As the Ravens prepare to face the Raiders in their Week 2 matchup, we get to know the officiating crew for the game, and whether to expect a ton of dirty laundry on the field, or a crew that swallows their whistles.
Officiating Crew: Pete Morelli (referee), Ruben Fowler (umpire), Ed Camp (head linesman), Rick Patterson (field judge), Sarah Thomas (field judge), Rob Vernatchi (side judge), Dale Shaw (back judge).
The glaring name shining through in this group is, of course, Sarah Thomas.
Thomas, a pioneer in her own right, has worked her way up the ranks, starting at the high school level in her early years, and eventually becoming the 1st female to officiate a major college game (as an official for Conference USA), the 1st female to officiate in a major bowl game (Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl in ’09), and after 2 years of working in the NFL officiating development program, Thomas has now become the 1st full-time female official in NFL history.
We applaud you Sarah!
Of course, as fans, our focus is on the level of officiating more so than anything else.
What should we expect from Morelli’s crew this week?
Initially I went back to see the last time the Ravens had Morelli’s crew officiate a game, which happened to be the Snow Bowl game from 2013, when the Ravens squeaked by the Vikings with the last second Marlon Brown touchdown. Unfortunately, it appears Morelli’s crew has gotten a full makeover since then, with all new faces behind him, making any assessment of that game a moot point.
Could be a good thing, right? First time with the new crew for the Ravens?
I’m thinking not so much.
Using a near-sighted approach to this crew, I went back and watched the Texans-Chiefs game from Week 1 to see how they performed. Overall, it was a rough game. The crew came up short in big spots of the game, missing major calls in a few key moments that could have swayed the game in favor of the Texans, while also (for my viewing pleasure) getting into a near-altercation amongst themselves midgame.
The two glaring missed calls I noticed were both PI’s (pass interference), both on 3rd down plays, with one in the endzone for what could have been an easy touchdown. The first of the 2 PI’s misses was an attempt by Cecil Shorts of the Texans to turn back on a deep route. The corner ran straight through him, impeding his ability to make a play, and despite the uproar from the crowd, hands up by Shorts, and suggestion of a missed call by the broadcast team? No call. 4th down. Punt. Chiefs score again and go up 14-0.
The other missed PI proved to be even worse. In the final seconds of the 2nd quarter during the Texans attempt at a comeback, Hoyer chucked a 3rd down pass into the endzone, where Nate Washington was met with a clear hip bump/shove in the endzone with the ball in the air, that had Texans coach Bill O’Brien fuming, with a few choice words for Morelli’s crew.
The other issue that comes into play is overturned calls via replay. When an officiating crew has multiple plays reviewed and overturned, there’s some cause for concern about their judgment and/or vision on some of these plays. Unfortunately, this concern may come to light this week, as Morelli’s crew did in fact have 2 calls overturned in a coaches challenge last week, both initially called incomplete/out of bounds, and both overturned and ruled a catch.
Then there’s that dispute amongst the crew that was borderline shameful.
On a punt by the Chiefs in the 3rd quarter, the KC special teams unit dove to save the punt from reaching the endzone, and in the process, touched the goal line — therefore a touchback.
Unfortunately, the back judge saw it one way, while the line judge saw it another. The result? A heated dispute that eventually had players and other officials stepping in to break up the near-altercation.
That is flat out embarrassing for this crew, the NFLRA, and the league.
Overall, I’m cautiously optimistic about this crew heading into Sunday’s game.
I expect a fair game to be called on both sides of the ball, but I can’t shake my concern for making the correct calls consistently, especially with those 2 glaring PI’s missed last week. Both were effectively game changing calls – one early in 7-0 game, while the other was in the endzone right before half time that would’ve given momentum to Houston (who lost by 7).
Don’t get me wrong. I am not one who enjoys excessive yellow laundry on the field, especially when they are for ticky-tacky calls that could go either way.
But when blatant calls are missed, there’s some cause for concern.
You might want to have a Xanax nearby.