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One call that looks easy for NFL to make Paul Sokoloski Opinion

February 17. 2013 1:30AM
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They nearly made a game-changing call while trying to give the wrong team the ball.

Then the officials couldn't even get the down right.

Maybe it's too much for them, asking officials from the lower levels of college football to replace striking officials at the highest level of pro football.

But the NFL deserves better.

Appalled Eagles fans suggested they're getting less than the best Sunday when the two-minute warning was given twice in a matter of minutes during the second half.

"Yes, I got the explanation," said Eagles coach Andy Reid, whose smirk suggested the reason wasn't a very good one.

And it wasn't.

It turned out the officials started the game clock when they weren't supposed to, allowing five seconds to run down before sending both teams to the sidelines to huddle for the two-minute warning. Upon realizing their mistake, the officials brought the Eagles and Baltimore Ravens back onto the field for one play, then gave the teams another two-minute warning that lasted 30 seconds.

At least they set the ball in the right spot that time.

The officials at Lincoln Financial Field had trouble doing that earlier in the game.

After calling a controversial offensive pass interference penalty that took a touchdown away from the Ravens, the officials couldn't figure out where to move the ball.

The penalty call was perplexing enough to the Ravens.

"There was a lot of contact the whole game, I know that," said Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who spent 10 years as an assistant coach for the Eagles. Later, he added after Philadelphia's 24-23 victory, "That challenge for us now is what constitutes what? You know, what constitutes illegal contact, what constitutes pass interference? I'm not sure right now."

But the officials seemed to even confuse themselves. They originally marked off 10 yards for the penalty, moved it back an extra five yards, then moved it up to the initial – and correct – marking of a 10-yard infraction.

Quentin Harris may have flagged the problem.

The former Meyers High School standout who now works as an advanced scout for the Arizona Cardinals pointed out during Sunday's game in Philadelphia the subtle differences between college and NFL rules.

There is no clock stoppage for a two-minute warning in college football. And pass interference calls are 15-yard penalties in the college game, while they're spot fouls for defensive infractions and 10-yard mark-offs for offensive interference in the NFL.

So it's easy to understand how college officials can get a little confused working under a different set of rules, or become a bit bewildered while working games where the action is much faster than what they're accustomed to.

The guys in stripes nearly gave the game back to Baltimore by ruling a late-game pass by Michael Vick was a fumble, before the replay booth reversed the call. Vick scored the winning touchdown on the next play.

"They have been put into a tough situation," Reid said of the current crop of officials, "and they're trying to do the best they can."

It's not good enough. The NFL should settle the score with its regular officials at all costs, before botched calls really start costing teams.

The don't want their destiny decided by replacement refs. Especially knowing there's no substitute for quality.

Paul Sokoloski is a Times Leader sports columnist. You may reach him at 970-7109 or email him at

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