By Matthew Asher
If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell thought he was being criticized about the replacement officials before the Broncos/Falcons Monday Night Football game, just wait until later this week. If this game isn’t the last game with the replacement referees, Goodell needs prepare for an unheard level of backlash. The only good that can be said about this game is that the regular officials should be returning next week.
In what should have been an instant classic, the Falcons’ 27-21 victory over the Broncos will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. For Matt Ryan, this was supposed to be the game where proved he should be included in the same sentence as Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning as one of the elite quarterbacks of the league. Ryan even threw for his 100th career touchdown pass in the game. Sadly, the officiating is all that people will be talking about.
Twitter blew up with all of the ridiculous penalties, flags and general sloppiness of the officiating. A few favorite tweets were “Somewhere in Atlanta there is a Footlocker with no employees.” And, “I’m switching over to Monday Night Raw. Bottom line…better officiating.” The first half took two hours. Two hours. In which 30 minutes of football was played.
Now that the obligatory rant on the officiating is done, here’s a quick rundown of the good and bad. You should know what they ugly will be.
Atlanta’s Defensive Backs. When Peyton Manning starts a game out throwing three interceptions in the first eight minutes of a game, with one nearly returned for a touchdown, you know you’ve got a chance to break this game wide open. And for Falcons cornerback Robert McClain, congratulations on your first NFL interception.
Matt Ryan. Congratulations Matty Ice for your 100th career touchdown. You were an impressive 24-36 for 219 yards, 2 touchdowns and most importantly: no interceptions.
Atlanta’s Offense. In the first quarter, the Falcons offense was stagnant at best. With the defense forcing Denver to commit four turnovers in the first quarter, the score should have been much higher. Instead of potentially having a commanding 28-point lead, Matt Ryan and company had just 13 points to show for the defense’s hard work on the field.
Simply looking at the statistics, it would appear that Denver had control of the opening quarter. Other than the score, Denver outgained the Falcons in almost every meaningful statistic. Denver had twice as many first downs and nearly four times the total offensive yardage as well as possessing the ball nearly twice as long.
Atlanta’s rushing attack. Just like last week, the Falcons had trouble moving the ball on the ground. After Peyton Manning threw an opening-drive interception, Michael Turner needed three attempts to score from the 1-yard line. The third attempt, with Turner jumping over the pile, was still very close to being ruled no touchdown. For the game, Atlanta ran for 67 yards. Michael Turner had an anemic 2.5 yards per carry. If the Broncos hadn’t committed four turnovers in the first quarter, there’s a very good chance Atlanta wouldn’t have won.
The officiating (you knew this was coming). Many were unaware a coach could challenge a penalty call. Denver did this twice and got one call reversed which ended an Atlanta drive.
While debating a call, the referees left their microphone one once. Hearing these men just proves that Roger Goodell needs to agree with whatever demands the real referees want, because these replacement refs are in over their heads.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.