Sunday evening saw a tight matchup between the top two teams in the AFC. A head-to-head, back and forth showcase of two Super Bowl contenders. What was shaping up to be a classic game quickly unfurled into a heavily disputed controversy.
With under 30 seconds remaining in the game, and no timeouts left, Ben Roethlisberger hit an open Jesse James for a 10-yard touchdown–or what looked like one. Although it appeared James had control of the football, it touched the ground as he was falling into the end zone.
When the referees came back from reviewing the replay, they overturned the call on the field. Incomplete pass. Rightly so, many people were scratching their heads.
When the ball crosses the plane here (@JJames18_) and when a receiver reaches for the pylon and crosses the plane (and falls out of bounds), both are TDs, right? Trying to understand what happened at the end of the #Steelers #Patriots game. pic.twitter.com/A6NmGSAew3
— Cabbie Richards (@Cabbie) December 18, 2017
Still, the Steelers had the ball and another shot to win the game. Down by 3 points, with no timeouts remaining, Roethlisberger hit his receiver in the flat. Tackled in bounds, the clock continued to run.
On 3rd and goal, Big Ben faked a spike and pump faked to his receiver. Instead of throwing it away and kicking a field goal to send it to overtime, he took a shot into traffic.
The ball was tipped by a Patriot defender and floated into the hands of Duron Harmon to seal the win for New England. With the help of officiating, and poor decision-making by a 14-year veteran QB, the Patriots snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
This seemingly miraculous turn of events, caused by the referees, was predicted by some NFL skeptics.
Everyone ready for a weekend of “who does the NFL REALLY want in the playoffs” football? Because now is the time the refs will truly shine.
— Brian Tuohy (@TheFixIsInTuohy) December 16, 2017
While the call can certainly be questioned, it was allegedly the right decision. ESPN was able to verify by digging deep into the NFL rulebook.
Here is the catch rule applicable to the overturned call on Jesse James’ potential go-ahead TD reception: pic.twitter.com/y4r6viDroO
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 18, 2017
Regardless, a classic game was overshadowed by late-game referee shenanigans. It’s a shame that when reflecting on this battle of two NFL heavyweights, most will only recall the final 30 seconds.