Referee Pete Morelli and crew yanked from Sunday Night Football after Cardinals-49ers debacle

Dec 1, 2015, 9:07 AM | Updated: 11:19 am
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Nothing like hiding a problem.

Anybody who watched the Arizona Cardinals beat the San Francisco 49ers 19-13 on Sunday was frustrated by the officiating crew.

Referee Pete Morelli and the rest of his crew struggled mightily in the game. As a result, the NFL has removed Morelli’s crew from Sunday Night Football duty in Week 13. Instead of officiating the high-profile, nationally-televised game between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, Morelli and Co. will work a different game, according to Pro Football Talk.

The problems started Sunday in the first half in Santa Clara. The website has a thorough description of what transpired:

Things started to unravel for the crew in Santa Clara, Calif., as the 49ers were caught with 13 players on the field. Because there was a quick snap, four officials threw their flags at the completion of the down. (The referee, umpire, head linesman, and line judge all have the duty to count offensive players.) Morelli enforced this as a dead-ball foul, but in reality, this is retroactive to the snap, because the crew can clearly establish the personnel that were on the field at the snap. Therefore, it is (a) 5 yards and repeat the down, or (b) decline the foul and take the result of the play. The crew enforced this from the dead-ball spot and counted the down. (While 12-in-the-huddle can be called between downs, it may only be called against the offense.)

Once the next snap occurs, that misapplication can’t be corrected.

Shortly thereafter, there was a confusion on the number of the down that lead to an excruciating six-minute delay to rectify. At one point, Morelli announced “third down,” before eventually settling on second down. During the process, a Fox Sports cameraman zoomed into the log maintained by the down-box operator.

“It was just embarrassing,” said one officiating source.

The problems continued later in the half when the crew botched the interpretation of an illegal-touching penalty on Cardinals receiver John Brown.

“The officials were struggling, mightily,” Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians said following the game. “I mean, they can’t count to three.

“I got so many explanations, I got tired of them, because they were just running out of them. We complete a pass for a first down. I’m not sure the spot was correct so we hurry up and run the ball and they’ve got 13 guys on the field. We accept the penalty — that’s first-and-5. They gave us five yards after the play, which was wrong, and made it 2nd-and-3. That’s not what we accepted and that was the whole problem. It was a FUBAR on their part. They can try to explain it. They’re wrong.”

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