The first of the taunting penalties was called on Clyde Edwards-Helaire after he took a well-timed pitch from quarterback Patrick Mahomes near the goal line.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire was called for taunting after pointing at a defender on his way to a TD.pic.twitter.com/5vOBuKzMcK— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) November 21, 2021
As he was about to cross it, the running back turned his head toward one of the Dallas defenders who wasn’t going to be able to catch him... and pointed. That’s it.
But under the NFL’s controversial decision to strictly enforce rules against taunting during the 2021 season, it was enough for officials to throw a flag. The 15-yard penalty forced placekicker Harrison Butker to attempt a 48-yard extra point after the touchdown — which he made with ease — but as Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy told reporters on Thursday, it was an example of a “self-inflicted wound.”
“We had a nice little huddle — a conversation,” Bieniemy said of his exchange with Edwards-Helaire after the incident. “The thing that we stress to our guys — this is a point of emphasis — [is that] regardless of [whether] you may think that it’s harmless, that is not the case anymore. We need to go back to the days of just handing the ball back to the ref. Get in the end zone, celebrate with your guys — and we go on from there.”
The other taunting penalty occurred under entirely different circumstances.
With just over two minutes until halftime, Chiefs cornerback Rashad Fenton got into it with Cowboys corner C.J. Goodwin while they were coming down the sideline during punt coverage. Goodwin got a grip on Fenton’s facemask as both were going to the ground, twisting Fenton’s neck — and eventually pulling Fenton’s helmet entirely off.
Cam Heyward gets no fine for punching a QB after the play and CJ Goodwin doesn't get fined for this facemask tackle(on a non ball carrier) followed by yanking the helmet off. Yet Fenton got fined for his reaction after his helmet is ripped off and CEH got fined for pointing? @NFL pic.twitter.com/GO2xRGKDWN— Chiefs King (@StangXx) November 28, 2021
After Fenton and Goodwin were separated, the helmetless Fenton made gestures to the Dallas sideline that were interpreted as representing pointing a firearm at the Cowboys bench.
Rashad Fenton just got called for taunting after this gesture towards the Cowboys' bench pic.twitter.com/hZuY92jnv4— Ben Brown (@BenBrownPL) November 21, 2021
It’s hard to imagine Fenton wouldn’t have drawn a penalty even without the league’s emphasis on taunting enforcement. But inexplicably, officials initially called a penalty only on Fenton. After replays had clearly shown the egregious facemask infraction that prompted Fenton’s outburst — and that the whole incident had taken place directly in front of an official — offsetting penalties were called.
But the most mysterious penalty was the unsportsmanlike conduct flag thrown on Kansas City rookie right guard Trey Smith earlier in the second quarter. On a second-and-5 at the Chiefs’ 38-yard line, Smith had been called for offensive holding. After the penalty was announced, Smith was walking away from an official when the flag was thrown. It appeared that the additional penalty was called not for something Smith did, but something he said — which Smith confirmed when he spoke to reporters on Wednesday.
“I’m not saying anything anymore,” he laughed. “No more talking — at all.”
But joking aside, Smith also clarified that he knows it was a serious mistake.
“It was just me losing my cool a little bit,” he explained. “I could do a better job at this level — especially being a professional — of keeping my cool because, at the end of the day, that penalty hurt my team.”
In fact, the two penalties pushed the Chiefs back to a second-and-29 at their 14-yard line. Two plays later, they punted the ball away, giving up an ideal opportunity to get a score while using up the remainder of the first half.
“Trey obviously made a mistake,” noted Bieniemy. “It was nothing he intended to do. Life happens.
“I always tell the guys, ‘We live play to play when we’re involved in this game.’ You can’t let a previous situation impact anything that we’re doing moving forward. So he needs to make sure that [he knows], ‘Yes, I did make a mistake. But now, what can I do to limit that mistake and move on?’”
That’s sound advice for players who need to be as close to perfect as possible during the six-game stretch to close out 2021’s regular season.