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Replacement Officials Blow Game-Changing Call Against Cowboys

With the NFL employing replacement officials during the ongoing labor dispute with the NFLRA, it was expected there would be some painful issues with the unseasoned crews working the preseason games. If the NFL is expecting to use the replacement officials once the games count, however, then mistakes such as the one made in the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers game cannot be made.

In the second quarter, with the Cowboys looking to build on a 10-0 lead following Brandon Carr's second interception of Philip Rivers, Dallas quarterback Kyle Orton had moved the offense into Chargers territory with just over a minute remaining in the half. On first-and-10 from the San Diego 30, Orton's deep pass intended for Andre Holmes bounced off several defenders before eventually ending up in the hands of Changers linebacker Donald Butler.

The play was blown dead and flags were thrown. After a long discussion, the officials announced the penalty was for an illegal hit to the head of a receiver by Chargers safety Eric Weddle, with the interception standing. The replay officials upheld the interception.

Many football fans were left scratching their heads over the legalities of the ruling, and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio explains it was the biggest gaffe of the preseason for the replacement offiicials.

Following yet another extended discussion after the play, the officials gave the ball to San Diego and marked off the personal foul against the Chargers for the illegal hit. The correct move, as anyone who pays attention to NFL football knows, would have been to wipe out the interception, give the ball back to the Cowboys, and mark off the penalty against the Chargers from the previous spot.

Florio also points out that with every turnover being automatically reviewed by replay officials (who are not replacements) the call should have been reversed.

The Cowboys would lose the game 28-20.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.