It wasn’t easy, but the Kansas City Chiefs pulled off a thrilling 30-29 victory against the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday Night Football. But in a game full of emotional ups and downs, there was one play that left football fans everywhere scratching their heads.
On third-and-8 with a little over a minute to go in the first half, Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones sacked Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Jones appeared to have stripped the ball in the process. After a conversation, officials called a roughing-the-passer penalty on Jones for putting his full body weight on the Carr.
Just like that, a big momentum-swinging play that would have given the ball to the Chiefs in Raiders territory with about a minute left in the half, instead continued a Las Vegas drive that led to a 50-yard field goal — giving the team a 20-7 lead.
As you can imagine, the Arrowhead crowd was not having it.
Kansas City would go on to win the game — making the call a smaller issue than it otherwise might have been — but after the game, there were still many Chiefs players and coaches who wanted to express their feelings about it.
“I actually stripped the ball and gravity took me to the ground,” Jones explained to reporters in the team’s locker room. “It’s a roughing-the-passer call in a critical situation in the game. It’s third down and we’re down 10 points, you know what I mean? That’s a momentum shift in the game that could have affected us.”
Jones didn’t care that no explanation for the call had been given to him.
“There’s no need for an explanation,” he said. “What, I’m going to go to them and say, ‘How should I tackle?’ or ‘How should I not roll on him?’ Yeah, I’m trying my best. I’m 325 pounds. What do you want me to do? I’m running full speed trying to get the quarterback. I hit the ball and I brace my hands.
“I get it happens so fast — and it kind of looks like that initially — but when you actually look at it through the video and slow it down, you see how I kind of brace. The ref might have just seen a big 300-pounder land on him.
“I get it. I get it. [I’m] not saying the ref was wrong, but I’m just saying that those situations can affect the game tremendously.”
Nearly everyone on the team shared Jones’ sentiment, pondering — like many others who watched the play — what else Jones could have done to prevent the sack from being a penalty.
Head coach Andy Reid had already made his feelings known to officials on the sideline, so he didn't want to get into it with reporters.
“I’m on a couple [league] committees there,” he noted, “so I understand protecting the quarterback is important. But there is a fine line.”
Meanwhile, quarterback Patrick Mahomes agreed with his teammates — but also offered empathy for the officials.
“I mean it wasn’t the greatest call in the world,” said the quarterback, “but at the same time, it’s a hard job they have: refereeing.
“It’s something where — obviously you want to protect the players and everything like that in all aspects of the game — but at the same time, there comes like a common sense factor where guys are trying to play football and trying to win football games. So whenever it’s blatant and they tried to do something dirty to try to hurt someone, you want to make sure that’s called — but at the same time, you don’t want it to affect the football game and change the outcome.”
Kansas City players said that the penalty didn’t bring the team down. Instead, it gave them life — and energized the entire stadium.
Immediately following the Las Vegas possession, Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense turned in a spectacular 17-second drive leading to a field goal that narrowed the score to 20-10 at halftime.
“We started off a little slow — and had some calls not go our way,” said tight end Travis Kelce, who finished the game with four touchdown receptions. “It got not only us fired up, but that entire stadium fired up — and Arrowhead had our backs. So we just rallied together and really fought through that one.”
“I think it energized the atmosphere,” said Chiefs safety Justin Reid. “I think it energized the team that we got one taken away from us — and then at that point, you just got to band together and find a way.”