The Bias towards the Patriots Continued in the 2nd Half

In part 2 of this article series, I covered the 4 penalty calls against Jacksonville that occurred in short-order near the end of the 1st half which directly lead to a 10-14 point swing in the AFC Championship Game right before halftime. 

In the second half of the game, there were a few other key calls, and more specifically non-calls, that went against Jacksonville that need to be analyzed.  Keep in mind that the Patriots only received 1 penalty all game; a 10-yarder in the first half for a hold on special teams. 

Granted the Patriots played very well in the 2nd half, made some incredible plays, and Jacksonville on the other side looked nervous and rattled at times- I don’t blame them.  They were the David versus the Goliath of the NFL, on the road, in unchartered waters, and with how the first half ended penalty-wise they were probably getting the gut feeling that “we aren’t supposed to win this game”. 

Here are the key moments from the second half:

 

Myles Jack forced fumble & Recovery

One of the most impactful plays of the game was the one where Myles Jack stripped the ball from Dion Lewis and took the ball for himself, all in one continuous motion. 

This is another call the referees got wrong, but this is one where I won’t be overly critical.  

It was a weird play- Jack forced the ball loose but Dion Lewis didn’t lose it completely- he went to the ground, semi-recovered the ball against his body- but it was hard to tell whether or not he ‘regained possession’ by NFL standards.  Jack forced the ball loose a second time and ended up recovering it.  This all happened in one prolonged motion, and the replay showed the complexity of the play.  It was a bang-bang play and a strange one.  The official blew the play dead, I guess assuming that Jack was down-by-contact after he gained possession of the ball.

If you look at the best replay angle it is clear that Myles Jack gains possession of the ball once he is no longer touching Dion Lewis.  The referee got this wrong- Jack should have been allowed to run with the ball and the play should not have been blown dead. 

My anger with this play is not with the official, (because it was such a tough call), but with the broadcast.  Neither Romo nor Nance mentioned the fact that Jack had a clear path to the endzone. They did not mention that if the play was allowed to continue, Jack would have scored a touchdown.  One of the major reasons all turnovers are now automatically reviewed is to bring a play back to the correct spot if it went on too long following the turnover. 

The official should have let the play continue, knowing it would get reviewed.  But for CBS not to mention the fact the Jaguars just had a touchdown erased by an early whistle is insanity.  There are pictures online from other viewpoints (that the broadcast didn’t show), which show there is absolutely no Patriot in the area to prevent Jack from scoring a touchdown. 

Had Myles Jack have scored it would have been 27-10 Jacksonville at that point.   

 

3rd & 18 Conversion by the Patriots

Arguably the most important play that enabled the Patriots comeback was the 3rd & 18 conversion they got with roughly 10-11 minutes left in the 4th quarter.  Brady dropped back and completed a pass over the middle to the hero of the game, Danny Amendola. 

The non-call on the Patriots offensive lineman on this play was inexcusable.  Dante Fowler Jr. rushes up the middle and is immediately held by the front of his jersey/ collar.  He spins to avoid the block/ hold and is successful at shedding the blocker.  He is about to get into the passing lane and possible get his hands in the way of the pass, but is held from his side, with a jersey tug, which clearly slows him down.  The Patriots offensive lineman should have been flagged for two different holds on the same play.  

What makes this non-call really bad are two factors.  Firstly, on any 3rd and-long play there’s at least a 90% chance the offense is going to throw the ball downfield.  Holding on the offensive line would be a lot more common in this particular scenario than on your average play.  An official should have been watching for holding very closely- to miss both of these on Fowler is inexcusable. 

As bad as the non-call was the biased non-commentary by the CBS broadcast.  Neither Romo nor Nantz comment on the clear missed holds.  Even something like- “the Patriots got away with a hold there” would have done.  To show the replay multiple times and not direct the viewers attention to the missed calls isn’t right. 

 

The 1st Down that Ended the Game

With New England now leading 24-20 they faced a 3rd & 10 from inside their own territory.  There was about 1:50 remaining, and Jacksonville still had one timeout.  If the Jags defense could hold the Pats, New England would be punting with about 1:40 remaining and Jacksonville would likely then have zero timeouts.  

In a normalized hypothetical situation, following the punt, Jacksonville would have started with the ball between their 10-20 yard line with 1:30 remaining.  This would have given them a legitimate opportunity at marching down the field to score a game-winning touchdown. 

Dion Lewis takes the predictable 3rd down handoff and heads for the edge, picking up the 1st down plus a good chunk more, essentially ending the game. 

Watching the play live I went crazy that there wasn’t a hold called on Telvin Smith.  It clearly looked like elite linebacker Telvin Smith would have gotten to Lewis and made the tackle after about a 5-yard gain if he wasn’t held. 

Upon further inspection, watching this play in slow motion many times from multiple angles, it becomes clear the missed call wasn’t as egregious as it looked live.  It was definitely a hold- but there was a lot of jostling by both players and it wasn’t as bad as it first looked.  In addition, Telvin Smith did not protest the non-call. 

My biggest issue again with this non-call is the broadcast.  It looked like a glaring hold live, and was at the very least a minor hold that likely should have been called.  That play was absolutely massive- it either ended the game or the Jaguars would still have a real opportunity.  For Romo & Nantz not to comment on the probable hold that was missed on such a pivotal play was absolutely ridiculous. 

 

Conclusion

The takeaway is that the game was not officiated nor broadcast fairly.  There was a clear Patriots bias shown by the referees with many key calls against the Jaguars and non-calls for the Patriots. 

The broadcast was biased by selectively not showing a few Jaguar penalty calls which the viewer should have been able to see, and not showing the replay angle which showed Myles Jack would have scored if it wasn’t for the early whistle.  They also didn’t show the replay angle which definitively shows that when Jack gained possession of the ball, he was not in contact with Dion Lewis. 

Tony Romo and Jim Nantz were biased in the way they did not even acknowledge critical non-calls that benefitted the Patriots, which ultimately changed the game. 

 

Was the game fixed? Was it favoritism by the referees and CBS? Or was it just bad officiating at key moments?  Everyone can draw their own conclusion.  The bottom line is the Jacksonville Jaguars were the better team that day and should be playing in their first SuperBowl this weekend.