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After Further Review: Broncos Officiating Week 7

Breaking down the good, the bad, and the philosophical from the officials during the Denver Broncos 16-9 loss to the New York Jets in Week 7.

New York Jets v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets was unfortunate for Denver Broncos fans, but the officiating was pretty solid all around. Here are some of the more interesting bits from the officials.

False Start and Offsides

Coming out of the two minute warning before halftime we had a really fun penalty situation. Denver edge rusher Baron Browning jumped offsides over the right tackle. Then, obviously not as a reaction to it, left tackle Duane Brown false started. The officials blew their whistles and killed the play. Most of the time penalties offset, but in this case they did not. That is because an offsides penalty is simultaneous with the snap (the defender can get back), and a live ball foul (unless the defender is unabated to the quarterback, or their offsides causes the offense to false start). The officials ruled that the offsides did not cause the false start, and this was clearly the right call. So until there is a legal snap, the defense hasn’t committed a foul. The false start is a dead ball immediate foul that prevents a legal snap. So even though Browning was already committing his foul, it was not a foul by rule. So the only penalty was on the Jets.

Punt Out of Bounds

There were two high punts out of bounds in this game. The broadcasters commented on both about not knowing where the officials would spot the ball. On these plays, the deep official on that sideline will raise a hand and start hustling down the sideline. If they are quite sure they have a good spot, they will go there and signal it. If they do not (which is far more common), then the referee will chop their arm to indicate the appropriate spot when the official reaches it. This play is all but impossible to spot correctly, and officials more or less just make the spot up. If you asked all seven officials on a crew to guess where a high punt actually went out of bounds, you could get results that varied by twenty yards. When I have practiced this mechanic, we never end up with similar spots. I mention this because fans underestimate just how well officials spot the ball and most of the time officials do an amazing job. The places where officials have a high likelihood of failure are short yardage runs up the gut in the middle of the field – where it is really tricky to have the wing officials get a great angle because of the large number of potential bodies in their way, and these punts. Fortunately punts that go out of bounds with the ball very high in the air are rare, and the stakes are about as low as they can get for football. This is the only area of football where I believe that using technology to spot the ball would be a benefit to the game – it could definitely improve accuracy, and we do not have to worry about figuring out when the ball became dead, as it becomes dead by rule rather than by a player becoming down.

Defensive Pass Interference and Holding

There were many calls in the game that Denver fans might object to on pass routes. This officiating crew took a very passive approach to defensive backfield penalties. This probably benefited the Jets more than the Broncos, as the Broncos have better healthy wide receivers than the Jets. However, their approach was consistent throughout the game, and probably benefitted Mathis as much as it helped the Jets corners.

Would You Call A Penalty


Is this a foul?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Foul: Offensive Holding Left Tackle #73
    (36 votes)
  • 35%
    Foul: Defensive Pass Interference #4
    (74 votes)
  • 24%
    Double Foul: Defensive Pass Interference and Offensive Holding
    (51 votes)
  • 22%
    No Foul: Let them play
    (48 votes)
209 votes total Vote Now

Challenge Review

I saw four challengeable plays in the game - a Jerry Jeudy sideline catch, a pro-Denver spot generous that gave a first down, the Denver interception at the end of the game that was reviewed and overturned, and the fumble/sack of Zach Wilson that Denver challenged and was upheld. The Broncos challenged appropriately, while the Jets left two borderline challenge opportunities, both in the first half go. It is good to see coach Hackett making appropriate challenges.

Officials Evaluation

I really liked the officiating this game. I felt that they had a consistent theory of the game, and that their choices were commensurate with that. I counted ten borderline calls or definitely observed penalties, all of which went uncalled. Two of those were unnecessary roughness calls against Denver (a Justin Simmons targeting hit and a late hit by Alex Singleton), which I definitely would have thrown and continue to strongly disagree with the NFL on how close those penalties should be enforced. In total the no-calls favored Denver seven to three, but the more important thing was that the officials went with a consistent philosophy of not calling penalties, with some exception for holding at the line of scrimmage which they were more willing to call. I was particularly impressed by side judge Jimmy Buchanan and Referee Bill Vinovich. My favorite and least favorite calls in the came all came from back judge Jimmy Russell. Probably the weakest performance was from first year umpire Alex Moore, but even he had a good game. The officials had the opportunity to throw thirty flags, and their discretion was to the benefit of everyone watching.