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Don't blame the officials, blame the rulebook

Yes, field position is very important


Heath from Piedmont, SC

With the news of yet another game-changing blown call from an official, are we sure these aren't the replacement refs?

These are the best football officials in the world, being made to enforce a rulebook that's twice as thick as the one I was handed when I began covering the NFL, and that's the problem. Think of the rules that have been added in recent years: defenseless receiver, horse collar tackle, the Calvin Johnson rule, can't hit the long snapper, runner can't lower his head, etc. How about the changes in interpretations, the protections to the quarterback, the coach's challenge rules? The game needs to be officiated by a panel, not a crew. On top of all of that, these poor guys have Mike Pereira sniping at them, looking for something he can sell to the media and fans. Even worse, today's referees have to stand in front of the crowd and the TV viewers and explain why the call was made, and "He was giving him the business" isn't eloquent enough for today's game. If you really want to appreciate how difficult these officials' jobs are, consider what it was like when Jim Tunney and Tommy Bell were the icons of their profession: They spotted a violation, they threw a flag, and then they made a gesture that corresponded with the foul they were calling. That's all. The "Immaculate Reception" is one of the most controversial calls of all time, but after Referee Fred Swearingen thought about it for 10 minutes in the seclusion of the first-base dugout, he re-emerged, walked to midfield, turned toward the press box side of the field and raised his arms. Touchdown! No explanation. No automatic replay review or coach's challenge. No Mike Pereira. Did we have to make a simple game so difficult?

Nathan from Poway, CA

Vic, it seems like everyone is forgetting that football is a team sport. Special teams didn't give the Packers good field position and, if the offense controls the ball longer with no turnovers, then Kaepernick doesn't throw for 400 yards. It wasn't just the defense that lost the game.

Sometimes I feel like one of Pavlov's dogs. In the offseason, I kept getting e-mails demanding that Randall Cobb be relieved of his kick-return duties. I said taking Cobb off returns would be a big sacrifice. So Cobb gets taken off returns and I'm getting flooded with e-mails this week complaining about the Packers' field position on Sunday. Duh!

Tyler from Greenfield, WI

So, with what you saw last week, what do you expect to see in the Seahawks and Niners matchup this Sunday? A blowout in favor of the Niners, or a slowed down defensive struggle?

I expect the 49ers to win a hard-fought defensive struggle, followed by a must-see postgame handshake ceremony between Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll. This could be good.

David from Los Angeles, CA

Vic, my strategy vs. Philly's fast-paced offense would be to take a time out after approximately every fifth play or so, depending on team fatigue and/or need for substitutions. This strategy combined with the occasional injury should make game pace seem more normal.

The Eagles ran 53 plays in the first half of Monday night's game. That's 10 times out. You better fake more injuries. Here's my strategy: Run the ball and dominate time of possession. The Eagles want to run plays. I'd try to run clock, unless the league would allow me to have 10 times out per half.

James from Lexington, KY

Vic, Spofford said you were covering the press conference, so what was the question Aaron was asked that he didn't understand or appreciate?

He was asked if he felt the Packers had closed the gap with the 49ers. I thought it was a fair question, but I knew right away the quarterback wasn't going to like it. "I don't appreciate that question or understand it," he said. Timing is everything.

Daniel from Hull, UK

I know the Packers like to run out of the shotgun with their passing threat, but it just doesn't work. Eddie Lacy was a lot more effective from the I formation.

Seven yards deep in the I, pitch it right, pitch it left and then strike up the band. Packers fans would hate me as their head coach.

Sam from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, I'm confused about the exchange between Matthews and Staley. From what I could see, Staley ran up to Matthews, got in his face and grabbed him by the pads with both hands. The resulting hits by Matthews, to me, appeared to be trying to get Staley off of him (it looked more like a shove to the face than a slap to me). Why should Staley not have been penalized for this? I would still call that pretty unsportsmanlike.

I remember from when I was a kid seeing John Henry Johnson get hit a little late out of bounds, then bend over and pick up a triangular yard line marker and hit one of the Rams over the head with it, and everybody in the crowd laughed. When did we stop laughing? When did we become so sensitive?

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