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After further review: Denver Broncos officiating Week 11

Breaking down the good, the bad, and the precise from officials in the Broncos 22-16 loss to the Los Vegas Raiders in week 11.

Rounding the Spot

Spotting the ball after a play is a team effort, with the Down and Line Judges giving a spot for the umpire to work with (and replay helps a lot on this when things get weird). Most of the time, crews round their spots. A first down pass for 23 yards that has an honest spot of the 44.5 yard line will be rounded to the big line and spotted at the 45. This makes returning the ball simpler after passes and makes things easier for play callers and statisticians while also decreasing down time between plays. One of my favorite examples was in the Super Bowl a few years ago where after a long catch and run a receiver ran out of bounds obviously at the eleven-yard line. It was spotted at the ten to give first and goal. When officials are uniform in their approach to this rounding, there is no disadvantage to either team, and rounding is done at all levels of football. Some officials dislike this tactic, because it asks officials to use common sense instead of their honest best spot. This officiating crew is the first one this year the Denver Broncos had that did not have any interest in “rounding the spot.” They spotted the ball exactly where they had it down. It was surprising to see such a rigid approach.

Blindside Block

Courtland Sutton was called for an illegal blindside block with 3:16 left in the second quarter. This was a really big mental error on his part and one that has no upside. Blindside blocks are only illegal if the blocker leads with their head, shoulder (as Sutton did) or forearm. When a player leads with their hands they can make this block legally and safely. It is something that coaches should get furious about, because the penalty is big and the block is almost always just as easily made following the rules.

Blocked Field Goal

At the end of the first half, Denver attempted a short field goal which was blocked. The kick entered the endzone, and Las Vegas attempted to recover the ball, but it was blown dead. This was the correct interpretation of the rule, but the rule is pretty unknown to fans. Kicks into the endzone may be returned by the receiving team (defending team), but those kicks are immediately dead if they touch the ground before the receiving team touches the ball. In this case, the ball touched the ground first. While it was blocked by the Las Vegas Raiders before the kick, the blocker touching it does not count. There are actually quite a few situations where we ignore defenders touching the ball behind the line of scrimmage, because the rules want to create incentives to try for the big play and in most of those situations the defender touching the ball is to the disadvantage of the defense.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

After a good no call for a personal foul against Justin Simmons, Davante Adams got angry and yelled at back judge Dino Paganelli. Players rarely get fouled in the NFL for their interactions with officials, though the broadcast made pretty obvious what Adams said, and he deserved that flag. Both for players and coaches, it is beyond stupid to argue with officials. Yes, the crew last week might have been more or less aggressive throwing penalty flags. Yes it feels unfair. But arguing over calls, or getting mad at officials misses the game and hurts your team. Adams was egregious in constantly wanting flags, and those antics will only be tolerated for so long as they hurt his team. It was good to see the Broncos not incessantly arguing for flags.

Challenge Review

There were no challenges in the game. There was only one play that I noticed as challengeable but was not. In the first half, Denver completed a pass for approximately ten yards on first down. The official marked it second and inches. A review to challenge the spot could have succeeded and was probably a 50/50 proposition. Instead, Denver ran the ball for an easy first down on the next play.

There was an automatic review of a ruled touchdown for Kendall Hinton, and the ball was brought out and placed at the one yard line. This was a good review and overturn, and fortunately Denver scored on the next play.

Would You Call A Penalty


Is this a foul?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    Yes: Holding Offense #66
    (124 votes)
  • 20%
    No: Let them play
    (32 votes)
156 votes total Vote Now

Official Evaluation

The officials in this game were solid and unnoteworthy. Early on they were a bit fast to throw borderline holding and pass interference calls. After halftime they became pretty resistant to ticky-tacky calls, to the point of being pretty late on obvious calls. For a divisional rivalry that went into overtime, this game was about as boring as a contest could go from an officiating perspective. It was a good days work by Shawn Smith and his entire crew.