Replacement officials taking heat

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The Colts were incorrectly told at the end of their game that accepting an offside penalty would start the clock. So, quarterback Andrew Luck spiked the ball to stop it and set up Adam Vinatieri’s 53-yard field goal that gave Indianapolis a 23-20 win over Minnesota.

Feisty play was a common theme around the league, as well. Players are seemingly getting away with being more physical, especially after the whistle. Officials appear reluctant to call personal fouls, opting instead for offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties that won’t dissuade guys from going after each other as much.

The officials singled out an offender in the final minutes at St. Louis. Washington receiver Josh Morgan reacted after being tackled _ and then shoved _ by Cortland Finnegan, tossing the ball at the Rams cornerback and drawing an unsportsmanlike penalty. That turned a potential game-tying 47-yard field goal into a 62-yard attempt, which Billy Cundiff missed short.

“I’ve never been a part of a game that was that chippy,” Washington’s Hall said. “Just so much extracurricular things going on after the play.”

Philadelphia receiver Jason Avant predicted replacement officials would have trouble keeping players in line.

“When you go into a game, you know what things you can do to get away with, with these refs that we have,” Avant said a few days before the season opener. “Guys are going to kind of cheat.”

As a result, Avant and many of his peers are concerned about safety.

“If they’re going to press player safety,” Buffalo center Eric Wood said, “and they’re going to have this multibillion-dollar industry, they should probably try to get something done to keep the product high.”

In 2001, the lockout lasted for one week of the regular season before a settlement was reached. This was the second weekend the replacements were used, and the NFL has drawn up a five-week schedule for using them if the labor dispute is not resolved.

In Week 1, there was one major error, when the officials awarded Seattle an extra timeout in the final minutes of a game at Arizona. The Cardinals held on to win and the crew’s referee admitted the mistake.

“I don’t know if there’s a newfound appreciation or anything like that, but those guys have been doing it for a long time and they put a lot of time and hard work into going out there and doing this and seeing those games,” Flacco said about the regular officials. “It’s not easy to be down there and be officiating games that are going full speed at this level, so that’s my opinion of it.

“It’s tough to just get thrown right in there and be perfect.”

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AP Sports Writers Tom Withers in Cleveland, Joseph White in Ashburn, Va., John Wawrow in Buffalo, Will Graves in Pittsburgh, Michael Marot in Indianapolis and Paul Newberry in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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