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OPINION | Calling out the controversial calls in the Conference Championships

Photo courtesy of Robert Gauthier of TNC

If you have ever watched a single football game in your life, you should be familiar with how bad the officiating in the National Football League can get. From “Dez Caught It” to “The Tuck Rule,” NFL referees have been driving fans crazy for years with their terrible and controversial calls. This year’s Conference Championships games, however, had the worst officiating yet. Some plays were flagged for no logical reason, while others seemed to have magically skip past the referees. Of course, one play does not determine the outcome of a game, but with the Super Bowl on the line, it is no surprise how upset players and fans got after the games.
The most upsetting play that confused and enraged fans all over the world came from Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. The Rams and New Orleans Saints were tied 20-20 with only over a minute left on the clock. Drew Brees, the Saints quarterback, worked his way up the field into the red zone and nearly sealed the Saint’s Super Bowl fate with a seven-yard pass to wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. However, before Lewis could even touch the ball, Robey-Coleman charged at Lewis and knocked him down as the ball flew over their heads.
Without a doubt, this is a perfect example of a defensive pass interference: The defender hit the receiver before the ball was in the receiver’s hands. Somehow, neither of the two referees standing right in front of the match up threw a flag. Robey-Coleman even looked around for a flag as he got up. Because of this one play, the Saints could not convert on third-down, and ended up losing the Rams 26-23 in overtime.
The New England Patriots, as usual, got a little bit of some referee magic themselves. The Kansas City Chiefs were making a comeback and narrowed the Patriot’s lead from 17-3 to 17-14. After failing to convert on third-down, the Chiefs punted the ball away to wide receiver and special teams receiver Julian Edelman. Edelman muffed the ball, allowing the Chiefs to scoop it for a touchdown. However, the referees determined the ball never touched Edelman after a lengthy video review, even though it grazed Edelman’s left thumb. The Patriots ended up keeping the ball, but Tom Brady, the Patriot’s quarterback, was later picked off by strong safety Daniel Sorensen.
After this play however, the Patriots still got some help from the referees. The Chiefs had their first lead in the game, beating the Patriots 21-17 in the middle of the fourth-quarter. After Tom Brady threw an incomplete pass, the referees came to the rescue to protect the precious little quarterback with a flag on defensive end Chris Jones for roughing the passer.
The NFL defines roughing the passer as “tackling a passer… and violently throw him down or land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight.” This rule alone, which was changed at the beginning of the 2018-2019 season, angered fans and players, but the flag on Jones is absolutely ridiculous. While Brady was stepping up the throw, all Jones did was reach over the offensive guard and slap Brady’s shoulder. Brady did not get crushed or even fall down, so this flag makes absolutely no sense.
If you thought the Patriots were done getting saved by the refs, guess again. With over a  minute left in the fourth quarter, the Patriots needed to score a touchdown to beat the Chiefs. Luckily for the Patriots, a referee ran up to Brady and said, “I got your back, you know that.” Again, Brady threw another pick, this time into the hands of cornerback Charvarious Ward. As Ward ran the ball back, the angels in black and white saved Brady and the Patriots once more by throwing another flag on the Chiefs for being offsides. Not a single defensive lineman was offsides; everyone was lined up perfectly at line of scrimmage. The Patriots finished their drive, scored a touchdown, and pulled a OT victory with a final score of 37-31.

The referees left legions of fans feeling robbed and cheated from a playoff win.

No one will really know what the final score of these games would be if the referees actually officiated fairly, but it is still obvious that the referees influenced the games’ outcomes. The referees left legions of fans feeling robbed and cheated from a playoff win. Indeed, the Rams and Patriots are good teams; whether they deserved to make the Super Bowl is another question. With the elite Patriots offensive and dangerous Rams defense, the Super Bowl will be a fun game to watchassuming the referees do not mess up an more calls.

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