It’s only fitting that the same day that gave us a Rams–Saints rematch would also inflict a barrage of questionable officiating decisions. After the first week, the new pass interference review rule, a direct consequence of the NFC Championship Game, seemed unnecessary but nonintrusive. After the second week, we’re already tired of the judicial activism which the new rule has apparently invited.
That’s not just because of PI replay, though that reared its ugly head in the Vikings’ loss to the Packers. There were also curious holding penalties, worse roughing the passer calls, a flag that even had Derek Carr speaking out, and the refs’ continued vendetta against the Saints.
Not every gaffe came courtesy of the “Foot Locker” folks this week — just the most egregious. Here are the nine dumbest mistakes from Sunday in Week 2:
9. The Titans lit their field on fire
Gameday operations teams don’t make many (or any) appearances on our dumbest mistakes lists. But when their goof turns into a gigantic fireball, they deserve a spot.
Minutes before the Titans were set to kick off their first home game of the year, a pyrotechnics machine lit on fire and just kept burning and burning.
Props to the Nissan Stadium staff for putting it out quickly, though it feels a little on the nose that it came before a Titans loss.
The Dolphins didn’t have much hope coming into Week 2. They took the field — their home turf — as 18.5-point underdogs against the Patriots. It didn’t get much better in the second half after New England jumped out to a 23-0 lead.
And then it got much, much worse.
Fitzpatrick’s dump-off was a perfect strike to an advancing Stephon Gilmore, who unfortunately for Fitz plays for the Patriots. How easy a run back was this for Gilmore? Well, he could have speed-walked his way to the end zone and been hit by exactly as many Dolphins as he was in his six-point job Sunday afternoon.
The next drive ended in eerily similar fashion when Kalen Ballage (who earlier ducked when a Fitzpatrick pass came his way) bobbled the ball and it landed in Jamie Collins’ hands for another pick-six:
7. Jalen Ramsey begged Doug Marrone to challenge and got ignored
The Jacksonville defense showed up in Week 2 after it was shredded in the season opener. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey was pretty fired up when he thought he helped force a DeAndre Hopkins drop early in the game on third down. Instead, it was ruled a catch.
Maybe that call stands, but there’s a good chance it gets overturned — especially if there’s another angle that wasn’t shown. Either way, Ramsey was pissed he was ignored by Marrone and let him know after the Texans’ drive was extended and finished with a field goal.
The Jaguars went into halftime with all three timeouts and finished the game with a challenge to burn. It looks like an even worse decision in hindsight when the Texans won by only one point.
Granted, Ramsey could’ve erased that drama by helping himself to an easy interception.
The bigger mistake by the Jaguars came much later, though.
6. The Chargers reminded the world just how badly they’re cursed
The Chargers cringed their way through a 13-10 loss to the Lions as only the Chargers can do. It started in the third quarter. Los Angeles led 10-6 and was primed to extend its lead when Justin Jackson took a handoff 60 yards for a touchdown. But, nope, holding on Dontrelle Inman cut that down to a 30-yard gain. Then Philip Rivers hit Austin Ekeler on a screen pass the tailback advanced 22 yards into the end zone, only for that to be negated by an illegal block above the waist.
No worry, after an illegal shift penalty cost the Chargers another five yards, Rivers and Keenan Allen teamed up to give the team first-and-goal at the Lions’ 1. They did not score. Ekeler fumbled away his first carry at the goal line. But the lost opportunity held a silver lining; when LA held Detroit to a three-and-out on the ensuing drive, Rivers got the ball back at the Detroit 45, setting up a short field.
Except a holding penalty on his team’s punt return pushed him back to his own 37. And things still nearly worked out for the Chargers … except that curse goes double for Chargers kickers.
With Michael Badgley, LA called on punter and CFL veteran Ty Long to handle kicking duties. While he made a 39-yarder right before halftime, he missed second-half field goal attempts from 39 and 41 yards. That’s why, facing third-and-19 from the Detroit 28 with one minute to play, Rivers opted to throw a risky deep ball rather than play conservatively and set up another mid-range field goal.
That pass was picked off in the end zone.
5. The referees cost the Vikings a touchdown
Minnesota fell behind 21-0 early in Green Bay, but Dalvin Cook’s massive day helped push the Vikings into comeback range. It looked like the visitors would head to the locker room down only a touchdown after Kirk Cousins hit Stefon Diggs in the end zone with 68 seconds left in the half.
And then word came down from above that the play was under review. The only possible culprit on this bang-bang play was potential offensive pass interference, and moments later Minnesota marched 10 yards in the opposite direction without its hard-earned six points.
NFL senior VP of officiating Al Riveron defended the call, but it still appeared questionable at best and left both teams scratching their heads after the game.
The Vikings couldn’t overcome first-and-goal from the 13 and had to settle for a field goal. That, paired with a missed field goal and blocked 47-yard extra point attempt (thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for Diggs), took eight points off the board for Minnesota. The Vikings lost, 21-16.
