the game. The NCAA is even worse. Look who had Bowl assignments: Frank STERATORE and JAKE KEMP!! Hochuli’s kid is only 33 for crying out loud!! Walt Anderson’s kid is on the way, too (and if he is anything like dad, he will suck also). If daddy is an engineer, and son wants to be one also but sucks at it, I hope daddy wouldn’t jeopardize a project by having Junior on the job, so why does the NFL keep bringing in kids who are not ready for the NFL when so many others are?…I don’t recall this much ranting about the replacements in 2012 save the Seattle-Green Bay game. How soon we forget!
    Dean, HIRE SOME OF THE REPLACEMENTS who did a great job despite 2 months training as they did a better job than some of these current guys with 10 years or more and who “won” a HUGE pay raise in 2012.

  22. Jerry Jones will do whatever is necessary to make sure that Romo gets that ring, even if he has to cheat to get it.Jerry doesn’t want Romo to be perceived to be a loser. Prior to the season. The NFL of Officials partying up with Jerry & Stephen Jones on the Cowboys bus prior to the San Diego Chargers pre-season game, what’s up with that? Also every time the TV cameras show Governor Christie mug, the Cowboys wins the game, mafia too?

  23. Jerome: You are spot on. The reason the replacements became better and better (except the two or so crews who were put in there to make sure the whole thing would blow up so certain relatives could get back to work) as the season progressed was because there was absolute accountability. If you screwed up, you were sit down, and placed on “alternate” status. This was a nice way of saying to these guys “Thanks for sticking by us and ending your college career, you will be an “alternate” and no longer work on the field, and we will still pay you $2000 to sit home.” The bottom line is the guys that couldn’t do it were removed from the field, and were thanked to the tune of $2000 per week until the lockout ended. The regulars were paid $3500, and were more than pleased to work for this fee. The key was “removed from the field” for making mistakes. Personally, after week 2 of the pre-season, one crew I am aware of (for example) had two members placed on alternate status. These two guys tried, but couldn’t cut it. They made mistakes like being beat to the goal line by five yards, which we see guys getting beat all the time! The other guy missed a couple of holds and a chop block. You make these mistakes as a replacement? You were gone. You do this now, and there is no penalty. The league office slowly weeded out 300 officials down to the final crews, and even as week 3 regular season started, a very few guys were still getting placed on alternate status. Make a mistake? Blow a call? You sat down and were done. There is a reason a crew I am familiar with was superb, in fact better than most of the crews you see today. They were hard working, diligent football officials who were provided with an incredible opportunity to prove they belonged at the top. These were not “high school” guys working the NFL. Contrary to popular belief, only a few exclusively high school guys were invited, and not one of them made it. The crew I was familiar with consisted of 4 D1 or 1AA officials, one D2 guy, one arena/D3 guy, and a D3 R who was tremendous. I have seen their games, and I have heard the commentators commenting about the “excellent” job this crew was doing. For the first three weeks of the season, this particular crew was as good or better than any crew you see on TV today. This is a fact, supported by video, commentary by the TV guys, and league evaluations. But for that clown who had no business working on the field that Monday night, today we would not have the myriad of missed and blown calls we see every single game. Instead, the owners would have saved a small fortune, and been able to fill the ranks with officials who actually cared about doing the right thing, that worried about f-ing up on the field and to prevent this, actually studied, studied, studied and didn’t choke on the field, like the officials do not. Why? The bottom line to every successful business – accountability. There is no accountability currently. The Dallas Detroit was no all star crew. There are 11 playoff games, and usually 9 at each position get one. That means the bottom of the barrel (yes, a few of these were on the Dallas Detroit game) will end up working a playoff game. There are only 17 officials at each position, with 11 playoff games. Yes, the bottom of the barrel will work a playoff game. The horrendous officiating will continue, so long as the practice of hiring sons and brothers and nephews of current or retired officials continues. I know of one guy who has a dad who retired. This guy has no business on a high school field, yet after 2 years working small college, was moved into major D1, where he continues to make mistakes. I guarantee he is on the short list to the NFL, just because his dad worked on a major D1 coordinator’s crew in the NFL for years. Just because dad was a good official (he was not, he was overweight, couldnt move, and looked terrible on the field his last 5 years) doesn’t mean the kid will be a good official. Just because I may be an extremely competent salesman does not mean my kid will be the same. Yet this nonsense continues. Until such time as the league hires full time officials and the guys have to worry about being retained, this league will continue to have the horrendous officiating we see on a weekly basis.

  24. @Dave C
    Are you intending to suggest that I am not actually a seller of tinfoil hats but rather a zombie? How dare you, sir! I have exactly as much evidence to support my claim of occupation as these other individuals have to support their claims of rigged games.

