Questionable calls by replacement referees led to an ugly first-half scuffle. (Daniel Shirley/US Presswire)
The NFL's replacement refs have come under increased fire in Week 2, and Monday night's Denver-Atlanta game won't do anything to turn down the heat.
The first half was a comedy of errors, starting with a pair of reversed calls -- officials initially gave Michael Turner a touchdown on a 2nd-and-goal, then changed the decision after review; and later, John Fox successfully challenged a pass interference call because one of his defenders had tipped Matt Ryan's pass before contact occurred. Late in the first half, Demaryius Thomas caught a pass and was ruled by the refs to be out of bounds, with the automatic booth review saving the day and ruling Thomas' catch a good touchdown. And earlier on that drive, the officials marked off 11 yards after calling a five-yard defensive holding penalty on Atlanta with the Broncos facing 4th-and-1.
But the real officiating travesty took place late in the first quarter, when Denver's Knowshon Moreno coughed up a fumble. After both teams scrambled for the loose ball on the ground, one of the Broncos player came away from the pile with it. Only the officials already had signaled an Atlanta recovery, which stood.
While that was going on, the two teams engaged in a brief scuffle near the Denver sideline. During that tiff, Atlanta's Ray Edwards appeared to throw multiple punches -- what should be an automatic ejection. The officials flagged Edwards 15 yards but allowed him to stay in the game (the penalty was announced as a call on "93, red").
By the time all of that was sorted out, the game had been delayed for nearly 10 minutes.
Here's a sample of how the Twitter world reacted to Monday's debacle:
ESPN game announcers Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden did not hold back during the first half, either, with Tirico commenting several times on the questionable officiating and Gruden mentioning how hard the game was to watch with the constant stoppages.
And former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira, now an analyst for FOX, simply threw up his hands in exasperation: