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The 'Monday Night Football' refs waited until the next play to make a facemask call

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It's good to take time to make the right call. But this was so much time that people got suspicious.

In the third quarter of the Monday Night Football matchup between the Broncos and Bengals, there was a blatant facemask committed by Denver against AJ McCarron. Nobody thinks the call shouldn't have been made, but the way it was made raised some eyebrows:

Normally, a facemask call is made immediately, in the instant a referee judges the foul was committed. In this case, the call was made after the play was dead — in fact, after the ball had already been spotted for the ensuing play. Multiple replays had already been shown on ESPN, and the Bengals were already breaking the huddle for their next play. That's just about the latest call you'll ever see.

It's possible nothing weird was happening here. As you can see, the officials were conferencing after the play. Ed Hochuli, the crew chief who threw the flag, is talking to his crew before deciding to throw the flag. Perhaps Hochuli just took a while to discuss the play with his crew and decide on the best course of action. After all, it's just as bad to throw a flag for a phantom foul as it is to miss a call, so it's important to make the right decision.

But many, including refereeing experts, think something else was at play:

The NFL recently put a system in place for referees to communicate wirelessly via the league's refereeing center in New York. It's not in place yet, and the league has explicitly stated that the system will not be used by the office to order on-field officials to sway the judgment calls of on-field officials. But as Kevin Siefert of ESPN writes, many in the officiating community are skeptical, believing that the league already uses wireless communication

If the NFL is secretly communicating with referees, they'll never admit it.

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