Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Officials 'Down' Blunder Wrecked Rams Season

The blunder by the NFL's replacement officials in Monday night's game in Seattle, whose call gave the Seahawks a contentious 14-12 win over the Green Bay Packers on a last-play pass into the end zone, brought to mind a  controversial mistake by referees at the L.A. Coliseum in 1968.
In early December, the Los Angeles Rams, who were coached by George Allen and quarterbacked by Roman Gabriel, played the Chicago Bears in a must-win game for the Rams who were battling the Baltimore Colts for the Coastal Division title.
With about a minute left in the game and the Bears ahead,  17-16, the Rams had a first down near the Chicago 20-yard line. On the first play of that series, Los Angeles was called for holding.  The Bears accepted the penalty, which pushed the Rams back. However, instead of it being first and 20, the officials had the down marker reading second down. They took a down away from the Rams, and after Gabriel's next three passes fell incomplete, the Bears had the ball, and the game.
By taking away a down, the officials might have cost the Rams a chance to make the NFC playoffs. Baltimore was awarded the Coastal Division championship and the Rams were out.
The next day, Commissioner Pete Rozelle suspended the entire officiating crew for the rest of the season and the playoffs. The head of the crew was Norm Schacter, the principal of Los Angeles High School and one of the most respected referees in the NFL.
Rozelle's decision is quite a contrast from the NFL's latest reaction to an officiating screw-up, and as it is being reported, the officials that worked that game are expected to be back on the field this Sunday.

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