It’s a reality the NFL officials are going to miss calls during the course of a game. But when multiple missed calls all go one way, fans watching the game take notice.
In the fourth quarter alone of Sunday’s Bengals vs. Chiefs AFC championship, multiple borderline calls and non-calls, plus a confusing officiating error, all went the Chiefs’ way, much to the chagrin of Bengals coach Zac Taylor and his team.
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The sequence began with just over 10 minutes remaining in the quarter. The Chiefs ran a play on third-and-9 that ended short of the first-down marker. As the Chiefs’ offense left the field for the punting unit to come on, the officials met to discuss the clock. The result of that conversation was that the third-down play would not count because the clock mistakenly ran off extra time after the second-down play in that series.
The effects of that weren’t felt until later: after a defensive penalty on the second third-down play gave Kansas City a first down, the Chiefs gained just 1 yard on the next three downs and had to punt, but the extra plays took 1:10 off the clock.
MORE: Why did the Chiefs get to replay a third down against the Bengals?
The Bengals started from their 6 after the punt. They eventually found themselves facing a third-and-16 after an intentional grounding penalty on second down, despite Cincinnati running back Samaje Perine seemingly being in the area of Joe Burrow’s throw. Much as he was after the clock snafu, Taylor was beside himself.
In #CINvsKC the ruling on the field was intentional grounding. There was no CIN receiver in the immediate area of the pass. pic.twitter.com/Jb9ACyimy1
— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) January 30, 2023
Zac Taylor is LIVID over that intentional grounding call pic.twitter.com/CPD0h9dbFO
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) January 30, 2023
While these two rulings seemed relatively clear-cut, there appeared to be two missed calls afterward, and they were big because of the situation.
MORE: Mahomes, Chiefs heading to Super Bowl 57 after last-second win over Bengals
First, there was an argument that officials missed a block in the back on Skyy Moore’s 29-yard punt return to set up the Chiefs’ game-winning field goal.
Biggest missed block in the back call I’ve ever seen pic.twitter.com/qE3byBPtOe
— Footballism (@FootbaIIism) January 30, 2023
Second, on the play in which Joseph Ossai would enter Bengals infamy, there was an argument that officials missed defensive lineman Trey Hendrickson being held. An offensive holding penalty would have offset Ossai’s clear shove of Patrick Mahomes out of bounds.
Sure looked like Trey Hendrickson was getting held to me. #AFCChampionship #CINvsKC #Bengals #Chiefs pic.twitter.com/sFlZd2H38w
— Pierre Noujaim (@TheNoujFOX9) January 30, 2023
Those are the plays that will be talked about, but the Chiefs were on the receiving end of seemingly raw deals, too. They had to use one of their challenges to get a spot changed, while the Bengals were able to save a challenge on a Chiefs completed pass that was later ruled a sack after the league office in New York reviewed the play in real time.
Taylor brushed off the intentional grounding call during his postgame press conference, simply telling reporters “It’s hard to tell, I don’t know.”
In fact, the grounding penalty and the clock snafu ended up not being big negatives for the Bengals. Cincinnati picked up a first down after the grounding call, and the Chiefs picked up minimal yardage after the extra third-down play. The non-calls had the greater effects.
This will sting for Bengals fans for a long time. Chiefs fans, meanwhile, can prepare for the team’s third Super Bowl berth in four years.