The Washington Redskins aren't blaming Joshua Morgan's ball-throwing tantrum for their loss to the St. Louis Rams. Nor are they blaming the replacement officials, whom they feel failed to take charge of a game that was chippy from the outset.
Still, they really want the regular refs back.
"You've got a whole crew of rookies. What do you expect?" linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said Monday. "It's just like a team of rookies. If you've got a whole bunch of rookies on an NFL roster, you're going to have a lot of mistakes."
Concerns about the men in stripes managed to eclipse the latest performance from Robert Griffin III as the players looked back at Sunday's 31-28 defeat. The rookie quarterback threw for 206 yards and ran for 82 for the Redskins (1-1), and the defense lost two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Adam Carriker for the season with injuries.
But the play that will define the game came with 1:18 to play, when Morgan caught a third-down pass and was tackled at the St. Louis 29-yard line. Morgan was shoved by Cortland Finnegan after the whistle and retaliated by throwing the ball at the Rams cornerback, earning a 15-yard penalty that turned a would-be-tying 47-yard field goal attempt into a 62-yarder that wasn't close.
Morgan accepted responsibility after the game, saying he should have kept his poise. Yet, given the tenor of the day, staying calm might have been more of the exception than the rule.
"I've never been in a situation where you felt there was going to be an explosion on the field, and you're hoping that doesn't happen," coach Mike Shanahan said. "I thought it was very close to losing control."
Referees do more than make calls. They control the game and its flow, the way a good referee monitors a championship boxing match. Players were in each other's faces from the first quarter Sunday, but defensive captain London Fletcher said the officials never pulled him aside to tell the players to cut it out.
"I just think that they're just so inconsistent that it definitely has an effect on the games," Fletcher said. "You were hoping it would get better."
At least, as cornerback DeAngelo Hall pointed out, the missed calls, questionable calls and extracurricular activity didn't favor either team.
"If they didn't call something, they didn't call it both ways. ... We can't sit here and say the refs cost us the game because that's just not the case," Hall said.
But, when asked if he wanted the real refs back, Hall sounded ready to settle the labor dispute himself.
"I don't know what they're arguing about, but I got a couple of mill on it, so let's try to make it work," Hall said. "I'm sure the locker room could pot up some cash and try to help the cause out."
Shanahan said there were "too many" questionable plays to list. He was particularly upset about a helmet-to-helmet hit on tight end Fred Davis that wasn't called, as well as the lack of a 15-yard penalty on Rams coach Jeff Fisher for throwing the challenge flag on a play that was automatically reviewable under the league's new replay rules.
Shanahan said he didn't speak to Morgan on Monday about the receiver's crucial penalty, nor did Morgan have to apologize to the team. After all, according to the coach, there were "probably eight other scenarios in that game" when players lost their composure, something that probably wouldn't have been tolerated by the regular officials.
"I guess it is a testament," Hall said, "to how well those other guys work."
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