Author: Sam Gemini
The NFL’s struggling officiating crew sunk even lower on Sunday afternoon in Foxborough. For years, the league has been battling bad management, replay controversy, and blown calls. Last season we cringed as pass rushers were arbitrarily flagged for breathing on star quarterbacks. This year it’s excruciating pass interference reviews that virtually never overturn the call on the field. And who could forget the recent decade when nobody, not even Senior Vice President of Officiating Alberto Riveron, knew what a catch was. Yes, it took the NFL almost ten years to establish something as fundamental as a catch!
As if these administrative gaffs aren’t bad enough, the on field officiating has been on a steady decline. The New Orleans Saints did not play in last year’s Superbowl despite having beaten the Rams in the NFC Championship. This was because the officials sent the Rams to the Superbowl on an egregious—some would say unforgivable—pass interference no call in the final minute of regulation. In general, the officiating this NFL season has been incredibly inconsistent with potentially a record amount of flags thrown. In week six at Green Bay, the officials called nonexistent illegal hands to the face on the Detroit defense, taking the ball away from Matt Stafford and the Lions in the final minute. The final straw came in New England Sunday afternoon with the Chiefs taking on the Patriots.
The Chiefs had taken a commanding 23-7 lead until the Patriots blocked a punt and scored to make it 23-13. On the ensuing Kansas City possession, New England forced a fumble and recovered the ball. The return would have given the Patriots a touchdown, cutting the deficit to three. Unfortunately, none of it counted because the officials blew the play dead, claiming Travis Kelce was down before the ball came loose. The replay clearly showed Gilmore punching the ball loose well before Kelce was down. The ball was given to the Patriots, but a touchdown was taken off the board.
Despite this misfortune, New England regrouped and led a successful drive to the red zone. This officiating crew, having already put forth a candidate for worst call of the year, could have simply allowed the rest of the game to unfold as it should. But they were determined to top themselves, and it wouldn’t be long before the opportunity presented itself.
N’Keal Harry caught a pass from Brady and turned upfield, reaching to break the plane of the goal line before going out of bounds. Despite Harry clearly being in bounds the entire way, the side judge blew the play dead and called back the touchdown. The proper thing to do would have been to call a touchdown on the field and allow video replay clear up uncertainties. But this side judge, who was standing five feet away from the play, decided he didn’t need to see the
replay and would simply call it wrong right then and there. New England, having used up the last of its challenges on the previous abysmal call, would go on to kick a field goal after being stopped on third down, cutting the deficit to seven. Points were taken away from the Patriots for the second time on this possession.
On the final possession of the game, the Patriots moved into the red zone once more, but were stopped on fourth down while trying to tie the game. Had the game transpired without any officiating mishaps, New England would have been able to kick a field goal and send the game to overtime. But the refs denied them that opportunity, and the Chiefs escaped with a win.
I don’t want to hear about other plays that could have changed the game. I don’t care that the Patriots shouldn’t have given up twenty-three unanswered points. I’m not interested in the possibility of Kansas City still getting the win in overtime. All of these statements are simply cop outs for the officials, cop outs that prevent accountability. None of them change the fact that if the officials had done their job, there would have been overtime, and New England could have won. It is hard enough to win in the NFL without blown calls working against you over and over.
I am not a Patriots fan, and I had no rooting interest in the game. I am simply sick and tired of hugely consequential games being ruined by incompetent officiating. Anyone who loves sports, regardless of rooting interest, should be disgusted by the events that transpired at Gillette Stadium.
The only way for the NFL to fix this problem is with accountability. The officiating crew for this game should be suspended, demoted, or fired. I have ultimate confidence that none of these things will happen because the NFL is incapable of handling any situation correctly. Disgraceful incidents like this are a blow to the integrity of the sport and must not be allowed to continue.