Week 5 was the week of bad NFL kickers. Week 6 was the one for bad NFL refs.
In a season already marred by subpar officiating and anger toward the league’s new taunting rule, Sunday’s slate of games managed to stand out. In seemingly every game, a player or coach was forced to comment on a questionable at best call.
In Chicago, Bears quarterback Justin Fields saw Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark jump across the line before the snap. Thinking it was offsides and a free play, Fields launched the ball down the field – where it was intercepted. The problem was, the officials didn’t see Clark jump, and the interception counted.
“Really, in my mindset on that, we already have 5 yards,” Fields said after the game, per NBC Chicago. “It’s going to be first-and-5, or we can get a potential downfield throw, potential [pass interference] or potential big play. So just happened to not be a flag on that play so can’t really do anything about it.
“I think everybody in the stadium thought that was a free play.”
At another moment in the game, Fields motioned to the sideline for a timeout. The officials didn’t award it to him. The Bears took a delay of game. At another point, Aaron Rodgers grabbed defensive end Mario Edwards’ facemask as he was getting up. Edwards was the one hit with a personal foul.
Bears fans were understandably upset about the officiating throughout the game, but the day was also saved by a questionable call on the other end. Fields appeared to throw a second end-zone interception to Adrian Amos, but the call was incomplete on the field. After review, the call stood.
At MetLife Stadium, the Giants seemed to benefit from officiating confusion. The Rams called a fake punt that looked successful, but the refs called offsetting unsportsmanlike penalties on both teams, nullifying the play.
Reporters after the game called the play a head-scratcher, and Rams head coach Sean McVay agreed.
“It was, uh – I’m not gonna say anything and get fined. Head-scratcher is a good way to describe it,” McVay said.
In overtime of the Cowboys-Patriots thriller, New England QB Mac Jones threw an incomplete pass to Nelson Agholor on third down, ending the drive and allowing Dallas to march down the field for the victory. It was very clear that Dallas defensive back Anthony Brown grabbed Agholor’s facemask – but, again, no call.
What would be an officiating roundup without a questionable taunting penalty? Enter the Detroit Lions, as if they needed any more misery. As Joe Burrow threw an interception, Detroit’s Tracy Walker stared down Ja’Marr Chase and flexed. The officials threw a flag.
And then there was the fiasco late Sunday night, during the primetime matchup between the Steelers and Seahawks. In the closing seconds of the game, down three points, DK Metcalf made a catch near the sideline, but the ball was punched out, then recovered by Seattle teammate Freddie Swain. The Seahawks had to scramble to spike the ball as time expired, but officials signaled a game stoppage to review whether it was a catch.
Indeed it was, and the officials left three seconds on the clock to give Seattle a chance at a game-tying field goal. It went in, and the game went to overtime (though Pittsburgh ended up winning).
“I hated it,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game, per ESPN. “I hated it. I cannot believe that game was stopped to confirm catch/no catch in that moment. That’s all I’m going to say. It was an embarrassment.”
It was not only a day of missed calls, but calls so badly missed that they carried over into the press conferences. Downright embarrassing, especially for an officiating group that has already been under fire. The broadcasters can see it – everyone can see it – but there’s no mechanism for the head officials in New York to call in and correct a mistake.
It’s clear the NFL needs to fix its product. No more excuses. If 50 drunk guys in a bar can tell you that a call was wrong, the NFL and their $16 billion of revenue can figure out a way to make it happen in the actual game.