By Steven Keys

Ref-Gate 9-24-12: Green Bay v. Seattle

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (Dickens).”

When the replacement referees finally closed the book on NFL Week 3 last year with their now infamous “simultaneous catch” call, it sure as heck must’ve felt like “the best of times” for winner Seattle, as Green Bay strode off the tundra in dismay.

Never in this writer’s memory had an officiating call been so criticized, so over-blown in its claimed imperfections, as was this game-ending judgment call.

With just ticks remaining in the MNF contest and down 12-7, rookie Seahawks’ QB Russ Wilson made a desperation Hail Mary heave where end-zone occupants Golden Tate and defender M. Jennings took simultaneous possession of the pigskin and a TD was called, giving Seattle a 14-12 triumph.

In aftermath, Packers’ fans fumed & players pouted, bookies bemoaned and many in sport media, ESPN in particular (Young & Dilfer), feigned anger, fanning firestorm flames in apparent attempt to oust the replacements, please GB elite and keep the story hot. Eager to diffuse, the League stated Tate’s contact with Pack’s Sam Shields might’ve drawn an offensive interference penalty but backed-up the referees and the on-field ruling stood.

Though ACME (Packing) angst was understandable and NFL’ers are programmed to pounce on officials for anything & everything, most fans understood well (Pack-backers, too) that a degree of Hail Mary shenanigan at contest’s end has long been accepted as part of the NFL ‘community standard’ for officiating.

With fan anger ready to boil over as WK4 games approached, NFL cufflinks and striking referees moved quickly to settle their labor dispute, the brave replacement referees were thanked for their service rendered and then shown the door.

A possible real-life disaster had been averted.

“I’m OK, You’re OK”

That’s the title of a ‘67 best-seller (Harris) that sometime in the 70s found its way into our house. But I was just a kid and the simple slap-stick philosophy of Gilligan’s Island re-runs was more my speed. And still, I haven’t read the book but hear-tell “OK” was okay, giving us humanoids a break from strict Calvinism, Freudianism and all that jazz.

Back to football…

Tide played “OK” at Kyle Field in besting the Aggies last Saturday, as most predicted, while Johnny Manziel played pretty phenomenal in a college sport now made for speed (Oregon), unless Saban Stoppers, Standordites or NU Wildcats stroll the other sideline.

Only time you’ll see John run faster than on turf is when he exits College Station. Most think that’ll be season’s end. The boy has wild oats to sow and $$$ in his eyes. The wise lad stays matriculated at A&M and becomes greatest QB in college history. Some silly GM may take him early in April’s NFL ‘14 draft, but his size, lack of pocket poise, more red-flags than a Nebraska / Oklahoma game in…the past, and tendency to fear-flight will all make him a ‘duck outta water’ in the pro pond (See: Kaep / RG3 / Vick).

Best (Football) Screen on Television

If you like following all the action for Sunday‘s early NFL slate, are frustrated by the excessive commercial downtime in regular game coverage, have no need for in-game TV commentary, sideline fluff and boorish halftime shows, then NFL Game Center is the place for you (NFLN / 1-4PM / EST).

Cherry Picks Week 3 (Half-Pint Ed.)

Green Bay Packers (1-1) @ Cincinnati Bengals (1-1): 1:00 EST, Fox

Beating a Tomlin led, slow to re-tool Steelers’ squad at PBS is nothing to crow about, though Lewis does have Bengals headed in the right direction when just year ago his seat was warming. And McCarthy, he’ll have his seat as long as he wants, or as long as A+ Rodgers marvelously keeps matriculating. Packers benefit from early road tests and appreciate Starks sparks but can’t crow about besting an iffy DC squad at Lambeau. Spread it (Dalton), hold it (no T/Os), press it (AR) and Cincy wins.

Houston Texans (2-0) @ Baltimore Ravens (1-1): 1:00 CBS

These AFC toppers still search for finesse. It’s only WK3. Champs BAL adjust w/out D-legends Lewis & Reed (HOU), while Texans gut-out two Ws. Oilers get run edge (Tate / Foster) as both QBs (Schaub / Flacco) watch v. INTs (3). It’s WK3. Wouldn’t know by scores but Cushing’s return is impactful. If it comes to kickers, last week bodes bad for both squads: Bullock (0-3), Tucker (0-2), but a bigger game for Houston. Texans win.

Chicago Bears (2-0) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (0-2): 8:30 NBC

Started write on Indy / SF, then thought, why? Jim better SD&J Colin on read part of option or 2013’s up in flames, fast, while mustangs loss at home to MIA juggernaut is step back. Bears look good early in past (Lovie), then fail GB test. Maybe Trestman changes that. Like Texans, monsters show moxie: no panic, play 60, good things happen. Jay forcing again (INTs) while Forte’s tank swishy but can’t be #1 target. Steelers’ staple run-game non-existent while defense bars the gate. Mike needs answers fast, gets some, Pitt wins.

Steven Keys
NFL Hunch Line
Photo Credit: A. Rodgers / / Flickr – M. Morbeck / 9-1-11

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