  25. This play made the national news tonight as “The worst call ever!” Hopefully, the NFL can learn from this mistake and place procedures to prevent something like this from happening again. The NFL should issue an apology to the Lions and move on! I’ve always made comments that you didn’t play hard enough if one one officials call made a difference in the game. I’m not so sure now!

  26. Ref Crew missed the defensive holding (not uncommon ask any Seahawk opponent), then missed the facemask of Pettigrew (also not surprising). It’s live speed. Sadly the correct protocol happened but horrible delivery of process. The linesman and the back judge who threw the flag discussed and after talking to bj agreed with linesman as better position/view. Their failure to communicate and announcing call before the conversation is what is completely unacceptable. As Mike Carrie stated there is no face-guarding penalty as an automatic flag. Rather, there has to be enough contact to impede based on direction of player and the ball. As he noted on the radio today – Pettigrew was unlucky for momentum going forward (not towards ball that was short) and Hutchens was lucky pass was short. If Pettigrew had momentum going to the ball then any contact would be impeaching his progress. The debate on enough contact or if contact result of the facemask tug is debatable. Failure to communicate and process isn’t.

    So yes there should be a 5 yard holding call. But to say that was what cost a game at the 8+ minute mark is a bit much. Not going for it on fourth and 1, a shanked punt, giving up 20+ yes on 4th and 6, giving up 3rd and goal from the 8, somehow refusing to throw the ball beyond dump-offs with 2:30 to go and two timeouts. Getting sacked and fumbling twice in last drive. Those were player controlled and a lot more to do about the outcome.

  27. Can someone explain to me why the Spillman hit to the upper body of Golden Tate on his punt return was not “targeting” a defenseless play, ala that hit on Beasley late in the game? Different rules for different times of the game? Or, more likely, different rules for different teams. NFL = No Football Legitimacy.

  28. To “Actually knows the truth,” you da’ man! I am also very familiar with a replacement crew who worked the first Sunday night game in Denver in 2012 and then 4 nights later for the first Thursday night game in Green Bay. Only ONE of the 7 had D-1 NCAA experience (the Ref.), and the rest were D2-D3 officials who were never given a shot to move up, so why not get the best train the profession offers, right?
    Both games were VERY well officiated (which included 100% perfect coverage of the fake FG by GB, AND stopping/preventing 3 on-field fights in Green Bay that never made it on tv). Ever see a “regular” crew do so well they got those 2 games back-to-back? Oh, they also were the crew that NAILED the calls in the record-breaking OT game between Detroit and Tennessee (5 TD’s over 60 yards, and NOT ONE TIME was the GL not covered by at least one official). In the end, all to be fired/blackballed (illegally) form their college conferences. Why? They went against the so-called “brotherhood” of officiating by taking $3000 a game instead of the $155 for a D-3 game…and to make themselves better officials (which they did!). Do you think the NFL officials would have supported D3 guys if they went on strike to get $200.00 a game instead of $155? I think not!
    BTW, where are the full-time officials for each position by now? Great pay and a retirement package for a PART-TIME job!!

