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Winners and losers in the wake of NFL referee ordeal

Referee Gene Steratore looks during game Thursday Baltimore first officiated by regular NFL crew this season. | Rob Carr~Getty Images

Referee Gene Steratore looks on during the game Thursday in Baltimore, the first officiated by a regular NFL crew this season. | Rob Carr~Getty Images

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Updated: November 1, 2012 6:42AM

Three games into the NFL season, the league and its officials finalized an eight-year deal.

‘‘It’s always about creating a win-win environment,’’ Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. ‘‘I think the officials won, and the league won. Each won what was important to them, and there was give and take on both sides.’’

Therein lies the irony: The replacement refs were in a lose-lose position, sent onto the fields of the most-watched American sport, ill-equipped to handle the speed of an NFL game and or the complexities of its rules.

‘‘Even the regular officials make mistakes. I think these replacement officials, in my judgment, had gotten to the point where the scrutiny was such that [they couldn’t] sustain it,’’ Blank said. ‘‘I think, on some level, they probably figured this is enough for them and they’re probably glad it’s over, as well. They’ve been so severely criticized.’’

The tipping point happened Monday night in Seattle. On the game’s final play, a Hail Mary pass from Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to former Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate, Green Bay Packers safety M.D. Jennings appeared to intercept the ball. One replacement official signaled touchback; another signaled touchdown.

Minutes later, a replay official — a full-time employee of the NFL — upheld the on-field ruling of a touchdown.

A flurry of outrage was immediately triggered and dragged on for days until the deal was consummated late Wednesday.

So, did this dark time hurt the league?

‘‘I don’t think so,’’ Blank said, noting that the sides had been working toward a deal for a long time. ‘‘The gaps were substantial. The last deal was done in a different environment; it’s a new reality. It takes awhile for everyone to understand what the new reality is.’’

Blank, a member of the NFL’s negotiating team, said there was an ‘‘ongoing sense of urgency.’’ He added that the league and representatives for the officials met last week and over the weekend.

Now the league has a 10-year collective bargaining agreement with players and an eight-year deal with referees.

‘‘Whether you’re a fan or a coach or a player or a media partner, stability and having a strong foundation to your sport is very, very important,’’ Blank said. ‘‘I think this is another piece of the puzzle.

‘‘In my opinion, the financial side of the deal was fair and balanced, as good as you were going to hope for. You have a win-lose situation, it’s never sustainable.’’


Classy Packers

Several Green Bay Packers players blasted the NFL immediately after the 14-12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night. Somewhat curious was the simple fact that among the most vocal were offensive lineman — the players largely responsible for Aaron Rodgers being sacked eight times and pressured a dozen more times.

But many other players handled the disappointment with class, as did Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

‘‘Each one of these games is kind of life-and-death, and the season can swing on them,’’ Altanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said. ‘‘It’s pretty painful. But their coach handled it well.’’

Spreading the rock

Found this interesting nugget from STATS — a look at Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s performance so far, based on receiver sets.

Cutler actually has done best in two-receiver sets, completing 17 of 31 passes for 289 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 83.9. He’s not great in four- and five-receiver sets (70.0 rating), but he’s awful in three-receiver sets. With that personnel, Cutler is 23-for-47 for 250 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions. He also has been sacked seven times.

Getting to the quarterback

The Bears lead the NFL with 14 sacks, two more than the Packers and the Arizona Cardinals.

Henry Melton leads the way with three sacks for the Bears. But STATS keeps tracks of hurries and knockdowns and combines that in a nifty category called “Total Pressures.’’

Guess who leads?

Julius Peppers, who has 2½ sacks, has six total pressures, followed by rookie Shea McClellin with five.

Israel Idonije and Stephen Paea have four total pressures. Melton and Corey Wootton have three apiece.

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