NFL acts against bungling officiating crew

The NFL has levied punishment on one of its officiating crews after a string of egregious errors in the 49ers’ 19-13 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

Early Tuesday morning, the NFL announced Pete Morelli and his crew had been removed from the Sunday Night Football matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and Pittsburgh Steelers.

In Levi’s Stadium and on social media, San Francisco fans derided several questionable calls Morelli made Sunday. It wasn’t the Quinton Dial roughing the passer penalty led to the NFL taking action, but that it took Morelli and his crew nearly 10 minutes to figure out what down it was after a penalty early in the first quarter.

Many times this season, NFL fans have been left baffled by a man with a whistle. And not only over specific questionable calls, but also for what seems to be a lack of understanding of the league’s rules.

It had always seemed, in the past, that the league office feared a decision like this for the precedent it would set, to avoid having fans calling for a repeat each week. Perhaps the mistakes have reached a boiling point, forcing the hand of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Seattle primetime football has brought countless questions: What is a “Fail Mary”? Does the intentional grounding rule really state that the ball must get back to “or around” the line of scrimmage? Is a ball being punched to fly out the back of the end zone really not punishable as it being forced to do so?

Ask an NFL referee what constitutes a completion and you may get nothing more than a dumbfounded look. Much like the one Calvin Johnson received when his touchdown catch in Sept. 2010 was ruled an incompletion.

The TD catch, ruled incomplete with 30 seconds left, allowed the Chicago Bears to win 19-14.

And, who can forget Jerome Bettis calling “tails” on the opening coin toss in overtime on Thanksgiving Day in 1998:

The Pittsburgh Steelers lost that game three minutes later without ever getting the ball.

Then there was a gaggle of horrendous calls, also made by a Morelli crew, in this NFC Championship game in 2010:

The New Orleans Saints not only won that game against the Minnesota Vikings, they went on to win the Super Bowl.

It has been a long time coming for NFL officials to be held accountable. Perhaps this is just the beginning, though the question remains, is being moved from primetime to an afternoon game punishment enough?