NFL fans have made a pastime of complaining about officials, and it reaches overdrive when the New England Patriots are involved.
Anytime a call goes the Patriots’ way, everyone takes to social media to claim that the NFL favors the Patriots (or, for the angriest fans, that the NFL is fixing its games for the Patriots). As Saturday night’s game started to go the way everyone thought it would go, with the Patriots opening up a big lead over the Tennessee Titans, all that was left to talk about on social media was how the officials were favoring the Patriots.
Those fans weren’t alone; Titans coach Mike Mularkey told CBS’ Tracy Wolfson at halftime he was “extremely frustrated” with the officiating.
“Sounds like an awful lot of people,” CBS color commentator Tony Romo quipped.
Never mind that all the officiating help in the world wasn’t going to help the Titans, who lost 35-14. But, the officials didn’t give them much help either.
On a third-and-4 completion to Eric Decker, Decker was called for offensive pass interference. Decker pushed off on Malcolm Butler, and it was the type of move you see often in the NFL. Romo didn’t like the call, and it was definitely questionable. The Titans threw incomplete on third down and had to punt.
The Patriots punted on fourth-and-5, but Titans safety Brynden Trawick moved into the neutral zone. That caused the Patriots’ left guard and the snapper on the punt team to move too. It was a close call, as it could have been a Patriots false start, but it went against the Titans. The offsides penalty gave the Patriots a first down.
Later, the Titans had a fourth-and-1 and gave the ball to Derrick Henry. He was stuffed for a loss. On the replay, Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy grabbed Henry’s facemask. Touching a player’s facemask hasn’t been a penalty in years. A player needs to grab and hold or twist it for a 15-yard penalty. Maybe Van Noy should have been penalized. It wasn’t obvious that what he did was worth a personal foul. But that 50-50 call also went in favor of the Patriots.
Then at the end of the half, Romo and Jim Nantz questioned how the Patriots got the clock stopped with one second left. On a catch, Danny Amendola barely got to the ground just before time expired in the half. Replays showed running back James White immediately calling a timeout. Again, the Patriots got the call their way, although their field goal to end the half missed.
Even Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake believed in a conspiracy with the clock.
Someone check the patriots payroll and look to see if “Play clock operator” is on there. That was blatant. Only right they missed the field goal. The ball never lies
— Kenyan Drake™ (@KDx32) January 14, 2018
However, any claims that the Patriots had a hometown scorer stop the clock early doesn’t hold water (former NFL VP of officiating Mike Pereira was referencing a play in the Falcons-Eagles game on Sunday, but it applies to the Patriots game too).
Some people questioning the one second left on the clock at the end of the half and suggesting home cooking. All clock operators in the playoffs are brought in from other cities. They do not travel in the regular season but do in the playoffs. No home cooking.
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) January 13, 2018
Romo said during the third quarter he was joking and explained that clock operators are neutral. That won’t calm conspiracy theorists, but he tried.
Paranoia has been like a 12th man for the Patriots through the years. Teams lose their minds when it comes to the Patriots. In 2015, ESPN reported that some teams took to emptying out garbage cans at team hotels because they’re worried about the Patriots digging through them for information. So many times, teams come into games against the Patriots and they’re thinking about anything but Xs and Os.
The officiating outcry is probably no different. A call goes against a team, and everyone immediately freaks out because they believe the Patriots are being favored. It doesn’t make logical sense, but that won’t stop people from complaining about it.
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