NFL dodges a bullet when replacement officials make huge gaffe

Sep 10, 2012, 1:08 AM | Updated: 2:22 am

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The NFL caught a break Sunday in Glendale.

With the Cardinals clinging to a four-point lead in the game’s final minute, the Seattle Seahawks called for a timeout.

Problem was, they didn’t have any timeouts left to call, after using their final one a couple plays earlier when receiver Doug Baldwin suffered an injury attempting to make a catch.

Or so we thought.

“I went out there when the player was down in the end zone and said that is their last timeout, because a player injured in the last two minutes of the half, whether he is on the field, if they have to stop play they have to take their timeout,” Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said after the game. “So I came back to the sideline thinking that they didn’t have a timeout.”

Turns out they did, but only because the officials messed up. After previously announcing that the Seahawks had burned their last timeout because of the injury, the crew headed by Bruce Hermansen allowed Seattle coach Pete Carroll to call for another stoppage in play.

After much confusion — and time — it was ruled that Seattle should not have been charged a timeout when Baldwin was hurt because the clock was already stopped due to the incomplete pass.

Nope.

“It was my error,” Hermansen said after the game. “We gave [Seattle] the additional timeout because of the incomplete pass stopping the clock before the injury occurred. When in effect, the clock has no bearing on the play at all, whether it’s stopped or running, we should not have given them the additional timeout.”

The Cardinals hung on to win the game 20-16, but it’s the type of mistake that would have looked real bad for the NFL if that proved to make a difference in the game’s outcome.

After all, it’s one thing to miss calls — every ref does that. They’re only human, you know. But when using replacement officials while trying to negotiate a new contract with the league’s regular refs starts having a direct impact on wins and losses, well, that’s an issue.

But it wasn’t, at least not on this day.

Because as it stands, the error Sunday is just a footnote in the disappointing narrative of refs around the league being in over their heads on NFL fields.

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