4. Kirk Cousins **also** cost the Vikings a touchdown
This came on first-and-goal. Cousins didn’t need to throw this ball.
But he did, lofting a pass into double coverage and wiping away what would be the Vikings’ best scoring opportunity in the fourth quarter. He finished his day with 14 completions on 32 passes and looked in no way worthy of the $27 million guaranteed salary he’ll earn in 2019 and 2020.
3. The Jaguars took the ball out of Gardner Minshew’s hands with the game on the line
Everyone’s new favorite rookie sixth-round pick was dealing Sunday. Minshew led the Jaguars 68 yards on a 14-play drive that pulled them within one point of the Texans with 30 seconds left to play. His ability to improvise in the pocket had helped him extend drives throughout the day, and his connection with the 6’4 D.J. Chark provided Jacksonville’s only touchdown.
And he didn’t hear his number called when his team needed two yards the most. Instead, that duty fell to Leonard Fournette.
Fournette had run the ball three times on that drive. He gained four yards, was stopped for no gain, and gained a single yard. He’d need 2.5 to score a game-winning two-point conversion.
He got one:
Rather than riding the young, dynamic quarterback and his hard-charging wideouts, the Jags decided to run directly into the teeth of one of the league’s best defensive fronts. Or, as Big Cat Country eloquently put it:
YOU TOOK IT OUT OF GARDNER MINSHEW’S HANDS WITH THE GAME ON THE LINE?
— Big Minshew Country (@BigCatCountry) September 15, 2019
2. Sorry, Broncos. The refs still don’t know what roughing the passer is
For most of the afternoon, a matchup between the Broncos and Bears went exactly how you’d expect it to: short passes to the middle of the field, some punts, a field goal here and there, and very little air time on RedZone.
That changed once the two-minute warning came.
With less than a minute to play and the Bears up 13-6, Emmanuel Sanders made an amazing grab to haul in Joe Flacco’s pass in the end zone. Vic Fangio decided he really, really didn’t want to wait any longer for his first coaching win, so the Broncos lined up to go for two, only to be hit with a delay of game penalty. They made the seemingly smart choice to just try the extra point after that … and then missed the PAT.
But wait! The Bears were called for offsides and the Broncos got a do-over at their original spot. The two-point conversion was back on and it succeeded, probably because the Broncos didn’t go away from what was working (Flacco to Sanders), cough cough, Jaguars.
With 30 seconds left and a shaky Mitchell Trubisky asked to go win the game, the Bears looked like they were headed for 0-2 land.
Luckily for them, they got an extra 15 yards on the first play because the refs thought this was roughing the passer:
With nine seconds remaining and facing a fourth-and-15 at his own 40, Trubisky danced around before finding Allen Robinson for a 25-yard gain. It looked at first like the clock had run out, but the officials put one second back on, saying the Bears had called timeout before it hit double zero.
That confused the Broncos on the field:
Broncos DE Derek Wolfe: “What I want to know is where did the second come from? The commissioner needs to review that. That’s our win. Time is gone. They ran out of time.
“I thought we won. And then I’m like, ‘Wait, how are they kicking a field goal? Time’s out.’’’ #9sports
— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) September 16, 2019
And our Broncos blog:
Fastest timeout called in human history. One for the ages, folks.
Feels like they need to find out how to capture that .243 seconds and put it into the Hall of Fame.
— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) September 15, 2019
It wasn’t over yet, though. The Bears would have to overcome their own demons: a game-winning field goal attempt. This time, no one has to worry about future Today Show appearances because Eddy Pineiro nailed the 53-yard try and saved the Bears the embarrassment of losing on a last-minute touchdown from Joe Flacco.
The Broncos, meanwhile, are left wondering why Chubb doing his job is the biggest reason they’re 0-2 right now.
1. The officials screwed the Saints, like always
Perhaps you’ve heard this story before?
The Saints lost to the Rams, but not before a horrible call cost them. Unlike the NFC Championship, this time the awful officiating that pissed off New Orleans happened in the first half.
With the Rams threatening to score in the second quarter, Saints defensive end Trey Hendrickson knocked the ball out of Jared Goff’s hand. It bounced twice and fell right into the lap of Cameron Jordan, who took off down the sideline with no one between him and a touchdown. Then — for some reason — a whistle blew the play dead.
Officials called it an incomplete pass, but replay determined it was a fumble and the Saints took over. But instead of a touchdown and a 10-3 lead, New Orleans was stuck deep in its own territory. The ensuing drive for the Saints ended with a turnover on downs near midfield.
The Rams took a 6-3 lead into halftime.
Al Riveron posted a video explaining why the play was ruled a fumble, but didn’t address the whistle that shouldn’t have been blown. “You always teach the officials on a close play, let it play out,” former head of officiating Dean Blandino said.
Saints coach Sean Payton didn’t blame the loss on the officials — there were other factors, like Drew Brees’ injury at play — but couldn’t help but say it was “an awful call” and “poor officiating.”
Maybe one day the Saints will be the team on the beneficial side of a bad call. Or maybe not.