NFL exec claims Rams-Seahawks was year’s ‘worst officiated game’ as referees face heavy scrutiny: report
Referees are likely accustomed to enduring criticism from fans, but they now may face scrutiny from executives and coaches across the NFL.
After a series of controversial calls in last week's pivotal regular-season finale between the Rams and the Seahawks, multiple executives and coaches are calling for wholesale changes to referee selection and training process, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter.
The executives and coaches believe the officials missed several crucial calls during the game.
Seattle ultimately won in overtime, 19-16, which put an end to the Detroit Lions playoff hopes.
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Schefter also reported that the NFL's competition committee is aware of what a source described to ESPN “as the worst officiated game of the year.”
It appeared the calls in question benefited the Seahawks, but did not do the Lions any favors. A Seattle loss would have given Detroit a chance to clinch the NFC's final wild-card playoff spot.
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The Lions still went on to defeat the Packers on Sunday night, despite the team already knowing they were eliminated from the postseason.
ESPN learned that some are calling for sweeping changes to how the league screens, hires, and ultimately trains officials in an effort to avoid a repeat of what happened in the Week 18 game.
“The Lions should be livid,” a source told ESPN. “It was an awful way for them to end their season.”
In the fourth quarter of the Seahawks-Rams game Los Angeles defensive end Jonah Williams was flagged from running into Seattle's punter Michael Dickson.
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NFL rules state that running into the kicker happens when a defensive player “contacts the kicking foot of the kicker, even if the kicker is airborne when the contact occurs,” or when a defensive player “slides under the kicker, preventing him from returning both feet to the ground.”
Video replays appeared to show Williams being pushed into Dickson which negates a running into the kicker penalty, but officials did call running into the kicker, giving the Seahawks better field position and a fresh set of downs. Seattle ended the drive with a game-tying field goal.
A league official told ESPN they assessed that the referee who threw the flag did not look at the appropriate angle and therefore did not see Williams being blocked into Dickson.
In the closing seconds of regulation, star defensive back Jalen Ramsey was flagged for unnecessary roughness for a hit on quarterback Geno Smith. Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf proceeded to put his finger inside Ramsey's facemask.
Metcalf was not penalized by the referees for his actions
In overtime, Smith threw an incomplete pass which arguably could have been ruled as intentionally grounding. Smith's pass landed several yards short of the closest eligible pass-catcher in the area, tight end Noah Fant.
Also, during the overtime period, Quandre Diggs intercepted a pass from quarterback Baker Mayfield. Some believed Diggs engaged in taunting after the interception.
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The seventh-seeded Seahawks lost to the 49ers on Saturday in the wild-card round of the playoffs.