Refs made historical mistake that may have cost the Atlanta Falcons

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 13: Referee Adrian Hill #29 writes a note during an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and the Washington Commanders at Soldier Field on October 13, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 13: Referee Adrian Hill #29 writes a note during an NFL football game between the Chicago Bears and the Washington Commanders at Soldier Field on October 13, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images) /

It isn’t often that you can say there were three yards lost in oblivion during an NFL game, but that is exactly what you can say about the game between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers.

The referees have not treated us nice this year (looking right at you Jerome Boger) and that has continued as they cost the Falcons a few yards in the NFC South matchup.

Those precious yards were lost, missing, unaccounted for, gone, sucked into a black hole, however you want to describe it, and will never be seen again.

Officials made a brutal mistake that cost the Atlanta Falcons yards

Okay, it was not a lot of yards that they stole from the Atlanta Falcons but they are still precious yards. And as they say, it is a game of inches and there are 108 inches in three yards, so take that for what it is worth.

Anyways, the incident occurred when the Falcons’ offense had the ball in a second down needing one yard for the first with about 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter. They handed the ball off to Tyler Allgeier who picked up nine yards, but as they did so frequently, they called holding on Parker Hesse.

As everyone knows, offensive holding is a ten-yard penalty, I repeat ten-yard penalty, but apparently, Adrian Hill and his crew of officials decided that they would change the rules just this one time and make it a 13-yard penalty, because, you know, the NFL has to punish the Falcons for playing terrible in primetime again.

The second-down play started at Carolina’s 28-yard line, Allgeier carried the ball for nine yards to the 19-yard line, and the holding penalty was enforced on the 28-yard line (as it should be) but somehow the ball ended up all the way back at the 41. I am pretty sure 28 + 10 is not 41.

It was even marked down as a 13-yard penalty on the NFL’s own play-by-play summary:

I may be wrong on this, but I bet you have never seen a 13-yard offensive holding penalty in your life and you will never see it again.

Refs mark the ball in wrong spots quite frequently but that is on “judgment calls” because trying to mark the ball down exactly where the runner was down is basically impossible on each and every play. An offensive holding penalty is not in any way, shape, or form a judgment call, it is a 10-yard penalty from wherever the ball was marked previously. This was a blunder by the refs and Arthur Smith knew it immediately as he blasted them, and rightfully so.

Those three yards may have cost the Atlanta Falcons three points, maybe more

Three yards may not seem like a lot but it came at an area of the field that can cost you in a big way, and that might have been the case for the Atlanta Falcons.

Each team has its own fine line of where field goal range is and it is dependent on the situation, who your kicker is, how he is feeling, and what the weather is like. The three yards that were lost came in the third quarter when the Falcons were down by ten. They have Younghoe Koo who is considered one of the best in the NFL (even if he missed two PATs in the game) and the weather was pretty grim.

Atlanta should have had a 2nd & 11 from the 38-yard line but instead had a 2nd & 14 from the 41-yard line. They ended up completing a pass to Drake London for five yards which put them on the 36 but should it have been the 33 with the correct penalty yardage.

On third down, Marcus Mariota took a loss of five yards when he inexplicably ran out of bounds instead of throwing the ball away, so they ended up back at the 41-yard line, or what should have been the 38-yard line.

It was rainy but you have Younghoe Koo (who at this point hadn’t missed the PATs), so it was an iffy decision and Arthur Smith ended up punting the ball which was downed at the two-yard line. It was probably the correct decision as it would have been about a 58-yard field goal.

Now, let’s say that the refs spotted the ball correctly in the beginning, it would have been a 55-yard field goal, does that change your mind if you are Arthur Smith? Maybe, maybe not with the weather, but if he did trot Younghoe Koo out there and he made it, then the refs cost the Falcons three points.

Or, you can take this a step further and say that they would have had a different play call if they needed to get 11 yards, compared to 14, on second down. Maybe they pick up more than the five yards they did, maybe not, or maybe they get a first down and end up scoring a touchdown, you just never know.

Different scores on the scoreboard can make coaches play a game differently. It turns into the ‘butterfly effect’ where one change can grow into giant results.

Yes, this is a lot of “ifs” which is a game you can play when looking back on any game, but the truth is that the refs made a brutal and historically bad mistake just a month after they made the worst roughing the passer call in NFL history against the Falcons in the most critical moment. They clearly took away 108 inches from the Falcons, there is no excuse for it and it should have never happened, but let’s be honest, the NFL knows about it and will never speak of it.

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