I think I speak for every NFL fan when I say I have seen enough. And I was writing that line before I watched the ending of the Green Bay-Seattle game on Monday Night Football.
Since the replacement officials took over with the NFL and referee union at odds, we've seen it all -- ridiculous holding penalties, really bad offensive pass interference calls and everything in between. I'm not even certain the men officiating the game know the entire rule book. Enough is enough. We need Ed Hochuli, we need Mike Carey and heck, I'd even welcome back "Tuck Rule" ref Walt Coleman.
If player safety is a concern, we need the regular refs because clearly the games are getting out of hand and it will only get worse. If the integrity of the game is a concern, we need the regular refs because games are being decided by poor calls that absolutely will factor in which team gets home-field advantage in the playoffs. If the fans are important to the game, we need the regular refs because the product that is being put on display for the fans is not up to the standard that has been set over the years.
I realize that standard has had some bad moments, from Hochuli's horrible call against the Chargers in Denver in 2008, to Orlando Brown getting a flag in his eye, to Phil Luckett incorrectly calling the coin toss. But in each case, every official knew the rule book inside and out, and the game was the centerpiece of the conversation. There were bad calls, no doubt, but it wasn't for a lack of football knowledge.
We might not always agree with the calls Hochuli or Cary or Coleman have made, but we always have believed they had control of the game and made calls based on their impeccable knowledge of the rules. These replacement officials are not up to par in terms of knowing the rules, the mechanics of each call and how the game has been played. There are holding calls that are not holding. There are pass interference calls that are not pass interference. There are interpretations of the rules that are completely incorrect. These guys are in over their heads, and we all see it in every game.
I understand this is an ongoing negotiation and both sides believe they have valid reasons for their positions, but the good of the game must come to the center of the talks. Both sides must find a way to settle this, through conversation of giving and taking. This is not about who has the leverage; this is about working to find a middle ground and settle the dispute.
Once the regular refs get back to work, most of us will continue to complain about the calls. But we won't complain about the officials not knowing the rules or losing control of the game. We don't have that right now.
After Monday night, there should be ongoing talks until we gain a resolution. We want to see Hochuli in his skin-tight ref shirt. We want to see Carey emphatically signal first down. And I want to continue to complain each time I see Coleman make a call. Please talk, please compromise and please come back to work.
THINGS I LOVED
I loved that the Atlanta Falcons gave me reason to eat my words. The Falcons have won two games on the road in Kansas City and in San Diego, which are tough places to win. I've always seen the Falcons as a good home team and a bad road team. But this year, with quarterback Matt Ryan playing at a very high level, Atlanta is now just a plain old-fashioned good team.
I loved that Baltimore Ravens receiver Torrey Smith was able to handle his emotions and play well despite losing his brother earlier in the day to a horrible motorcycle accident. Smith, who was sensational throughout the night against the New England Patriots, grabbing six catches for 127 yards and two touchdowns, is slowly becoming one of the big playmakers in the NFL. Nothing can ease the pain that Smith is dealing with right now, but helping his football family win a game serves as a great tribute to his brother, Tevin Jones.
I loved watching Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder lead his team to victory over the powerhouse San Francisco 49ers. Ponder has really developed in his second season; he looks like he can be the man to carry the Vikings for the future. Receiver Jerome Simpson is coming back from his suspension this week, giving Ponder another weapon and perhaps making the Vikings offense even more explosive.
THINGS I HATED
I hated watching the New Orleans Saints play defense. The Saints could not tackle, defend the run or cover the pass against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. I know the Saints miss the leadership of coach Sean Payton, and I know they're learning a new defensive system under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, but they are not good enough in terms of talent. They look slow, lack a four-man pass rush and cannot cover. Other than that, things are fine in New Orleans.
I hated watching the Washington Redskins play defense. At least I learned my lesson from last season, when I picked the Redskins, who eventually finished 5-11, to win the NFC East. They fooled me once; never again. Washington is vastly overrated on defense -- the 'Skins have some quality "name" players, but the team does not produce quality play. In the third year of coach Mike Shanahan's rebuilding project, Washington does not seem to have the answers on defense, from scheme to talent.
I hated watching the Pittsburgh Steelers play defense. In a 34-31 loss to the Oakland Raiders, the Steelers did not look like the team they once were in terms of their ability to rush the passer. Pittsburgh looks too slow right now. The Steelers need to get injured veterans Troy Polamalu and James Harrison back, and they could also use an infusion of youth. As things stand, the offense is going to have to carry Pittsburgh.
THINGS ON MY MIND
» Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy played like someone who was once a third overall draft pick, picking up two sacks and forcing a fumble Sunday. He needs to stay healthy and continue to play at that level this season.
» If running back C.J. Spiller has to sit out with the shoulder injury he suffered on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills will miss him badly, as he seems to play at a level different from anyone else on the field. Spiller made the Cleveland Browns defense look really slow when he had the ball in his hands.
» St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola is going to make a ton of money as a free agent in the offseason. His quickness is hard to cover. If the Rams hadn't cut current Cincinnati Bengals receiver Andrew Hawkins before the 2011 season, they would have two of the quickest players in the NFL on their team.
» Losing Darrelle Revis is a huge blow to the New York Jets, but they have other issues on defense, starting with their inability to control the line of scrimmage. Even after running back Reggie Bush left with an injury, the Miami Dolphins knocked the Jets back and ran the ball into the teeth of New York's defense.
» I loved the competitive nature Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker showed in getting his team a 44-41 overtime win against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, even if the opposing secondary was a mess. Still, the Titans have to find a way to get more physical up front.
» The Arizona Cardinals sacked Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick five times on Sunday. The Cardinals have a tough defense, but the Eagles have some major issues on their offensive line, starting with right guard Danny Watkins, who has not played well all season.
Follow Michael Lombardi on Twitter @michaelombardi.