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NFL Report: A yellow flag for officials

The NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams in late September asking their employees to refrain from making public comments about the officiating. The league admitted in the letter to being concerned that the criticism could "draw significant and unwanted public scrutiny."

The NFL sent a memo to all 32 teams in late September asking their employees to refrain from making public comments about the officiating. The league admitted in the letter to being concerned that the criticism could "draw significant and unwanted public scrutiny."

Perhaps the logic was that the officiating crews do just fine all by themselves drawing significant and unwanted public scrutiny.

The memo itself was infuriating, because it warned teams it should not share things they have been told by Dean Blandino, the third-year vice president of officiating. Why so secretive? There's nothing wrong with admitting you got something wrong.

To be fair, officiating is a difficult, albeit well-paying, part-time job. The problems go beyond just the calls on the field. The rules committee has made some things so convoluted that on-field interpretations can be confusing for everyone, including the officials.

Everyone should have applauded when NBC Sunday Night Football announcer Al Michaels confessed during the Eagles' Week 7 loss to the Carolina Panthers that "I don't know what a catch is. I don't know what an interception is."

We all know what a replay is, because the only thing more annoying on an NFL Sunday is all those Draft Kings and FanDuel commercials. Those fantasy sites represent the legalized gambling that has been approved by the league, but that's another story for another time.

This is about calling games, and we all know that the NFL's replay system is in desperate need of an overhaul. How much time has been taken from your life watching a disputed call that could have been reversed or upheld immediately? Why does the referee have to go under the hood? Why can't a qualified man in the replay booth look at the replay and say, "Got it right," or, "Got it wrong," so we can move on to the next down?

It has been a difficult season for the officials, with Monday night games being particularly problematic. Two seasons might have turned Oct. 5, when Seattle's K.J. Wright intentionally and illegally knocked a fumbled football out of the end zone, ending a Detroit drive that could have given it a much-needed victory. Back judge Greg Wilson botched the call, and it is not a reviewable play. In a world where common sense rules, it could have been reviewed and corrected in 15 seconds.

A week later, 18 seconds were lost from the clock late in Pittsburgh's 24-20 win over San Diego, a game that was not decided until the final play. That kind of thing can happen at a CYO basketball game. It should never happen in a professional league that generates more revenue than any other in the world.

After Baltimore lost to Arizona in last week's Monday game, Ravens coach John Harbaugh and wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. blatantly violated the be-nice-to-the-officials memo by blasting a couple of lame calls.

One was a flag from referee Ron Tolbert after a catch by lineman John Urschel for a first down. Tolbert claimed Urschel did not report eligible. Video evidence showed otherwise. Next time, Urschel should run into the face of the referee, jump up and down five times, and scream: "I'm reporting eligible." Who cares whether it draws significant and unwanted scrutiny to the officials?

The other awful call came on a 62-yard touchdown run by Arizona's Chris Johnson when it was clear his momentum had been stopped by Baltimore's Brandon Williams.

"The forward progress was stopped," Harbaugh said. "If you hit him in that situation, then you're going to get fined and stopped. For three seconds it was stopped. He had called himself down and was sitting there. We shouldn't hit him; it would have been a dangerous play."

Smith Sr. did the best job of summing up the officials' work Monday night and, for that matter, the entire season.

"Everybody has that app Yelp, and you have reviews," he said. "Two stars."

Bad service is the problem.

A sore winner

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft should be thrilled that he sits on the throne of the mightiest team in the NFL, but power and money apparently cannot buy class.

During a ceremony honoring linebacker Willie McGinest Thursday night at Gillette Stadium, Kraft decided to take an unnecessary shot at the Indianapolis Colts, the opponent at the center of their deflategate penalties.

"There's nothing more satisfying than saddling the Indianapolis Colts with a loss, something the Patriots did 16 times in Willie McGinest's career," Kraft told the crowd at Gillette Stadium.

It's hard to believe beating the Colts is more satisfying than four Super Bowl victories.

The L.A. solution

It's amazing that 21 years have passed since the Raiders and Rams left Los Angeles, leaving the second-biggest market in the country without an NFL team. The Rams, Raiders, and San Diego Chargers are all now using L.A. as leverage in an effort to get new stadiums from their current cities, but at least one of them, and probably two, are going to end up in Southern California. The Rams are the only team that truly belongs there.

Thumbs up

Give Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew credit for understanding his own situation. Asked this week about head coach Jim Caldwell's job status beyond this season, Mayhew said this: "I don't know if I have enough capital from anything, ever, so it's hard for me to start talking about other people's situation."

Thumbs down

The NFL, during its own annual October campaign to promote breast cancer awareness, fined Pittsburgh's DeAngelo Williams $5,757 last week for promoting breast cancer awareness. Williams had the audacity to wear eye black with the words "find the cure" and a pink ribbon last Sunday. His mother died from breast cancer in 2014. The league has also fined Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward twice this season for wearing eye black that says "Iron Head," as a tribute to his late father, Craig "Iron Head" Heyward. Steelers cornerback William Gay was fined for wearing purple cleats for trying to promote domestic violence awareness. His mother was killed by his stepfather. The NFL clearly needs a common sense department.

Weekend's best

Top early afternoon game: Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

The unbeaten Bengals are coming off a bye week and can take a commanding lead in the AFC North with a victory. The Steelers (4-3) will have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who returns after missing four games with a left knee injury. The Bengals are trying to get to 7-0 for the first time in franchise history.

Top late afternoon game: Seattle at Dallas

This did not figure to be a Week 8 matchup of losing teams when the schedule came out, but the loser here could be in real danger of missing the playoffs. Matt Cassel will make his second straight start at quarterback for the Cowboys, who figure to benefit from wide receiver Dez Bryant's return after he missed the last five games with a fractured foot.

Sunday night game: Green Bay at Denver

This is only the fourth time in NFL history that two teams with 6-0 records are meeting. The most recent was a meeting between Tom Brady's New England Patriots and Peyton Manning's Indianapolis Colts in 2007. The Pats won, but the debate over who was the better quarterback remained. No QB debate to be had here. Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is considerably better than an aging Manning.

Monday night game: Indianapolis at Carolina

If someone asked you in the preseason which one of these teams would be unbeaten going into Week 8, the Panthers would not have received many votes. The Eagles, however, saw firsthand last week how good the defensive trio of Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, and Josh Norman can be when healthy. The Colts lead the AFC South with a 3-4 record despite the struggling play of QB Andrew Luck.