The referees in the Kansas City Chiefs upset over the New Orleans Saints reversed five of their calls on the field via official review. Some of the mistakes were close enough where you could legitimately see why they needed a second look. Others were downright bad calls that were reversed.
I'm wondering if five overturned calls in this game is an NFL record. Hopefully some TV station's research department is taking care of that question now.
Here are all five of the call reversals in yesterday's game:
1. The Jimmy Graham first down
On a third and four, Drew Brees passed it to Jimmy Graham four yards and the replacement referees called it a first down. However, a closer look revealed Graham was pretty obviously short. The first down marker in the photo below is right on the 20-yard line. Graham is a full yard, maybe two, short of that.
The referees reviewed the call after the Chiefs threw a challenge flag and reversed it, saying the Chiefs stopped them a yard short. Fourth down New Orleans instead of first down.
2. The Pierre Thomas touchdown
With a 1:15 remaining in the first half, Brees hit a wide open Pierre Thomas for a touchdown, extending the Saints lead. Or so we thought. Because it was a scoring play it was reviewed and the officials upstairs called for the referee downstairs to take another look.
The call on the field was that it was a touchdown. Brees found Thomas, who bobbled the ball as he lost his balance and fell to the ground. It looked like Thomas got possession of the ball on his way to the ground and secured possession as the ball hit the ground. It's OK for the ball to hit the ground -- as long as you have possession. My amateur referee eyes thought he maintained control.
This is the key moment in question:
The referees took another look via an official review and ruled that Thomas did NOT maintain possession. They ruled it an incomplete pass and took the touchdown off the board.
This ended up being a huuuuge play because on the next play Brees was sacked and then kicker Garrett Hartley missed the field goal attempt. Seven points turns into no points.
3. The Dexter McCluster fumble
On the first play from scrimmage of the second half, Dexter McCluster caught a pass from Matt Cassel and as he caught it he was falling to the ground. This is the play where McCluster's elbow bent the wrong way. He fumbled the ball on the play in question. He wasn't touched when he let go of the ball. It appeared he was giving himself up, a la Victor Cruz last year, as he clutched his elbow. The rule book states that a player can give himself up on the play, even if he's not touched.
The question: did he give himself up?
There he is, down with the ball. Knees touching the ground. But he has not been touched.
He has fallen to the grund and the ball is coming out. He has not been touched. But he immediately clutches his elbow because he's hurt.
I'm not even totally sure what the initial ruling on the field was -- it didn't appear that there was one at all. But the referees reviewed the play and determined two things: 1.) McCluster fumbled on the play and 2.) the Saints recovered. However, they also said there was an apparently inadvertent whistle on the play, ruling the play dead as the Saints recovered it. So it wasn't a touchdown by the Saints, but it was a fumble recovery.
Got all that?
4. The Lance Moore touchdown
Two plays after the McCluster ruling, Brees found Lance Moore near the pylon for what appeared to be a possible touchdown. The referee ruled Moore was down at the one yard line, an 18-yard gain instead of a touchdown.
Of course they reviewed this one.
What I saw was Moore making the reception with one foot definitively down. The second foot appeared to come down and hit the pylon first and then step out of bounds. It's hard to see with any angle but here's his foot hitting the pylon/sideline, almost instantaneously:
The pylon is considered in bounds. I thought it should have been a catch.
The referees ruled that it was not a catch, overturning the call. I'm glad I was wrong!
5. The Shaun Draughn fumble
This might have been the worst one yet. An awful call that only served to delay the game. This was obvious to anyone.
Shaun Draughn made a reception and was tackled. After his knee hit the ground, he dove forward, trying to advance the ball past the first down marker. Except he dropped the ball. A New Orleans player picked it up and ran it back for a touchdown.
Of course, no one in the stadium was cheering because everyone knew it was clear as day that Draughn was down.
Not even close. He's clearly down.
They got the call right, eventually, but it should not have even gotten that far.