Referee’s Lockout Over; Ravens hold off Browns

It’s been a busy and important couple of days in the NFL, with both on and off field action making the headlines. Thankfully, the referees lockout has been resolved and the league can return to normalcy with regards to the officiating. It goes without question that the debacle on Monday night accelerated talks between the league and the referees union, so maybe something good can come out of a disaster like the one that occurred in the Green Bay-Seattle game. In other news, the Baltimore Ravens moved to 3-1 after they were ran closer than expected by an ever improving Cleveland Browns team. Brandon Weeden led a late drive which resulted in a hail mary being heaved into the end zone, unfortunately for the Browns the ball fell incomplete (unlike last Monday night in Seattle) and the Ravens held on for Joe Flacco’s ninth win out of nine games played against Cleveland. I’ll review both of these events in this post, and hopefully offer an insightful opinion on what has been a busy couple of days in NFL land.

Roger Goodell and the league really had no choice but to end the lockout after the steadily declining standard of officiating from the replacements. The locked out refs’ must have been filled with glee every time a replacement missed/blew a call last weekend, whilst Goodell himself would have been grimacing at the leverage the officials were gaining. However when it’s all said and done it is the fans, the coaches and the players who suffered the most over the seasons first three weeks, so the end of the lockout should make the games more enjoyable for the consumer and participants whilst the billionaire owners are forced to fork out just that little extra on the referees pension fund.

According to Pro Football Talk, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Giants co-owner John Mara were the two driving forces behind making a deal happen so they deserve some praise, whilst if you’re looking for a villain of the piece then Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Jets owner Woody Johnson apparently were two of the owners who were still keen on prolonging the lockout even after last weekends comedy of errors.

One of the other nuggets of information that has emerged over the past couple of days is that the officiating pool will now expand to include, in essence, a ‘practice squad’ where referees can be trained year round and then inserted into the refereeing rotation should another official be under performing. This should help the overall standard improve, whilst hopefully the fact that referees will now be looking over their shoulders will spur them on to improved performances.

One last word on the replacement refs’ before we move on to the actual business of playing football –  this quote from replacement official Jeff Sadorus is a gem; “Everyone wanted perfection, but come on: the last guy who was perfect, they nailed to a cross. And he wasn’t even official”. So there you go!

Now, to last nights game in Baltimore. The Ravens were expected by most to run away with this one, is the fact that they ended up clinging on for dear life will tarnish the W just a tad. Nonetheless, a win is a win and the Ravens have put a pile of pressure on Cincinnati this weekend as they visit Jacksonville whilst Pittsburgh lay idle in their bye week in the knowledge that they’ve lost half a game in the standings.

As far as individual performances went, Brandon Weeden caught the eye with a 320 yard performance through the air. Weeden’s gradual improvement since his week one horror show has been a positive for the Browns despite their 0-4 start to the season. Trent Richardson extended his touchdown streak to three games, although he could only manage 47 yards on the ground. Richardson has been steady thus far this year, but Cleveland fans could be forgiven for having expected more out of the drafts third overall selection a quarter of the way through the season. For the Ravens Cary Williams was the star defensive performer with a 63 yard interception return for a touchdown, and Anquan Boldin broke out for the first time this season by catching nine balls for 131 yards. Joe Flacco amassed 356 passing yards on top of two scores (one rushing, one passing) and kept the Ravens momentum going after last weeks victory over New England. The way this season is shaping up Baltimore looks to be one of the best teams in the AFC, and if it hadn’t been for a late Michael Vick inspired touchdown drive when Philly defeated them the Ravens might well be undefeated.

I’ll be back tomorrow with my predictions for this weekends action. Additionally, I’m hoping to release a quarter-season review sometime next week so long as I can find the time, so stay tuned!

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