Roughing-the-passer call prompts officiating scrutiny
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones believes the NFL should allow video review of roughing-the-passer penalties after his controversial call — the second in as many days — nearly cost the Kansas City Chiefs in their come-from-behind 30-29 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night.
The Chiefs had just scored to trim their deficit to 17-7 when Jones stripped Raiders quarterback Derek Carr from behind just before halftime. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle landed on Carr while also coming up with the ball — replays showed it was clearly loose and that Jones cleanly recovered — but referee Carl Cheffers threw a flag for roughing the passer.
The play happened with less than two minutes to go and was not reviewed.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid stormed off the sideline to argue with every official within earshot. And after the teams traded field goals, leaving the Raiders ahead 20-10 at halftime, Reid cornered Cheffers again as they headed to the locker room.
“The quarterback is in the pocket and he’s in a passing posture. He gets full protection of all the aspects of what we give the quarterback in a passing posture,” Cheffers told a pool reporter after the game. “My ruling was the defender landed on him with full body weight. The quarterback is protected from being tackled with full body weight.”
That explanation didn’t sit well in the Kansas City locker room.
Especially with the culprit.
“It’s costing teams games,” Jones said. “How should I tackle people? How should I not roll on him? I’m trying my best. I’m 325 pounds, OK? What do you want me to do? I’m going full speed trying to get the quarterback.”
When players emerged for the second half, Kansas City fans booed Cheffers more loudly than the hated Raiders (1-4), and the call — and the energized Arrowhead Stadium — seemed to galvanize their team. Travis Kelce had three of his fourth TD catches in the second second half and the defense made a stand in the final minute to escape with the win.
“I’ve seen (Reid) angry,” Mahomes said later, “but not about a call on the football field.”
The call came one day after Atlanta defensive tackle Grady Jarrett was flagged by referee Jerome Boger for a seemingly innocuous tackle of Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady. The penalty gave the Buccaneers a first down and allowed them to run out the clock on a 21-15 victory, rather than giving the Falcons a chance to drive for the win.
“What I had was the defender grabbed the quarterback while he was still in the pocket, and unnecessarily throwing him to the ground,” Boger told a pool reporter after the game. “That is what I was making my decision based upon.”
The NFL was criticized for its failure to protect quarterbacks after Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was taken off the field on a stretcher following a violent hit in a game against Cincinnati. Tagovailoa sustained a concussion when his head slammed to the turf on a tackle by the Bengals’ Josh Tupou, who was not flagged on the play.
In the NFL rulebook, it states: “Any physical acts against a player who is in a passing posture (i.e. before, during, or after a pass) which, in the referee’s judgment, are unwarranted by the circumstances of the play will be called as fouls.”
The rulebook also notes: “When in doubt about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactic against the quarterback, the referee should always call roughing the passer.”
Jones offered a solution: Allow replays of roughing-the-passer calls.
“Especially in critical situations in games,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to review it in the booth, you know what I mean? I think that’s the next step for the NFL as a whole. If we’re going to call it penalty at that high (of rate), then we’ve got to be able to review it and make sure, because sometimes looks can be deceiving.”
Meanwhile, the Chiefs have had plenty of conflicts with Cheffers in the past.
The biggest came during the 2016 playoffs against Pittsburgh, when Cheffers called left tackle Eric Fisher for holding that negated what would have been a tying two-point conversion. The Steelers won 18-16 to advance to the AFC title game, and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce said Cheffers “shouldn’t even be able to work at … Foot Locker.”
Their opinion of the referee surely didn’t improve Monday night.
“You want to protect the players in all aspects of the game, but at the same time, there’s a commonsense factor,” Mahomes said. “The refs watch tape and they practice, just like we do. I’m sure they’ll go back and make the corrections.”
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