  29. Here, here, sounds like Jerome and “Actually knows the truth” actually know the facts. And the facts are, so long as the league continues to hire inexperienced, incompetent sons, brothers, and nephews of regular or retired NFL officials/supervisors as well as continue to make hires based solely on race, (another “unspoken” yet accurate fact) the garbage officiating product will continue. Contrary to the media, it is not that difficult a task to officiate a football game, even at the highest levels of the sport. It is simply not that difficult. People ask me all the time, “What is it like?” (To work top shelf, pressure packed games on national TV) and I respond it is a very electric atmosphere, but once the ball kicks off, it is just another football game. Pressure? What pressure? It’s a football game. Who cares at what level? It’s a football game. There are football officials out there who simply have “it” and can work a game to near perfection, no matter the level, because they have the mindset and intestinal fortitude to call a game, and not be intimidated by crowd size/noise, cameras, coaches or anything. This is because they take the time to learn the rules and mechanics and therefore are not surprised when the “S%#t hits the fan” in a game. They simply react accordingly. Sorry, media. It is not that difficult a task, split second decisions or not. Been there; done that. It truly is not that difficult. Some folks are born to officiate a football game – they have the “it” factor necessary. Hundreds of these officials exist in the country, toiling in the D2, D3 and D1AA ranks, not accepting the fact it will never happen for them as they continue to chase the dream of working in the NFL. Sadly, many of these officials are perfectly suited to work in the NFL and would never choke like the officials we see choke on a weekly basis on Sundays. The fact is, it is rather easy as long as you know the rules and are in the proper position. I have seen these type officials; they are confident (without arrogance – like most current league officials); they know they are good and they know they could do it, basically mistake free, at any level. These types of guys, however, rarely get the opportunity because of, pure and simple, the race, politics and family connections which form the major basis of hiring. You know what happens with inbreeding. I guarantee if the league saw fit to clean house (VP of officials partying with Dallas owner and no repercussion? are you kidding me?) and they brought in a new VP, free from any baggage and “promises” who was free to hire (full time) the most competent officials in the country and not be boot strapped into hiring “connected” officials or “legacies”, the league would within one year possess the best, by far, officiating staff of any professional sports league. The league would save millions in salary (game fees) and pensions (wouldn’t have to pay pension benefits) because these competent officials would be more than willing to work for 1/3 what the current staff work for; would not require pension benefits, and would understand their job was in jeopardy if they screwed up on the field. Then, and only then, will the league officiating be superb. Until then, we will continue with the weekly missed calls, (the official who failed to flag Cowboy Dez Bryant when he came onto the field – right in front of him – in the playoff game must have been terrified – I suspect because he remembered that a few weeks earlier in the regular season (look it up), he called Dez Bryant OOB on his clear TD catch in the endzone – very easy call and this official was looking right at it and still missed it and then was reversed after blowing the call – clearly he was “afraid” to flag Bryant for entering the field to argue a call because he already screwed Bryant a few weeks earlier – “all star” officials my ass). There is such an easy fix to the generally substandard officiating, and the league owners won’t take it, Well, they almost did, but for that clown making a fool of himself Monday night in Seattle. (I know plenty of guys who wanted to strangle him) Take that one play back, and we aren’t having this conversation, because the league (like MLB 20 years ago) would have then fixed all its officiating problems by finally cleaning house of the incompetent, no accountability union officials and hired the competent replacements and any competent “regulars” who would lower themselves to work for the meager $3000 game fee. Let the terrible calls continue! I will always remember the quote from the announcer “That looks like a great call. We have been hearing so much about the replacement officials and the lock out, but we are stuck with them until an agreement can be reached. But in this game so far? “Ref name” and his crew have done nothing less than a tremendous job this evening.” That’s because this crew knew if they messed up? They sat down. Sorry, folks, George Washington cannot tell a lie.

  30. Couldn’t have explained better myself. Too bad the decision-makers on Park Ave. most likely don’t read this web site. I, too, have worked VERY high-level games (80K in stands and multi-million on tv), and not once felt nervous. Like “GW” said, some people can handle the situation easily and without nerves (I think McAuley is one of those) and look on the field (with ALL acknowledgement and respect to Stuart Scott), “as cool as the other side of the pillow.” Interesting that “regular” writers on the various sections of this web site never seem to deny or try to refute things I, George Washington and “Actually Know the Truth” have written. My 2 cents: SB ref. comes down to only 2 (McAuley is out for having SB last year, and Levy has 2 and overlal was not as strong as usual this season): Vin. or Steratore. The lesser of two (cocky) evils in my opinion is Vin. Gene will have to wait one more year.

  31. The NFL does not want situations that look bad. If a player runs on the field to vehemently challenge a call and is not penalized and the flag is then picked up, does this not look like the player affected the call? Pete Morelli should never referee another game.

  32. The problem in the NFL is that too many officials are bad at their jobs, the rulebook is overly complex, and the league office stands by and does nothing about it.

    In Sunday’s Lions-Cowboys game, a pass interference penalty was correctly called on Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens. Referee Pete Morelli turned on his microphone and announced the penalty. And then he inexplicably picked up the flag, decided not to enforce it, and didn’t turn his microphone back on to explain why.

    This was a terrible call, and it turned out to be a season-ending call for the Lions. Detroit, to be blunt, got screwed.

    Let’s get all the conspiracy theories out of the way: No, I do not believe NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino fixed the game for Cowboys owner Jerry Jones just because Blandino was seen on Jones’s party bus. No, I do not believe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered the officials to make sure the Cowboys win because the Cowboys bring big TV ratings. No, I do not believe one of the officials is the NFL’s version of Tim Donaghy. No, I do not believe there was any type of conspiracy against the Lions.

    What I believe went against the Lions is incompetence. And incompetent officials blow calls every week in the NFL. And the league office lets it happen, week after week after week.

    Players get cut every week when they screw up. Coaches’ jobs are on the line every season. When was the last time a referee got fired for a pattern of bad calls?

