Unnecessary call sends Chiefs to Super Bowl

In a pre-Super Bowl discussion that most certainly does not please the NFL’s home office in Manhattan, slipshod officiating throughout the playoffs reached a boiling point Sunday afternoon in the AFC Championship Game.

Not to downplay any of the game’s inarguably poor decisions, but the final call of the day, while supported by the rule book, was the most annoying for at least one dispassionate observer.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, trying mightily to get into field-goal range to break a 20-20 tie, with seconds remaining made it to the sidelines at the Bengals 42.

Defensive end Joseph Ossai chased Mahomes for a second too long, laid a hand upon him, and both went tumbling to the ground.

The call: Late hit.

The penalty: 15 yards.

The reality: Had it happened away from a football field, it might’ve been considered nothing beyond a firm tap on the shoulder.

For instance: “Excuse me, coming through.”

Mahomes could have stumbled and fallen in a heap because of careless sideline standees, or because his sprained ankle gave out, or he tripped over something.

Much is made of Mahomes’ athletic prowess and its application in any sport. So, in that great NBA tradition, he may have simply pulled a forward flop.

There is no question that, by the book, the officials made the correct call. The runner was out of bounds, the defender touched him, the runner crash-landed as if he had been run down by a bulldozer.

There are no degrees of degree of unnecessary roughness. If there were, it could have gone down as a 5-yard “’scuse me,” giving Kansas City the ball on the Cincy 37-yard line.

The 15-yard penalty put the ball on the Bengals 27, giving kicker Harrison Butker a veritable 45-yard chip shot for the win.

Because of the inadequacy of the rules, the refs had two options: Consider it for what it truly was and make no call, or give the Chiefs a ticket to the Super Bowl

To be sure, there would have been even more post-game screaming, particularly if the game went into overtime and the Bengals won.

The NFL needs to give its officials some discretion on this, even if it comes with a wink and a nod.

It would help, of course, if all NFL officials were able to interpret winks and nods.

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