Controversial calls in Patriots-Chiefs signify larger issue with NFL officiating

Controversial calls in Patriots-Chiefs signify larger issue with NFL officiating

Sunday's matchup between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs marked another game in which questionable calls by NFL officials overshadowed everything else that happened on the field.

First, there was the premature whistle on Travis Kelce's third-quarter fumble that prevented a scoop-and-score by Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Then, shortly afterward, Pats rookie wide receiver N'Keal Harry was ruled out of bounds on a clear touchdown. New England had already used its last challenge on the Kelce fumble, so it couldn't use one to overturn the blown call on Harry's near-TD.

Former Patriots backup QB Matt Cassel shared his thoughts on the second missed call after the game on NBC Sports Boston's Patriots Postgame Live.


"They should call that a touchdown, because it's reviewable," Cassel said. "If he's out, you can call him out at the four-yard line. But as soon as you mark him out, and you don't know whether or not he's out, now that's four points off the board."

The poor performance by the refs on Sunday pointed to a much larger issue in the league when it comes to officiating. On Patriots Postgame Live, Albert Breer didn't mince words when talking about the NFL's Senior Vice President of Officiating, Al Riveron.

"Al Riveron has screwed this up so badly," Breer said. "I have heard from so many head coaches that he is the problem and one of the main reasons why there is an adversarial relationship between the referees and the head coaches to the point where the coaches feel like the way that the pass interference reviews are being handled is retaliation for what happened in March.

"Part of [Al Riveron's] job is to manage the relationship between the league and the head coaches. That relationship is in such a bad spot. I have absolutely no idea how they can go on with Al Riveron as the head of officiating because we continue to have nights like this, and it continues to be the coaches vs. the officials."

So how can the NFL begin to make strides in the right direction in its officiating department? One idea that has been kicked around plenty is a "sky judge" in the booth who would step in to correct blown calls like the ones in Sunday's Pats-Chiefs game.

Breer is a proponent of that change.

"If you do not think they should put a sky judge in, I don't know what you're watching," Breer said.

"There's a very simple solution to this. Right before the owners meetings I texted 25 head coaches and had 19 responses. 15 of them said they were in favor of a sky judge, I got two nos and two maybes. Head coaches are overwhelmingly in favor of a sky judge ... It's easy, and you have the technology to do it and I've heard people say 'human error,' that's the dumbest thing you could possibly say. It's 2019, you have the technology, use it."

The Patriots are on to Cincinnati as they'll take on the lowly Bengals on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Curran: Best & Worst from Pats-Chiefs>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Patriots Talk Podcast: Youth - that means draft success - will have to fuel Pats' reboot

It's simple, really. If the Patriots are going to avoid staying home again after the Wild Card Round of the playoffs next season and seasons to come, they've got to get younger.

And to get younger, they've got to be more successful in the draft.

In the latest edition of Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast, Curran and Phil Perry focus on the last time New England was sent home this early in the playoffs a decade ago and if there can be lessons learned from that roster reboot in 2010. 

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

The biggest issue confronting the Pats this time around is their age, which averages 31.6 years old (a 42-year-old quarterback skews that a little, of course). By comparison, the Super Bowl 54 opponents, the Kansas City Chiefs (26.8) and the San Francisco 49ers (26.6) are considerably younger.

Click here to listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast: 

The age factor is why, as Perry pointed out, "the pressure is on for them to hit not only in this 2020 draft, where they do have 12 picks, they have no second-round pick, but 12 shots at the dartboard. Last year, they had 10 [picks] and nine guys are still with the team.

"It's clear they have told themselves, 'We need to get younger. We need to start hitting here if we want to sustain this success.' The draft is the lifeblood of any team."

The 2018 team and its victory in the Super Bowl over the Rams last February worked to hide some of those flaws from recent low-yield draft classes.

"They had a great quarterback when they needed him. They had a Hall of Fame quarterback when they needed him. The defense looked tremendous we know how that story played out," Perry said. 

What kind of draft yield are we talking about to fuel the next generation of Patriots' success?

Curran goes on to rattle off the names from 2008-2012 drafts (Mayo, Slater, Edelman, Vollmer, Butler, Chung, Gronkowski, McCourty) that fueled the second half of the Pats dynasty.

"I have upwards of 30 names from 2008 to 2012 who were contributing players to the Patriots. I'm not even talking a little contributing, but massive contributing...," Curran said.  

There's also a discussion of how the uncertainty surrounding Tom Brady will impact the 2020 draft strategy. Listen and subscribe to Tom Curran's Patriots Talk Podcast on the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.


That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

NBC Sports Boston Illustration

That 617 Life Podcast: Patriots' ties to a Pats-less Super Bowl

The Patriots may have been missing from the NFL's Championship Sunday, but that didn't stop them from being mentioned and having their former personnel play prominent roles in the AFC and NFC Championship Games.

Whether it was former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel coaching the Tennessee Titans against the Kansas City Chiefs or former New England quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo helping the San Francisco 49ers beat the Green Bay Packers to reach Super Bowl 54, the Patriots continue to be a talked-about team. 

On the latest edition of the "That 617 Life" podcast, Leroy Irvin, Shanda Foster and Cerrone Battle discussed how the Pats still loomed over the games on Sunday.

"You can not say anything bad about the Patriots because we are always constantly producing talent," Foster said. "I think this is the perfect testament to Bill Belichick."

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Battle said it speaks to the dominance of the Patriots the past two decades that connections to their former players and staff are now all over the league.

"That's what happens when you win," Battle said. "When you win, everybody wants a piece. They want your waterboy. Look at the new head coach of the Giants [Joe Judge, the former Patriots special teams and receivers coach]?... When you're good for 20 years eventually you're going to have your roots all over the league. After years and years of success, I'm not shocked by it."

Irvin and Foster said instead of lamenting a rare NFL Final Four without New England, Pats fans should be grateful.

"I wish Patriot Nation would grow up," Irvin said. "By that I mean I'm tired of seeing on social media people just crying and complaining, 'Oh it's boring without the Patriots.' We've had almost two decades of excellence. We're not there. Get over it."

Said Foster, "I was grateful more than anything. Filled with gratitude. We may never see a run like this again."

In his "Hot Takes and Cold Cuts" segment, Battle says those crowning the Super Bowl 54 opponents as the next dynasties might want to pump the brakes a little. 

"First thing I heard [after the games] is, 'Kansas City they're gonna be around for years and San Francisco they're gonna be around for a long time. They're gonna be contenders forever,' " Battle said. "That was the story all day. 'What is anybody gonna do about these teams next year?' What are they gonna do next year? Not even worry about them. Why? Because this is the Not For Long League. The NFL. Every year, the teams that were hot the year before are never guaranteed to be hot the year after that. Unless you're the Patriots."

The crew also gives their reactions to the new Aaron Hernandez Netflix documentary. It's all in this week's "That 617 Life" podcast on the NBC Sports Boston Podcast network. Click here to listen and subscribe.