'#NFLRigged' Trends After Refs Grant Bizarre Redo in AFC Championship Game: 'That's Insane'


The Rolling Stones famously sang, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and that’s an adage most people have accepted and come to live by.

Just don’t tell that to the NFL, which, at least for this year, got exactly the Super Bowl match league officials were likely clamoring for: The Philadelphia Eagles will face the Kansas City Chiefs in the 57th iteration of the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

And why wouldn’t the NFL want this? The Eagles produced the most Pro Bowlers this year (eight players), and right behind them were the Chiefs (seven Pro Bowlers). Beyond that, the storylines write themselves leading up to the Super Bowl; the Kelce brothers will face off (Jason plays for the Eagles, Travis for the Chiefs), Chiefs head coach Andy Reid has a deep history with the Eagles (he coached them from 1999 to 2012), and both teams have won Super Bowls relatively recently (the Eagles won in 2018, the Chiefs won in 2020.)

Fair is fair: This is a star-studded match-up and should be a fun game.

But the NFL didn’t get to this moment without a fair bit of controversy rearing its ugly head. No, rather, there was quite a bit of consternation about the way in which Sunday night’s AFC championship game played out down the stretch.

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Fans — especially Bengals fans — were left aghast at one specific play early in the fourth quarter of the Chiefs’ 23-20 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium.

On a third-and-9 with the game tied, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes dropped back to pass and could only muster a checkdown to star tight end Kelce. It appeared Kansas City was well short of the first down, and the offense began to motion as if it was leaving the field so the punt unit could come on.

It was what it was. Until it wasn’t.

Apparently, there was an issue with the play clock that led an official to blow the play dead and have the Chiefs replay the third down.

It wasn’t immediately clear which official had done so, and no whistle could be heard. But the CBS broadcast later showed an official downfield waving his arms to stop play.

While this was almost assuredly a matter of the referee being slow on the uptake, as opposed to any sort of nefariousness from the league, it still provided the optics needed to get “#NFLRigged” trending on social media.

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It also led to swaths of people on social media expressing utter disbelief at this “redo” of a down.

Exacerbating matters, on the subsequent replay of third-and-9, the Bengals were called for a defensive holding penalty after Mahomes was sacked, which gave the Chiefs an automatic first down.

Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance even chimed in to call the sequence “Total BS.”

It is worth noting that the Chiefs’ drive eventually stalled out, so they didn’t put up any points off the polarizing redo.

But the damage has been done as far as the optics go.

The way in which the situation played out was certainly bizarre, but the act of play stoppage is hardly some new twist the NFL just recently unveiled. It happens in every game.

Every game just doesn’t happen to have the stakes or attention of the AFC championship game, and it’s usually obvious that the play was blown dead.

Did the referees get this one wrong?

The fact that no points were scored on the drive in question, coupled with the fact that the Bengals had two possessions to break the tie in the fourth quarter and ended those possessions with an interception and punt, it does feel more like the Bengals choked away a potential win against a hobbled Mahomes (the Chiefs quarterback was battling a high ankle sprain entering the game) and battered Chiefs (several of the team’s receivers left the game with injuries) than any sort of “fix” from the referees or the league.

Still, when have fans (reminder: derived from the term “fanatic”) ever let facts and context get in the way of a good, old-fashioned grievance about officiating?

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Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics.
Bryan Chai has written news and sports for The Western Journal for more than five years and has produced more than 1,300 stories. He specializes in the NBA and NFL as well as politics. He graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. He is an avid fan of sports, video games, politics and debate.
Class of 2010 University of Arizona. BEAR DOWN.
Phoenix, Arizona
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