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NFL Pre-Season Week 3: Joke’s Over. NFL Needs to Get Real Refs Back

MINNEAPOLIS – It was one of those pre-season games that does little more than rip off the ticket buyers. It was three hours of one’s life that he or she will never get back.

Percy Harvin: Not quite perfect.

The San Diego Chargers had three injured starting offensive linemen so they left quarterback Philip Rivers (Charlie Freakin’ Whitehurst started at QB) and all-pro tight end Antonio Gates back on the West. The Minnesota Vikings sat out receiver Jerome Simpson, refused to dress Adrian Peterson and pulled Toby Gerhart from the game with three minutes to play in the first quarter.

In the end, the Chargers won 12-10 on a 45-yard Nick Novak field goal as time expired, but this game was screaming to be pout of its misery at halftime. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder went nione-for-16 for 115 yards and no touchdowns while Percy Harvin, one of the few Vikings offensive starters to play the entire first half caught two passes for 53 yards and dropped a perfect pass from Ponder that would have resulted in a touchdown.

“I really liked some of the things our first team defense did,” said Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier. “They played extremely hard. We didn’t come up with the turnovers that we’d like, but I thought our first unit did everything we asked.”

That statement is true, but with one caveat: They played against Charlie Freakin’ Whitehurst.

It was a dreadful football game. However, it was not as bad as the officiating. The NFL replacement officials were so bad in the second quarter that Chargers head coach Norv Turner wasted both of his challenges within a four-minute stretch.

Replacement officials: Nice try.

With about 12 ½ minutes left in the half, Vikings runningback Lex Hilliard put one on the ground long before his knee hit the turf but the closest official ruled him down. Turner threw the flag and upon review the officials got it right.

About four minutes later, the replacement officials called an interception by San Diego’s DeAndre Presley as incomplete pass. This was an interception you could see clearly from the Auxiliary Press Box at the Metrodome without replay but one of the replacement officials missed it right in front of him. Turner won another challenge.

There were also two horrendous pass interference calls against Minnesota. The TV camera flashed on Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier both times and he didn’t say a word. Just frowned and shook his head. The NFL’s labor dispute with the real officials has lasted just about as long as it needs to last. The league needs to pay up. The NFL is a multi-billion industry that is being officiated by bad high school refs. I don’t believe anyone can referee anything properly at any time, but I also believe you can get worse. And right now officiating in the NFL is worse than it’s ever been. This is downright stupid.

Andrew Luck: Very nice.

After the game, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe Tweeted: “The NFL really needs to kiss and make up with the refs. These replacements are horrible. Frankly, it’s kind of embarrassing.”

Indeed.

Week 3 of the NFL’s seemingly unending four-week pre-season schedule is over. Here is what we’ve learned:

(1) The Carolina Panthers aren’t doing a lot with Cam Newton in the pre-season and it’s pretty obvious that the Washington Redskins aren’t doing much with Robert Griffin III. On Saturday night, the Redskins beat Indianapolis 30-17. Andrew Luck went 14-for-23 for 151 yards and a touchdown during his stretch while RG3 went 11-for-17 for 74 yards and a TD. However, Washington had a better defense and running game (Alfred Morris carried 14 times for 107 yards) and the ‘Skins won 30-17. But both young quarterbacks are exceptional and both will give their fans plenty of thrills this season.

Terrelle Pryor: Best QB in Oakland?

(2) Oakland beat the Lions 31-20, but three interesting things happened on the Coast. Carson Palmer was mediocre at quarterback for the Raiders (17-for-26 for 181 yards and no touchdowns) while Terrelle Pryor put up 227 yards and three touchdowns on only three completions (three-of-five for 137 yards and two touchdowns) and five rushes (five carries for 90 yards). That was exciting. Meanwhile, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford injured his non-throwing hand, but won’t miss any regular season action.

(3) New Orleans beat Houston 34-27, but that wasn’t the story. The story was the same as it’s been throughout the entire pre-season: Houston’s Matt Schaub is the hottest quarterback in the game. Mr. August went 15-of-18 for 194 yards and a touchdown. There has been no better quarterback in the pre-season than Schaub.

Russell Wilson: He can play.

(4) Seattle rookie Russell Wilson appears to have beaten out veteran Matt Flynn as the starting quarterback in Seattle. Friday night, Wilson went 13-for-19 for 185 yards and two touchdowns; carried twice for 58 yards; and put up 37 points in a 44-14 shellacking of the Chiefs in Kansas City. During the pre-season, the Seahawks third-round draft pick has gone 35-of-52 (67.3 per cent) for 464 yards, five touchdowns and only one interception. He has also rushed 10 times for 150 yards and a touchdown They’re calling it Russellmania in Seattle and it just night be for real.

(5) Speaking of Seattle, on Friday night, Terrell Owens caught two passes for 41 yards while Braylon Edwards caught one pass for 32 yards as the battle of the veteran cast-offs continued. On Sunday, Owens Tweeted to his fans that he’d been released. It just might be over for T.O. and for those of us who love great quotes, that would be sad.

(6) Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers seemed to get his act back together after last week’s mess against Cleveland. He completed 12-of-22 passes for 154 yards and also rushed six times for 52 yards and two touchdowns (Aaron Rodgers rushed six times for 52 yards in a pre-season game?) as Green Bay smacked Cincinnati 27-13. Runningback Cedric Benson was solid for the Packers with six carries for 37 yards.

(7) Cleveland’s rookie No. 1 Brandon Weeden got back to reality after last week’s monster game against Green Bay. Weeden went nine-for-20 for 117 yards and put up only three points, as Cleveland was pasted 27-10 by the Eagles. Colt McCoy, who was being showcased for a possible trade threw for 74 yards and touchdown. They should have showcased him to be their starter.

(8) Pittsburgh won 38-7, but it was 14-7 when the starters left the game at halftime. Take away a beautiful 98-yard drive orchestrated by Big Ben Roethlisberger, and the Bills stayed with Pittsburgh on every level. No doubt, however, that Pittsburgh’s third-stringers and rookies were better than Buffalo’s third-stringers and rookies in the second half. Still, the Bills were not as bad as 38-7 would indicate.

Tony Romo: Mid-Season form.

(9) Dallas quarterback Tony Romo played without his top three receivers — Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten — in a 20-19 win over St. Louis. However, while the original plan was to have Romo play three quarters, he was gone in the middle of the second quarter when he put up these numbers: nine-for-13 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. What more does a coach need to see?

(10) The Giants lost 20-17 to Chicago, but this is pre-season. The score doesn’t matter. What matters is that New York’s Eli Manning went 17-for-21 for 148 yards and a touchdown and looks like he’s in mid-season form. Meanwhile, Brandon, Manitoba’s Israel Idonije had a tackle and an assist and looked good in his one quarter of play.

(Matthew Hamilton is the official photographer of The Huddle)

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