There was a very odd sequence of events at the end of the first half between the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills. The end result was a missed field goal by the Bills and it took several puzzling and incorrect decisions by officials to get there.
The entire strange sequence was set off because Richard Sherman jumped the snap. He was flagged on the play, but only for part of what he should have been, and the lack of a second flag changed everything.
It all started when Sherman, attempting to get off the line quickly, jumped too early.
That in itself was not a major infraction. What came next, however, caused chaos to ensue. Sherman continued on in the play, attempting to block the field goal attempt. Buffalo kicker Dan Carpenter also continued on and crashed into Sherman. That was when the officials made their first mistake.
Mistake No. 1 - Despite an obvious offsides, referees didn’t blow the play dead until after contact between Sherman and Carpenter
There is no question Sherman jumped too early. The problem was the play wasn’t blown dead. So, of course he was going to continue playing and try to block the kick. Just as Carpenter continued playing and attempted the kick. The play should have been whistled immediately. Five yards for offsides. Move on.
Mistake No. 2 - Sherman wasn’t flagged for unnecessary roughness despite significant contact
Because the play was flagged for offsides, roughing the kicker doesn’t come into play. There was no actual play for a kicker to be roughed. However, unnecessary roughness could have, and should have been called.
At the end of the half in #BUFvsSEA its unnecessary roughness for hitting the kicker. Foul means he can stay in the game.— Dean Blandino (@DeanBlandino) November 8, 2016
If the NFL senior vice president of officiating says it should have been called, then it should have been called. So why didn’t they call it? According to Rex Ryan, officials said they didn’t think the play was enough to justify a penalty.
The fact it wasn’t flagged was much bigger deal than the extra 10 yards the penalty would have tacked on. After getting hit, trainers came onto the field to look at Carpenter. Since that happened, Carpenter had to come out of the game for one play. That forced the Bills to spike the ball and then run Carpenter back on the field.
That sequence led to another mistake by the officials.
Mistake No. 3 - The umpire stood over the ball and held up the Bills so long they got flagged for delay of game
When the offense substitutes, the umpire stands over the ball to give the defense time to substitute as well. The Bills definitely substituted with Carpenter coming onto the field. That doesn’t explain why the umpire stood over the ball and held up the Bills so long that the play clock nearly ran out.
The play clock resets to 40 after the spike like it should. Carpenter then immediately jogs onto the field. The umpire didn’t back off the ball and let the Bills continue until there were just a few seconds left on the play clock. Carpenter and the Bills holder appeared ready and just waiting for the clear to play. It came so late, Buffalo was whistled for delay of game.
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After the game, referee Walt Anderson explained why he felt the play didn’t warrant a flag.
"We didn't end up having a kick, so one of the things we're just looking for is does the player have a chance to realize that we're shutting the play down from that standpoint and whether or not he has an opportunity to avoid any type of contact once he realizes that we're getting the play shut down,” Anderson said. “I know it was loud out there for everybody.”
What should have been a simple offsides whistled dead turned into a complete disaster. The Bills still could have made the field goal and the nullified the mistakes, but they missed. And now in a close game, those official mistakes loom large.