By Matt Ambrose,
Sports Business Writer
It was another rough week for NFL referees as a second officiating error occurred and resulted in the suspension of an NFL official.
This call nearly cost the Pittsburgh Steelers a victory last Monday night. In the late stages of the fourth quarter of the Monday Night Football game between the San Diego Chargers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, 18 seconds mysteriously ran off of the game clock before the Steelers’ final drive of the game. The time error, however, did not negatively affect the Steelers, as they were able to score the winning touchdown as time expired on a one yard run by Le’Veon Bell.
Questions began swirling after the game as to what caused the clock error and how none of the seven on-field officials were able to notice it. NFL spokesman, Michael Signora said in a statement the day after the game that, “It is the responsibility of the side judge to supervise the timing of the game.” The side judge from Monday night’s game, Rob Vernatchi, has since been suspended for week six of the NFL season for his officiating blunder.
This controversy comes on the heels of another referee error during the Lions vs. Seahawks game the previous Monday night.
Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright illegally batted the ball out of the back of the end zone after a Detroit fumble. One missed call by an official is bad enough, but two referee errors in back to back weeks during primetime, nationally televised games is something to be concerned about.
“It does happen where a few seconds tick off; it doesn’t happen very often where 18 tick off. It shouldn’t happen,” said former NFL Head of Officiating Mike Pereira. “Ultimately, the officials on the field are responsible. Everybody needs to be cognizant.”
Some have argued that the clock error ended up having no impact on the game since the Steelers were still able to drive the field and score. Those 18 seconds could have given the Chargers a chance, albeit slim, to throw a couple deep passes to the end zones and see what happens.
The NFL should be happy that the Steelers were able to score on that final drive, as they would find themselves in hot water had another officiating error directly impacted the outcome of a game for a second week in a row.
NFL referees are human and they will make mistakes, but with the clock being such an important aspect of the game, it creates mass confusion as to how this obvious error was not noticed and corrected. How could no one have noticed that 18 seconds ran off the clock at a time of the game where the clock is the most important aspect of the game?
NFL officials had a wake-up call over the past two weeks, and they will be monitored closely by all NFL fans as week six approaches.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, October 20th print edition.
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