A Picky Call Becomes the Talk of the NFL

Offside penalty negates an epic play, costs the Chiefs a win against the Bills
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 11, 2023 11:10 AM CST
A Picky Call Becomes the Talk of the NFL
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes talks with an official during the second half of Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.   (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

It was, writes Rob Maaddi for the AP, "the play of the season." Or it would have been, had it not been negated by what Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post describes as "the fussiest, pettiest, most paltry and joy-curdling penalty you ever saw." With the Kansas City Chiefs trailing the Buffalo Bills late in a vital game for both teams, the Chiefs' Travis Kelce caught a pass, then threw a lateral to teammate Kadarius Toney, who ran into the end zone. "Legendary moment, man," says Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (watch the play here). Except the refs called the play back because Toney had lined up a smidge offside. Refs have discretion to ignore such infractions, and Jenkins suggests they should have done so here.

"The problem with such a call is that it interrupts what ought to be a straightforward narrative," writes Jenkins, who complains that NFL officiating "has become so complicated that you practically need a Latin concordance to interpret it." Maaddi, for the record, is more forgiving, noting that refs have been calling more offensive offside penalties this year—13 so far, compared with a total of seven the previous three seasons. The Chiefs (who lost last week after what looked like a holding penalty was not called) evidently hadn't noticed.

CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore also sided with the refs. "It's not a play that you want to [split] hairs with, but when he is that clearly in the neutral zone, you have to call that play," he said during the broadcast, per the New York Post. "He's lined up offsides." Still, Chiefs coach Andy Reid called the penalty "embarrassing" for the league, while Mahomes, who was so livid on the sideline he had to be restrained, complained anew after the game. "You make a call like that in the final minute? Another game, we're talking about the refs. It's not what we want for the NFL. It's not what we want for football." ESPN ponders all this and comes up with a collection of other amazing plays that were negated, complete with video clips. (More NFL stories.)

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