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Replacement refs continue bungling

Patriots' Belichick latest to take umbrage with NFL fill-in officials

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Replacement officials are getting to Bill Belichick, too.

The New England Patriots coach grabbed the arm of an official as they were leaving the field Sunday night after rookie Justin Tucker's last-second field goal barely sneaked inside the right upright, giving Baltimore a 31-30 victory.

Belichick said he doesn't expect to be fined for making contact with the official, although that usually is NFL policy.

"I'm not going to comment about that. You saw the game," Belichick said in his postgame news conference. "What did we have, 30 penalties called in that game?"

Actually, it was 10 for 83 yards, fewer than the Ravens' 14 for 135 yards.

"It's our job to go out there and control what we can control," Belichick added. "That's what we're going to try to work on. Talk to the officials about the way they called the game. Talk to the league about the way they called it. I don't know. But we just have to go out there and try to play the best we can."

The kick was close, but replays clearly showed it was good.

Week 3 produced suspect calls during several games, even as the league and the locked out officials' union met.

Two people familiar with the talks said the sides held negotiations Sunday. It was uncertain whether progress was made in an attempt to reach a new collective bargaining agreement, or when further negotiations would take place.

The two people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the talks are not being made public.

The NFL locked out the officials in June after their contract expired. The league has been using replacement officials, and through three weeks of the regular season there has been much criticism over the way some games are being handled.

Particularly on Sunday.

Replacement officials admitted making two mistakes in Minnesota's victory over San Francisco, while a few other games included questionable calls that could have affected the outcomes.

Referee Ken Roan said he twice granted 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh video challenges after Harbaugh called timeout in the fourth quarter. Neither challenge should have been allowed once Harbaugh asked for time.

"What I told him was, 'Well you challenged it not knowing what the result of the play was going to be,"' Roan said. "So I granted him the challenge and we went and looked at it. That was wrong. I should not have."

Both mistakes happened in the span of six plays in Minnesota's 24-13 upset of the 49ers.

"My interpretation of it was that he could do that based upon the time factors and not knowing it was a challengeable play to begin with when he called timeout," Roan said. "If you don't have a timeout to lose, you can't make a challenge."

Earlier Sunday, the NFL players' union sent an open letter to team owners calling for an end to the lockout.

In the Lions-Titans and Bengals-Redskins games, officials marched off too much yardage on penalties.

Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch's helmet-to-helmet hit on Craig Stevens wound up as a 27-yard penalty in Tennessee's 44-41 overtime win. In OT, from the Titans 44, Jake Locker passed to Stevens over the middle for a 24-yard gain and Tulloch was flagged for the hit. Fourteen yards were added to the end of the play, which then was reviewed and overturned because the ball hit the ground.

However, the penalty still is enforced. Instead of 15 yards, officials marked it off from the Detroit 44 -- the wrong spot.

"As soon as the play was declared incomplete it becomes a first down and it becomes 15 yards from the play before," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.

The Redskins were penalized 20 yards instead of 15 for unsportsmanlike conduct in the final seconds of their 38-31 loss.

Robert Griffin III spiked the ball to stop the clock with 7 seconds left. Then tight end Fred Davis was called for a 5-yard false start penalty.

According to Washington coach Mike Shanahan, at least one official indicated there would be a 10-second runoff, ending the game -- and the Bengals, led by coach Marvin Lewis, started walking onto the field. There shouldn't have been a runoff, though, because the clock had been stopped by the spike. The Redskins began arguing, and eventually the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 25, 2012 C7

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