The NFL has been lucky, so far. No specific bad call by the replacement officials directly has resulted in a team losing a game that it should have won.
But there have been several calls that helped draw a dotted line to victory to a team that otherwise could have lost.
The most glaring mistake came on Sunday, when the replacement officials — aided by the non-replacement replay official and by a non-replacement league supervisor who is now in the booth — gave the Titans 12 extra yards on the opening drive of overtime, which resulted in the field goal that eventually won the game.
Peter King of SI.com explains what happened in Monday Morning Quarterback. The Titans had the ball on their 44. A pass from quarterback Jake Locker to tight end Craig Stevens resulted in a flag for unnecessary roughness on a hit from Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch. The officials also ruled that Stevens had caught the ball for a 24-yard gain, but on replay the call was overturned.
And when it was time to sort everything out, the officials marked off the penalty against Tulloch not from the Tennessee 44 — but from the Detroit 44.
The extra 12 yards gave the Titans a first down at the Detroit 29 instead of the 41. The Titans earned one more first down before the drive petered out, but there’s no way to know what would have happened if the Titans didn’t get the extra 12 yards.
The fact that the Lions had a chance to tie or win, which culminated in a curious decision that resulted in them doing neither, prevents the mistake from being the one that can easily be couched as a game-deciding blunder. The bigger problem is that the mistake happened even though the replay official and league supervisor are regular employees, not replacements.
So why the screw up? We suspect that everyone involved in game management is feeling a ton of pressure and stress, which can be the breeding ground for blunders.
Or maybe the locked-out officials are sufficiently skilled to make up for the incompetence of the replay official and/or the league supervisor.