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After Further Review: Denver Broncos Officiating Week 16

Breaking down the good and bad from the officials during the Broncos 51-14 humiliation vs the Los Angeles Rams.

NFL: DEC 25 Broncos at Rams Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Breaking down the good and bad from the officials during the Denver Broncos 51-14 humiliation vs the Los Angeles Rams in Week 16.

No Horse-collar Tackle on Jeudy

The most common complaints from coaches are about perceived holding, pass interference, and horse-collars. Pass interference is mostly because of the amount of judgement involved. The other two complaints are because the rulebook is specific and the prohibitions are significantly narrower than what reasonable coaching should teach. Correspondingly coaches complain about conduct that is incompatible with what they teach, even though that conduct is legal. In the first quarter Jerry Jeudy made a good catch and was brought down hard by Rams defender Bobby Wagner from behind. It is not enough for a penalty for a tackle to be from behind and up high for the tackle to be an illegal horse-collar. The tackle must also be exclusively from a prohibited area and the force applied by the defender in the direction of the ground. Wagner wrapped Jeudy with one hand in a horse-collar qualifying spot, but the impact of the tackle was to spin Jeudy down and to the side. This was a good no-call.

Bad Offensive Holding

Umpire Mark Pellis made a bad judgement calling holding against Graham Glasgow on the Broncos second drive. On the play, runner Latavius Murray was tackled almost in the immediate vicinity of Glasgow. The hold call came out late, after the tackle had already ended the play. This absolutely should have not been called.

Challenge Review

Both obvious challengeable plays in this game were reviewed. The Denver review of a no catch on second and 22 by Courtland Sutton was one of the funniest challenges of the year. It appeared on initial view that the official marked it complete, before deciding on an incompletion (this meant a discussion took place). Surprising is that the replay official found the right answer (that a catch had been made) and then did not correct the ruling on the field silently. I have highlighted multiple times this year when officials working with their replay booth have silently corrected rulings. Here they could have done the same thing. Instead they made a ruling, Denver challenged, and it was overturned immediately without referee Ron Tolbert looking at the play. I hate using the replay system this way – when the officials know they got something wrong they should be empowered to correct it. Some crews already are doing that through slow rulings, while others are acting more formally within the rules structure.

The second challenge of the came came early in the third quarter when the Rams challenged the ruling on the field of a catch down by contact to Greg Dulcich – believing that Dulcich had fumbled the ball. While the officials ruled that Dulcich was down by contact, they also ruled that the spot was slightly short of the first down marker, making it a successful challenge. This shows one important element of coaches challenges – by rule the entire (challengeable part of) the play is reviewed if there is a coaches challenge.

Changes to the spot of the ball only count as a successful challenge if a different spot changes possession, the next down, or the score. While the hypotheticals here can get extreme, the common result is if the ruling on the field is a third and inches, but replay shows that the player was down earlier making it third and 2, a challenge would be unsuccessful if that was the only correction to the play.

You Make The Call


What is your call?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    Defensive Pass Interference #5
    (102 votes)
  • 3%
    Offensive Pass Interference #14
    (6 votes)
  • 7%
    Dual Fouls
    (11 votes)
  • 22%
    No Foul
    (35 votes)
154 votes total Vote Now

Official Evaluation

Ron Tolbert and his officiating crew had a decent game. I really disliked Tolbert’s challenge mechanic, and I felt that the spotting of the ball was a bit off throughout the contest: short early and long late. However the back three officials of Ryan Dickson, Keith Washington, and Tony Josselyn impressed with their smooth communication and sound judgment in the secondary.

The Broncos had this officiating crew earlier in the year in their week 6 loss to the Chargers in the game Damarri Mathis was called for four defensive pass interference fouls, and I was highly disappointed in the crew, though I mostly supported their calls against Mathis. I mostly feel like my earlier assessment was correct – the weakest link on the crew is Tolbert, because the leadership in officiating philosophy is just not clear throughout the game with his crew.