Better late than never — that’s what the NFL has essentially told New York Giants fans by now admitting to getting a crucial officiating call wrong during the team’s Week 15 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
Nearly a month after the officiating crew responsible for the Giants-Titans game in Week 15 got the call the wrong, the NFL has informed the Giants that a crucial fourth-quarter call should have never been made. As the Giants attempted to hold the Titans off from scoring in the fourth quarter to build their lead from 7 to 14 points, they turned a 1st-and-goal for Tennessee into a 3rd-and-goal. Giants defensive end Josh Mauro attempted and made the tackle on 3rd-and-goal to force a 4th-and-goal but he was called for a facemask penalty giving the Titans a fresh set of downs and moving the football half the distance to the goal.
Upon further review, in what should have been clear as day to the officiating crew on hand, Mauro never touched the facemask of any Titans player. It was a phantom facemask penalty and the Titans would go on to score a touchdown shortly after. This not only killed any momentum the Giants could build off of making a crucial goal-to-go stop, but it also put the game out of reach.
To make matters worse, the NFL later fined Mauro for the unnecessary roughness penalty in spite of the fact that replays showed he did not commit an infraction of any kind.
This past Tuesday, the NFL finally admitted they got the crucial penalty call wrong. The NFL also rescinded the fine paid by Mauro.
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This is not the first time the NFL has admitted to getting a crucial call wrong during the 2018 season. It’s not even the first time league sources have admitted to getting it wrong against the Giants in 2018. Earlier this season, the NFL admitted to making the incorrect call on a crucial third-down stop by the Giants defense during their Week 4 game against the Carolina Panthers.
The penalty was a backbreaker for the Giants. After pitching a shutout in the third quarter, the Giants forced Cam Newton into a 3rd-and-13 with 14:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Giants trailed 20-16 when safety Landon Collins made a play on the football to force the incomplete pass. Then the yellow flag came in and the Giants were called for an unnecessary roughness penalty giving the Panthers 15 yards and an automatic first down instead of forcing them into a punt situation. A few plays later, the Panthers scored a touchdown to take a 27-16 lead.
According to NFL sources close to NFL Network’s Kim Jones, “Collins should not have been penalized on 3rd-and-13, 4thQ hit Sunday because he was making a play on the ball & any contact to the head/neck area of the defenseless receiver was incidental,” Jones Tweeted. “Via a source familiar with the league’s review process.”
Sources close to Pat Leonard of the Daily News corroborate Jones’ report — the NFL officiating crew standing just a few feet away from the play simply got this one wrong. The source told The Daily News that Collins should not have been penalized because he was making a play on the ball and any contact to the head or neck area of the defenseless wide receiver was incidental.
Leonard writes the call was made in accordance with Rule 12, Section 2, Article 7, Note 2, which reads:
“A player who initiates contact against a defenseless opponent is responsible for avoiding an illegal act. This includes illegal contact that may occur during the process of attempting to dislodge the ball from an opponent. A standard of strict liability applies for any contact against a defenseless opponent.”
Of course, replay reviews of the play in question confirm what sources are telling both Jones and Leonard — Collins never made contact with his helmet. Instead, Collins inadvertently made contact with his back to the wide receiver’s helmet as Devin Funchess leaned his helmet forward. According to the rule, that should never result in a penalty.
We wonder if the officiating crew may have seen Funchess laying on the ground after the play (he would then go to the locker room for an IV) and they threw the flag based on that — a split reaction. Regardless, this is a terrible look for this specific officiating crew with Jerome Boger as the lead official and for the entire NFL.
— Mark Ingham (@iMARKINGHAM) October 7, 2018
After the loss, Collins was not candid in his criticism of the officiating and what kind of impact they had on the outcome of the game.
“The mood is we need better refs,” Collins said after the game when asked about the mood in the locker room. “That’s the mood. Point-blank, simple. It’s bogus calls being called out there.”
Collins could not believe penalty against him. Said he got the ball and made a play. “Bad call.”
“It’s not football anymore,” Collins said.