Conference Championship weekend is in the books, and boy, does the NFL have some answers to provide. We're just about 36 hours out from the conclusion of the Bengals-Chiefs game, and my timeline is still filled with debate.
Did the NFL rig the games? Here's a look at some of the most controversial plays from championship weekend... and what I think about them.
What happened: The Eagles went for it on fourth down and converted, putting themselves in position to score the first touchdown of the game! Only they didn't. DeVonta Smith almost made an incredible catch, but he bobbled it. In live time, It looked like a catch. On very casual second glance of the proper camera angle, it was exceedingly obvious; that was not a catch.
Kate's take: The NFL has GOT to do better than that. SMH. Smith ran back to the line like his life depended on it and signaled to the team that there was a sense of urgency... which sent everyone that was watching the game on high alert. It should have also sent the officials on high alert, and the play should have been reviewed.
The official had a poor view of the play. The cameras — which the league has access to — did not. It was abundantly clear upon seeing the other angle, and in my oh-so-humble opinion, it was an obvious enough incompletion that Shanahan shouldn't have been in the position to have had to challenge it in the first place.
What happened: There had been a clock error during the Bengals-Chiefs game that wasn't caught until just before the ball was snapped. Officials attempted to call the play dead, but nobody noticed. So, official Ron Torbert called for a replay of the down, essentially giving the Chiefs a second shot to convert.
Kate's take: The replay feels unnecessary here. Why couldn't they have just appropriately adjusted the clock at the end of the play? All we'd need is some quick math and we could move on!
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio does a great job of explaining what led to the clock error in the first place here. In case you don't feel like clicking, that error falls on official Ron Torbert. If I had to guess, Torbert might have panicked and decided a "replay" was the most benign course of action in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, that decision came at the cost of whatever remaining faith viewers had in the officials.
What happened: With 1:22 left in the fourth quarter and the game tied 20-20, Bengals QB Joe Burrow was penalized for intentional grounding. What had originally been a second-and-seven turned into a third-and-16. They ended up converting on third down, so the drive didn't end there, but if they hadn't, this play would have been a much bigger deal.
Kate's take: Booooooo. Bad call. Hello, Samaje Perine was *right* there. Boooo.
What happened: This play basically ended the AFC Championship game, as the refs flagged Bengals LB Joseph Ossai for unnecessary roughness. The 15-yard penalty put the Chiefs into field goal range, where Harrison Butker kicked a 45-yarder to go up three points with 0:08 left on the clock.
Kate's take: As crappy as this one is, the call for a flag on Ossai was justified. It was a late hit that was technically (though just barely) out of bounds. The league tends to afford more protections (and therefore, more penalty calls) for the quarterback position. None of us should have been surprised that the league threw the flag here.
Many have countered that a similar-looking play wasn't flagged earlier. However, just because one call was missed doesn't mean that officials should turn a blind eye. The goal should be to make the correct calls.
No, the NFL isn't "rigged". Can game outcomes swing based on the calls NFL officials are making on the field? Sure thing. That's a lot different than believing that the game is rigged.
"Rigged" implies that there is a pre-determined outcome. "Rigged" implies making calls in bad faith. While I do think there are plenty of bad calls to go around, the problem largely stems from the fact that this is a game officiated by human beings. Human beings, inherently, make mistakes. Ergo, NFL officiating is bound to be riddled with mistakes.
Don't get it twisted, though — this isn't a cop-out for the NFL. Just because officials are human and bound to not be perfect 100% of the time does not mean we need to be content with poor officiating just for the sake of it. There are some common-sense ways to fix it. Can we please just fix plays in real-time? Is it that difficult?