I was a witness to history on Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs went to 9-0 for only the second time since the franchise was founded in 1960. The Chiefs are the only team in any professional sport to win their first nine games of a season after being the worst in their respective league the previous. That’s not what I’m talking about.
It was 2002 when NFL referee Ron Winter got his first playoff assignment. In a wild card game between the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers his crew blew a call in a controversial finish. They threw an illegal man downfield penalty on a player that was an eligible receiver. Paul Tagliabue later defined the call as the “most disappointing officiating blunder” he’d seen as commissioner.
The Chiefs wound up beating the Buffalo Bills 23-13 this weekend, but there was a call that Ron’s crew made that, at the time, looked as though it could lead to another debacle.
Buffalo led 10-3 early in the third quarter at home and they had the ball. Kansas City had them backed up and had regained some momentum defensively. On third-and-seven from the Bills 23-yard-line the Chiefs blitzed CB Brandon Flowers, and as he dove in front of Buffalo QB Jeff Tuel his foot made contact with Tuel’s leg. Flowers was flagged for unnecessary roughness, and I literally spit my drink through my nose.
The drive eventually led to a Bills field goal, and a two-possession lead for Buffalo inside a stadium Kansas City hadn’t won in since 1986.
Rule 2, Section 12, Article 9(a) of the NFL rulebook specifically states in reference to roughing the passer calls that “incidental or inadvertent contact by a player who is easing up or being blocked into the passer will not be considered significant.”
Immediately after the flag, my phone lit up. “One of the worst calls I’ve ever seen,” the text said. At first, I thought “Na… I had to have seen worse.” The more I thought about it I couldn’t come up with one that was completely judgmental and unfortunately un-reviewable for correction. Winter didn’t throw the hanky, but he was the only one on the field that could make it right and failed to do so.
I understand officiating is a tough job. I’ve done it myself, though not at the level of intensity these guys have to. Very seldom do I get on the stripes for that very reason. The penalty in the playoffs happened on a botched field goal attempt that left everybody scrambling, and both players and officials were out of position. I can understand the confusion of the moment.
That wasn’t the case on Sunday. It wasn’t the playoffs, but while watching the Chiefs play the Bills yesterday I’ve decided I witnessed the most blatantly “questionable” call I’ve personally ever seen in professional football.
I’m just glad for all involved it wasn’t the difference in the game.
Troy Alan is a Kansas City Chiefs writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TRantMedia.