At the end of the Baltimore Ravens' 31-30 win over the New England Patriots, a game that was decided by Justin Tucker's 27-yard field goal as time expired, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick ran onto the field at M&T Bank Stadium, most likely furious that the officiating crew did not review or discuss the fact that Tucker's kick was very close to going on the wrong side of the right upright.
For the record, Rule 11, Section 4, Article 1(c) states that "The entire ball must pass through the vertical plane of the goal, which is the area above the crossbar and between the uprights or, if above the uprights, between their outside edges."
Upon further review, the kick appeared to be good (just barely, and field goals that cross over the uprights can't be reviewed), but that wasn't enough for Belichick at the end of a game that was chippy and inconsistently officiated from start to finish.
Right as the game ended, Belichick tried to get the attention of the first official he saw, line judge Ali Shetula, who was running off the field as quickly as possible. He put his hands on Shetula, but Shetula got away.
"I'm not going to comment about that," Belichick told the media after the fact. "You saw the game. I mean, what did we have, 30 penalties called in the game?"
Well, close. The replacement crew, led by Bruce Hermansen, called 24 penalties for a total of 218 yards. Several fights broke out, and the refs seemed to alternate between letting the players play to a ridiculous degree and throwing flags at everything that moved.
Belichick wasn't the only Pats person cheesed off after the game. This, from New England linebacker Brandon Spikes on his Twitter account:
Can someone please tell these f&^%ing zebras foot locker called and they're needed Back at work !!!! #BreakingPoint
Back to the coach, though. Considering the focus the NFL put on coaches no longer berating or intimidating the replacement refs, you can bet that the official eluded Belichick far more adeptly than Belichick will elude the league's discipline. Belichick said that he did not expect to be fined. Belichick had best alter his expectations.
[Related: Jim Harbaugh cons refs into bonus challenge]
Earlier this week, the NFL issued a stern edict by memo that no more abusive behavior from players, coaches, or other team employees would be tolerated.
"We contacted [the teams] to remind them that everyone has a responsibility to respect the game," NFL VP of football operations Ray Anderson told ESPN's Adam Schefter. "We expect it to be adhered to this weekend and forevermore."
Belichick didn't get the "forevermore" aspect of the memo, and neither did Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who bagged himself an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for walking on the field late in the game to try and call a timeout.
What, Schefter asked, would happen to any coach who broke the new rules? "If someone were to make that mistake, he would be flagged on the field and he would be hearing from our office in a very firm way," Anderson said.
Yep -- Bill Belichick can expect a heavy letter from the NFL on Monday morning. And his wallet will be a lot lighter for his trouble.
Coaches and players had best get used to the way things are -- SI.com's Peter King reported that the NFL and NFL Referees Association met for several hours on Sunday with a federal mediator, and "significant differences" remain between the two sides.
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