PHILADELPHIA - Some days, it might sound like woe-is-me moaning or self-pity when a team or a player sounds off on officiating after a loss.
The Ravens’ postgame comments Sunday were a little bit different. Coach John Harbaugh called the game “chaotic” and later admitted part of it was the officials.
Referee Robert Frazer and his band of replacements often had trouble knowing where to spot the ball on a simple penalty call, at times left the mic on during private conversations for all to hear, went to the final two-minute warning with 2:05 remaining on the clock, had difficulty keeping the Ravens and Eagles from tussling, and struggled with a host of other calls and incidents.
This wasn’t normal complaining. Ray Lewis and the Ravens want the normal officials back, and the veteran linebacker believes every team in the league has a beef.
“I think all around the league there’s things that are happening,” Lewis said. “When you’re looking at the films and you’re looking at the games, I mean, wow, how can you call that pass interference? How can you not call that? And it’s different things, and it’s nothing about them personally. We’re not directly attacking them, but we are saying that we need the guys that do this for a regular job. And the time is now. How much longer are we going to keep going (with replacement officials)?”
Is there any other way to fix the problem without bringing the old officials back?
“I don’t know if there’s any other way. I don’t have an answer,” Lewis said. “I just know some calls around the league, the teams and the league is being affected by it, and it’s not just your team.
“If they want the league to have the same reputation it always has had, then this is a problem. Get the referees in here, let the games play themselves out. We already have controversy enough with the regular refs calling the plays. So for us to come here and have to deal with this, I just think definitely fix it.”
The two most magnified calls of the game from Baltimore’s perspective were the offensive pass interference penalty on Jacoby Jones on the visitors’ second-to-last possession and the overturned fumble call right before the Eagles’ winning touchdown.
On the pass interference, Jones and the Eagles’ defensive back were battling with each other all the way down the field with Jones winning in the end, pushing away in the end zone to come up with a 25-yard touchdown grab, nullified by the penalty. The official didn’t even throw a flag. He just called it.
The other controversial play came with two minutes remaining when Haloti Ngata sacked Michael Vick on second-and-goal from the Baltimore 1-yard line, jarring the ball loose and allowing Ma’ake Kemoeatu to recover the fumble. It was a toss-up play with Vick’s arm moving forward, but it wasn’t clear if a receiver was nearby, and it could’ve been intentional grounding. Upon review, the officials overturned the call, giving the ball back to the Eagles on a non-fumble.
One play later, Vick scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run.
“For Haloti to make that play and the ball to be coming out, clearly if you watch the play, you can watch it a thousand times, for the ball to be coming out the way the way it’s coming out, how can you overturn that?” Lewis said. “You have to have a certain type of evidence to overturn that and you can’t overturn that because somebody tried to push the ball with their hand. Once again, I believe if the regular refs were here, that call doesn’t get overturned.”
Normally reserved quarterback Joe Flacco even let it fly a little after the 24-23 defeat.
“The NFL and everybody always talks about the integrity of the game and things like that, and I think this is kind of along those lines,” he said of the replacement officials. “Not to say that these guys are doing a bad job, but the fact that we don’t have the normal guys out there is pretty crazy.
“I don’t necessarily think they’re doing a bad job. I just think there’s some things where they’re a little unsure, and you never know if one of them’s going to be called or not. Like I said, I might sound a little bit like a baby, but it’s just the way it is.”