NFL Refs Ignored Rulebook During Key Play In AFC Championship Game

The Bengals tackle Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the AFC Championship game

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Sunday’s NFC Championship Game may have left plenty to be desired, but NFL fans were thankfully treated to a decidedly more competitive contest when the Bengals and the Chiefs faced off for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl LVII.

Kansas City eventually earned the right to play in The Big Game for the third time in four seasons with the 23-20 victory that was made possible with the help of Joseph Ossai’s late hit on Patrick Mahomes. That incredibly costly decision moved Kansas City within field goal range, and Harrison Butker capitalized by splitting the uprights with the game-winning score.

The refs were well within their right to throw a flag on that play, but it was hard to ignore some of the questionable calls (and no calls) the officiating crew made over the course of the game—the bulk of which came at Cincinnati’s expense.

You could argue Mahomes was only able to scramble as far as he did on that crucial play thanks to an overlooked hold, and it also appeared the officials missed a block in the back on the punt return that gave Kansas City prime field position with 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

Of course, you also can’t ignore the somewhat baffling sequence that resulted in Bengals head coach Zac Taylor understandably losing it on the sideline after the Chiefs were essentially handed a free play following a miscommunication that negated the stop that would’ve likely resulted in Kansas City punting on fourth down.

The referees technically made the correct ruling on that play, but the same can’t be said for another fairly pivotal one that unfolded in the second half.

It looked like the Chiefs would be facing a fourth-and-inches in the red zone after the officials initially ruled Marquez Valdes-Scantling came up just short of the first down with around six minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The wide receiver had reached out in an attempt to gain some extra inches, and Kansas City opted to throw the challenge flag to initiate the review that resulted in the refs overturning the initial call to reward them with a fresh set of downs.

The Chiefs took advantage by scoring a touchdown to take a 20-13 lead, but it appears the official who reversed the initial decision simply ignored the rules concerning forward progress while erroneously rewarding Valdes-Scantling for his extra effort.

Of course, there’s a very good chance the Chiefs would’ve gone for it (and converted) on the ensuing fourth down if the correct call had been made, but that probably won’t do much to placate Bengals fans who already had plenty of beef with the refs.

Connor O'Toole avatar
Connor Toole is the Deputy Editor at BroBible. He is a New England native who went to Boston College and currently resides in Brooklyn, NY. Frequently described as "freakishly tall," he once used his 6'10" frame to sneak in the NBA Draft and convince people he was a member of the Utah Jazz.