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After Further Review: Broncos vs Chiefs Officiating Breakdown for Week 8

Breaking down the rules and the officiating calls for the Week 8 game between the Denver Broncos and the Kansas City Chiefs.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Denver Broncos Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This week saw a great win for the Denver Broncos and the officiating was so good it was almost as fun to experience as the win over the Kansas City Chiefs was.

Kickers May Not Advance Muffs

Drew Sanders recovered a muffed punt late in the game, and weaved his way into the end zone though the play was whistled dead immediately. This was nicely done by the officials, as they knew that after kicking the ball, the kicking team may recover but not advance and so by rule the play is over as soon as Sanders recovered. It is a small deal in the physicality of football, but being quick enough so that no players got hit after the play was over by rule was a win for the officials. Sometimes making the game safer only requires alertness, as was the case here, and they did it well.

Illegal Formation

Denver was called for illegal formations twice, both in the 3rd quarter when the game was still competitive. I have written earlier this season about how the coaching in Denver is has lots of formations that are ambiguous at best, and that at some point they were going to be penalized. I expected that they would get called at some point this year, and apparently this week was time. I somewhat disagreed with both of the called illegal formations, in that neither were as egregious as other plays that went uncalled, but it was inevitable that at some point Denver would face these issues. It was two different officials who called the penalties, so it was not one particularly rigid official holding Denver to the letter of the rule. Hopefully Denver can use some of the time from their bye week to get a little bit better on formations, because it will remain a potential liability until they clean this up.

Sean Payton Calls Time Out

With 0:46 left in the third quarter, Denver botched a motion. I believe that Jerry Jeudy was supposed to go in motion, followed by Adam Trautman after Jeudy got set. This is relevant because if two players go in motion at the same time, it becomes a shift and both must be completely stationary for a second before the snap. After Trautman started his motion, Jeudy stumbled. This meant that Denver was going to inevitably be called for a foul simultaneous with the snap – probably the worst kind of foul because if your team screws up the penalty can be declined and if they don’t then you lose five yards (it’s the inverse of the defensive offsides). Worse, if the quarterback sees the flag and assumes its an offsides, they might recklessly throw the ball up and see an interception. None of this bad scenario was relevant because as soon as Jeudy stumbled Sean Payton called time out. This was a heads up call from Payton, one of the better fast-paced coaching decisions I have seen in a very long time.

Chain Crew Measurements

The announcers called for a measurement early in the 4th quarter after Jaleel McLaughlin was marked short of the line to gain. I thought the short spot was a good call. But more important is that the announcers were pretty wrong on measurements. Measurements are very accurate, but rarely useful. Especially in professional football, there are sticks that clearly show the officials the line to gain. More often than not, the spot to gain is a full yard-line. It is very easy for the spotting official to know, did they see the ball come down short of the line to gain or beyond it. Measurements are a good tool to have for exotic situations, and especially useful at lower levels of play. But if the officials trust their crewmates, there is almost always a faster and equally accurate answer to the question of “was he short of or past the line to gain.”

Pass Interference on Hail Mary Plays

Some commentators hate what they consider to be egregious pass interference on hail mary plays. In most circumstances they are wrong. Hail Mary plays involve very long passes, normally thrown with a very high arc, and a predictable clump of players. This means two things. First, there is unlikely to be interference caused by a player preventing another player from getting to the ball (this is why there is a clump of players – lots of them have already arrived). Second, the longer pass time means everyone knows that the pass is coming, where its going to, and when. So players on both sides have vastly greater opportunity than normal to play the ball.

These factors combine to take away most of the actual reason why pass interference gets called. So there are many fewer pass-interference calls on these types of plays. While it was not a perfect example, the Justin Simmons interception that basically ended the game showed these features. Because Mahomes was hit as he threw, his pass was high and arcing and spent a long time in the air. The players were underneath it waiting for the ball to come down. Jostling with each other for advantage was not interference, and the no-call was correct.

Official Evaluation

Brad Allen and his crew called a very consistent game. They were clearly not going to flag questionable situations. I counted them as not calling the following borderline fouls: block in the back, holding (x4), hands to the face, late hit, illegal formation, defensive pass interference. I disagreed with only one of the no-calls, but more importantly, I could tell what they were deciding to do and that they were applying it consistently. I thought the officials had good spots and better judgement. While I would have liked them to get a bit more proactive when the teams started shoving, overall this was a well-called game.