    This isn’t a call to fire Pete Morelli because this isn’t just about Pete Morelli. In fact, I don’t think Morelli is even close to the worst referee in the NFL. That honor belongs to Jeff Triplette, whose blown calls are so legion that I’d get depressed if I listed them all here. (It says something about Triplette that he once seriously injured a player by throwing a weighted-down penalty flag in his eye, and that wasn’t even close to his biggest blunder.) Triplette is so bad that when he blew a replay review last year, the NFL responded not by firing him but by changing the entire replay review system. Now all referees have to get on the phone with Blandino while they’re reviewing a replay to make sure they’re not screwing it up. Triplette can’t be trusted to get it right on his own.

    Triplette keeps his job because NFL officials aren’t held to anywhere near the same high standards that NFL players and coaches are held to. That’s a big part of the NFL’s problem. The NFL needs to fire the officials who get the lowest scores on their evaluations, just as players and coaches lose their jobs when they’re at the bottom of the league. And the NFL needs to replace those fired officials with the best officials in college football, just as the best college players push veteran NFL players out of their jobs every year. That’s the way football works.

    Rather, that’s the way it should work. In the NFL, it doesn’t work. In the NFL, officials are handled with kid gloves and coddled with perks like playoff assignments even if their work is below average in the regular season. What the NFL should do is assign the four best officiating crews to the playoffs and have them each work one wild-card game and one divisional game, then have the two best officiating crews work the conference championship games and the best officiating crew work the Super Bowl. Instead, the NFL allows 10 different officials at each position to work in the playoffs, and the league mixes and matches those officials so that they’re often working with fellow officials they’ve never worked with before.

    There was obviously some kind of communication breakdown that led Morelli to wave off the flag on the crucial pass interference penalty against the Cowboys. Perhaps if these officials had worked together before Sunday, they would have been better able to communicate together and get the call right.

    Every year the NFL tweaks the rulebook and makes changes to the way the officials do their jobs, but if you’re hoping for real improvement, don’t hold your breath. The league office knows that Americans love their football so much that they’ll keep tuning in. Even when a game gets ruined by the refs. Where are the replacements when you need them? At least those guys were held accountable; and got much better after the early pre-season weeded out the boobs and just the good ones remained, for the most part.

  33. This is like the FIVE cops choking the single cigarette seller to death in Staten Island, every body saw it on camera but it didn’t happen -The covering DALLAS back was not looking back at the passing QB -NEVER DID , just sticking his hands in the face of the DETROIT Reciever,and HOLDING HIM- that is an egregious interference in Pro football that was called and then “;”lifted” because the Jerry Jones money fix in Dallas WAS IN. If this NFL useless apology makes it any easier for Detroit they should get a share of the shaved points from Vegas to make the unlubricated screwing they got profitable
    This is not the first time I have seen” sorry” officiating that made the entire playoff season into an obvious sham __Detroit should be playing Green Bay and Dallas should be on the couch at home. THE ONLY GOOD HERE IS THAT SUH GOES HOME,HE SHOULD BE THROWN OUT OF THE LEAGUE
    The helmetless Dallas star running on the field i n total disregard of rules is another evident “overlooked ” egregious missed call that would have helped Detroit win the game – more evidence in plain sight that apologists for the Tax Free NFL swallow because they are idiots who can someday ruin the game.

  34. I understand this Jerry Bergman has made some terrible calls in the past. He missed the obvious knee touching the ground in the Lions-Texans Thanksgiving Day 2012 game also. Was he a replacement ref?

  35. I have lost all respect for this organization (NFL). I am ashamed to have actually believed that there was integrity, competence, and most importantly, honor in this league. Those Men that bled for Detroit should be honored regardless of what Jerry Bergman and Pete Morello did in an instant what took 23 years to achieve. Owners like Jones, Ilf and a ‘few others’ (Seattle) must go away if there is ever to be a Sunday program I can watch with my grandchildren and be able to feel good about it. I will ‘never’ watch another nfl soap opera without a SOLID way to hold each referee accountable (grading system available to fans, owners) that allows the PROPER human beings to show up for a game that other human beings have paid dearly just to witness.. With incompetency, stupidity, or dishonor on the screen; I’d prefer to SAVE my money and time and just go hang out with the likes of Sharpton, Lerner, or Mr. Deblasio in person.
    Shame on you NFL for allowing this era of malfeasance and shameless characters that will never be labeled a ‘role model’ to any sane, intelligent and concerned parent. I guess the ‘not for long’ joke has some truth to it after all. Congress must act NOW to remove these exemptions that are allowed for the league; ya know, ‘one set of rules..for ALL’.
    BOYCOTT 2015 ‘ice bowl’. Competitive Darwinism at it’s absolute essence.. Absolute power ‘ASSURES’ absolute corruption..

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