Criticism of replacement referees has intensified each week. (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

Before the NFL season opened, it seemed likely that there might be a deal in place between the NFL and the locked-out NFL Referees Association, which would mean that replacement referees would make a brief appearance as a stopgap measure to handle games.

Consequently, the NFL told broadcasters, Fox analyst John Lynch said on the Dan Patrick Show, to go easy on the criticism. By the next week, they were fair game, Lynch said. That would help explain the general impression that the first week’s games were controversy-free, while the performance of officials has seemed to deteriorate since. The culmination came Monday night, with a botched call that cost the Green Bay Packers a victory over the Seattle Seahawks. 

“I know Week 1 the league kind of duped every network and called and said, ‘Hey we’re close to a deal so have your guys go easy,’ ” Lynch said. “And so that was kind of the edict from up top: Go easy on these guys.”

Patrick, who works NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” studio shows, told Lynch he was unaware of the so-called edict, which ended Week 2.

“And so the next week it was take the gloves off, say whatever you want,” Lynch said. “And we have.”

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