The NFL had a showcase game late Sunday afternoon in Foxborough, Mass., with a rematch of last season’s AFC championship game as the New England Patriots hosted the Kansas City Chiefs.
But what ended up being showcased wasn’t the skill of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes or the Patriots’ struggle to extend their reign for a bit longer. No, what was on display yet again was the NFL’s officiating issues.
The Patriots were plagued by two officiating gaffes in their 23-16 loss to the Chiefs. A return of a fumble recovery by cornerback Stephon Gilmore, potentially for a touchdown, was cut short and negated when the on-field officials mistakenly whistled the play dead. A subsequent touchdown by rookie wide receiver N’Keal Harry was nullified when the officials erroneously called Harry out of bounds at the 3-yard line.AD
The Patriots ended up with a field goal during a sequence in which Gilmore might have scored a touchdown and Harry definitely scored a touchdown. Those four additional points would have come in handy in the game’s late stages, at which point they might have been able to kick a tying field goal instead of watching quarterback Tom Brady throw a fourth-down incompletion into the end zone with just more than a minute remaining.
“In games, that’s going to come up,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said at a postgame news conference. “Calls you think should go your way don’t go your way. You’ve just got to play through it.”
Coach Bill Belichick showed his frustration on the sideline during the game. On the Gilmore play, the officials ruled Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce down by contact on a run after a catch. They whistled the play dead when, in fact, Kelce lost the football before he was down. Belichick challenged and the Patriots were awarded possession via an instant replay reversal. But they could only be awarded possession at the point of Gilmore’s recovery. If the play had continued, Gilmore could have made a significant return.