In week one there was only one major error made by the replacement referees - an extra timeout given to the Seattle Seahawks in their game against the Arizona Cardinals. Despite the advantage, the Seahawks lost the game to Arizona anyway.
Week two was another matter entirely though as the inexperience of the replacement refs - a group of "small-college" referees who have been studying NFL rules since the summer, according to an ESPN article - became far more apparent.
In Monday night's game between the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, a pass by Broncos's quarterback Peyton Manning was caught by Demaryius Thomas in the end zone, but the officials missed the call. The call was eventually overturned upon review and the Broncos were credited with the score, but one has to wonder if the call would have been missed in the first place if the regular referees had been on the field.
There were a series of gaffes in the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. A touchdown pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones was called back because of offensive pass interference. While the official signaled a penalty immediately, he did not throw the yellow flag. Then during Philly's first go-ahead drive the two-minute warning was called twice and there was some confusion surrounding a forward pass by Michael Vick, which was initially ruled
Perhaps the worst error made by the replacement refs over the weekend though was during the Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams game. In the second quarter, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher challenged a fumble by running back Steven Jackson near the goal line and it was overturned. The Rams ended up getting a field goal out of the play - the margin of victory in their 31-28 win.
Based on the rules, coaches are not allowed to challenge a play when there is a turnover on the field. The challenge should have resulted in an automatic 15-yard penalty on Fisher. Also, if Fisher threw the challenge flag before the replay official called for a review, then the review would not have been permitted and the Redskins would have kept the ball, according to the ESPN article.
It's in incidents such as ones between the Rams and Redskins and the Ravens and Eagles, which are eventually going to have an impact on not only this season, but perhaps the game as well. As playoff time approaches, if there are teams that miss the playoffs - teams that may have had one or two more wins that would have secured a playoff berth if it hadn't been for the officiating - that is not only going to anger the coaches and players, who are already incensed over the use of replacement refs, it's going to anger the fans. It's bad enough that the fans are likely already noticing the deficiencies in the replacement refs and probably are beginning to feel as though they have - or will eventually - cost their team the game. It will be far worse if they feel that the officiating cost them a playoff spot.
In addition, player safety - which has been such a focal point of the League's as of late - is now called into question as well. Fewer personal fouls have been called by the replacement officials in situations where they were warranted and there was more than one game over the weekend that became a bit physical. Even players have begun to express concerns about player safety because penalties are not being called when they should.
The NFL currently has a plan in place that could potentially keep the replacement refs in place until week five if the labor dispute is not resolved. In the meantime, the coaches, players and fans will have to make due and hope that not only is an agreement reached soon, but that use of replacement refs will not have far reaching effects on the current season.