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Fans will remember the first round of the 2021 NFL Playoffs for many reasons. Unfortunately, several of those reasons have to do with questionable (at best) performances by referees and officiating crews during the games. That fact makes it fitting that the slate ended with a Monday Night playoff game between the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals during which Peyton Manning crushed the indecisive referees working it.

NFL referees had a tough Super Wild Card Weekend

Both Saturday and Sunday of Super Wild Card Weekend featured controversial plays involving the officials.

On Saturday, a member of referee Jerome Boger’s officiating crew clearly blew a whistle while a Joe Burrow touchdown pass was still in the air. The errant whistle seemed to be a reaction to Burrow nearly going out of bounds before the throw.

That should have negated the play and brought up a Cincinnati Bengals fourth down.

Instead, Boger and his crew huddled and decided the whistle came after the TD catch, which it obviously did not. The Las Vegas Raiders lost by seven points.

On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys were driving late to try to win the game against the San Francisco 49ers. With 14 seconds left and no timeouts, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and offensive coordinator Kellen Moore inexplicably called a quarterback draw up the middle for Dak Prescott.

The scrambling signal-caller got down with about nine seconds to go, but referee Alex Kemp’s umpire couldn’t get to the ball to spot it until it was too late. The clock hit zeroes, and time ran out on Dallas’ comeback and its season.

Peyton Manning crushed the referees during the Monday night wild-card game between the LA Rams and Arizona Cardinals

(L-R) Peyton Manning answers a question, as members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021, participated in an enshrinees roundtable on August 8, 2021 in Canton, Ohio; head linesman Jerod Phillips (No. 6) talks with line judge Maia Chaka (No. 100) as back judge Greg Wilson (No. 119) talks with referee Clay Martin (No. 19) in the first half of the game at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Sunday, November 14, 2021.
(L-R) Peyton Manning, referee Clay Martin’s (No. 19) officiating crew | Photo by Gene J. Puskar-Pool/Getty Images; Photo by Terry Pierson/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images.

Super Wild Card Weekend’s last game was the Monday nighter between the Arizona Cardinals and LA Rams.

On the season’s final Manning Cast, Eli and Peyton Manning welcomed Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to the show in the second quarter. While the Mannings chatted with the former Miami Hurricanes defensive tackle, referee Clay Martin’s crew started slowing down the game.

Several conversations preceded a long replay as the Rams tried to punch it in on the 1-yard line early in the quarter. Just a few minutes later, Kyler Murray hit A.J. Green down the sideline, but Rams defensive back Nick Scott immediately knocked the ball free.

A long, drawn-out conversation between two, then three, then four officials followed. That’s when Peyton finally lost it:

We’re getting a lot of referee work in this game. We’d like to see some more completion by the Cardinals. No. 19, the referee, is our leading receiver right now for the Cardinals. He’s getting more action than anyone else on the team, Dwayne. … We got another commercial. There’s a shock. Dwayne. You’re gonna be late to work tomorrow. This second quarter is going to be the longest in the history.

Peyton Manning on Rams vs. Cardinals referees

Eli even chimed in after Sean McVay threw his challenge flag, opining, “They’re challenging the challenge? Lot of challenges. A lot of reviews going on here so far.”

The Mannings did, eventually, get past their frustrations with the officiating, although Peyton did roll his eyes at the zebras several times at different points later in the broadcast.

And, despite the slog of a second quarter, the slow pace of the officials did give the Mannings and all the broadcasters at the game something to talk about because the match on the field wasn’t much of a contest.

Despite the referees, the LA Rams impressed in the final wild-card game

While the referee’s crew struggled during the LA Rams vs. Arizona Cardinals game, it didn’t affect the outcome like the crews over the weekend.

The Rams simply didn’t let that happen.  

The floodgates opened when Matthew Stafford hit Odell Beckham Jr. for a 4-yard touchdown pass with just under four minutes left in the first quarter. The offensive onslaught didn’t stop until early in the third quarter when the Rams went up 28-0, effectively ending the game.

The Rams offense looked buoyed by the somewhat miraculous return of running back Cam Akers, who ruptured his Achilles’ tendon in July. The enhanced running game took pressure off Stafford and increased the effectiveness of the offense’s play-action attack.

The Rams were so dialed-in on Monday night that they even pulled out a trick play, and Beckham completed a 40-yard pass to Akers.

Aaron Donald, Von Miller, and the rest of the Rams D harassed, flustered, and contained Kyler Murray all night on the other side of the ball. The unit finally looked like the high-priced collection of talent it is.

Getting healthy and peaking on both sides of the ball during the playoffs is an excellent combination for teams hoping to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

The LA Rams look to stay on this roll in their Divisional Round matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, at 3 p.m. EST on NBC.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference


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