In a wild NFL weekend that included the Indianapolis Colts suffering the biggest regular season collapse in NFL history and the New England Patriots losing on the dumbest play you may ever see, it is somehow the conclusion to the Sunday Night Football game that has elicited the most vociferous reaction.
First, the incident that has drawn the most outrage.
On what was effectively the final play of the game (Washington was down to just one timeout, so if they didn’t score on the play, New York could just kill the clock), Commanders quarterback Tyler Heinicke was scrambling for his life to make a play when he found receiver Curtis Samuel with a sliver of daylight in the endzone. Samuel was unable to corral the football, but that’s where the controversy set in.
Samuel was seemingly unable to catch the football because of contact made by Giants cornerback Darnay Holmes before the ball got there. By virtually any definition, it was textbook pass interference.
Just not to the referees officiating the game. Apparently neither Allen Baynes, John Hussey, Carl Johnson, Brad Freeman, Jabir Walker, Alan Eck nor Robin DeLorenzo saw what many feel is as blatant of a pass interference as you can get.
Take a look at the clip below and judge for yourself:
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) December 19, 2022
Here are a few different angles of the incident in question (also note former NFL star Robert Griffin III’s all-caps declaration that, “THIS IS PASS INTERFERENCE”).
THIS IS PASS INTERFERENCE pic.twitter.com/2G34aqzHFk
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) December 19, 2022
Here’s a very clear still shot showing contact before the football was catchable:
This is defensive pass interference.
Disgusting non call in the biggest moment of the game. pic.twitter.com/rEmQyYuz96
— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) December 19, 2022
It was bad enough that NBC’s “SNF” rules analyst was emphatic about it. (There’s a running joke that all national NFL rules analysts hedge their declarations.)
“This is defensive pass interference,” NBC’s Terry McAulay definitively said. “It’s always a foul and should have been called.”
Some Giants fans pointed to the missed penalty when a Commanders offensive lineman seemingly poked the eye of Giants pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux on the play in question. That’s fair! Thibodeaux abruptly stopped rushing Heinicke and seemed to grab his face in pain.
But had both calls been administered correctly, the Commanders still would’ve gotten one more shot at the endzone because offsetting penalties mean the down is replayed.
While it hasn’t gotten nearly as much coverage as the alleged pass interference, two plays before that a touchdown run by Commanders running back Brian Robinson was nullified by an illegal formation penalty on receiver Terry McLaurin.
But again, through the magic of video, it appeared McLaurin fully went through the proper protocols of lining up by double checking with the referee that he was in a good spot:
Terry McLaurin looks at the ref asking if he’s good – ref points back at McLaurin as of to indicate he’s good. McLaurin then gives a thumbs up to ref to acknowledge it. This “penalty” took a Brian Robinson TD off the board. Via @SNFonNBC pic.twitter.com/B86N6nsJsS
— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) December 19, 2022
The referee appeared to confirm that McLaurin was in a legal spot before almost immediately throwing the penalty flag. As anyone who has played organized football at virtually any level can tell you, this is standard protocol for eligible receivers to get a quick approval from the referees that they are lined up in a legal area.
Credit to Commanders coach Ron Rivera, who, despite a cavalcade of apparent referee incompetence, refused to actually rip into the zebras:
Ron Rivera is obviously upset.
“In fact, don’t ask me about the refereeing because I can’t answer the question.” pic.twitter.com/tXIVMUPX5R
— Jordan Dajani (@JordanDajani) December 19, 2022
“In fact, don’t ask me about the refereeing, because I can’t answer the question,” Rivera said when a reporter broached the subject. He most likely “can’t” answer the question for fear of being fined.
Buttressing all of these issues is the not-insignificant fact that Commanders owner Dan Snyder is reportedly embroiled in an ugly feud with the NFL, even going so far as to say that he has “dirt” on the other owners and commissioner Roger Goodell, and because of that, the league “can’t f***” with him.”
The absolute last thing the league wants is for even the perception that they are punishing a rogue owner.
The NFL had better clean these refereeing issues up pronto because the magnifying glass on these games will only intensify as the playoffs approach.
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