Week 16 was not a banner weekend for NFL officiating. There were the usual bad helmet-to-helmet calls (Panthers cornerback Josh Norman's hit on Browns receiver Andrew Hawkins on the first play of the second quarter of their game). There were questionable in bounds/out of bounds calls (Vikings tight end Rhett Ellison's touchdown/not touchdown right before halftime should have been a touchdown). It had shaky unnecessary roughness calls on tackles near the sideline (seriously, Vikings linebacker Gerald Hodges initiated contact with Dolphins rookie receiver Jarvis Landry decidedly in bounds but was penalized for taking him to the ground). There was even a quarterback fumble ruled an incomplete pass with no review (Big Ben's hand was empty as hell against the Chiefs).
But there was one shitty call that was so egregious, that I hope the referee who called it isn't allowed anywhere near any playoff games. The offending call would be the ridiculous taunting penalty called against Steelers cornerback William Gay after a particularly spectacular, unspectacular play made by Steelers middle linebacker Lawrence Timmons on third down.
Picture this, the Steelers found themselves up 17-6 in a must win game with 12:39 left in the fourth quarter. Their opponent, the Chiefs, was facing a third-and-17 from their own 23-yard line. The Steelers, of course, played way off the receivers, defending everything deep, and forcing Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith to dump the ball off short to tight end Travis Kelce. Timmons was all the way on the other side of the formation in coverage, but hauled ass and made a one-on-one tackle in the open field for a gain of of just two yards. It may have looked like just a routine play since it wasn't likely that Kelce was going to gain enough yardage to get the first down anyway. If you really look at the play, you have to appreciate just how fast Timmons was running and to be able to gather himself and make a sure tackle. It's the opposite of routine or easy.
NFL Week 17
Gay had also broken up quickly on the play, but was trailing Timmons by a few yards as he took Kelce down. All Gay did was walk up until he was across from Timmons and crossed his arms. It's a common thing that players do, assuming a stance and staring at a teammate who just made a big play like "Yeah, we see you big dawg!" From the TV copy and the All 22 that is the extent of what Gay did. Seriously.
Notice how I didn't say anything about him gesturing at Kelce? That's because it didn't happen. Kelce wasn't even in the same general direction where Gay was facing, and he was off the ground and running off the field before whichever referee threw the flag. Yes, that's right, they didn't even call the shit right away. They waited and still got it wrong.
(It was first-year referee Ron Torbert and his crew calling the game).
As near as I can tell one of these morons threw the flag because he thought Gay was taunting a Chiefs player when there wasn't even one in the vicinity. All because he was standing there with his arms crossed. Dassit. They all refused to look up at the Jumbotron to see just how absurd of a call they were about to make.
The Steelers had fought their ass off to force the Chiefs into a punt, but because of a completely arbitrary and inconsistent rule that allows referees to call stuff they didn't actually see, one which also does not allow for a review to keep the refs honest, the Steelers defense had to go back on the field as the Chiefs continued the drive. They were still able to limit the Chiefs to a field goal, but what if that hadn't been the case? What if the Chiefs had marched down the field after that stupid ass taunting penalty and scored a touchdown which gave them the momentum they needed to come back and eventually win the game?
The league would have a lot to answer for if that had been the case. A potential division winner knocked out of the playoffs because of a taunting penalty on a player that didn't taunt anybody. I could see the headlines.
Something has to be done about this. Officiating is getting more and more ridiculous by the week!