Stephon Gilmore

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>>>

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Blown calls by refs cost Patriots two touchdowns in loss to Chiefs

Blown calls by refs cost Patriots two touchdowns in loss to Chiefs

New England Patriots fans weren't fond of the refs during Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, and for good reason.

The officials cost the Patriots a touchdown on not one, but two plays in the second half. The first blown call came on a fumble by Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce that was scooped up by Pats cornerback Stephon Gilmore and could have been taken to the house for a New England TD.

For whatever reason, the refs whistled the play dead and ruled Kelce down by contact. They later reversed the call as Kelce clearly fumbled on the play, but the damage was done.

On the ensuing drive, Patriots rookie wide receiver N'Keal Harry had what again should have been a touchdown but was wrongfully ruled out of bounds. You can watch that play below:

These were critical blown calls during another game in which the Patriots offense needed all the help it could get. Instead, New England falls to 10-3 on the season and its home winning streak ends at 21.

The Patriots will look to get back on track next Sunday when they visit the lowly Cincinnati Bengals.

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Fantasy Football Beat: Why Stephon Gilmore could shadow Travis Kelce in Patriots-Chiefs rematch

Fantasy Football Beat: Why Stephon Gilmore could shadow Travis Kelce in Patriots-Chiefs rematch

Fantasy football players seem to get smarter every year. The leagues get deeper. The competition gets better. That's partially because of the sheer amount of information available to fantasy geeks willing to put the time in.

But it's not always easy to find sound fantasy advice on players making up the back ends of fantasy depth charts. That's where we'll try to help fill in the gaps by providing you with information we've gleaned by being on the Patriots beat.

MARQUEE MATCHUP: STEPHON GILMORE vs. TRAVIS KELCE

How the Patriots opt to match up with Kansas City this weekend will be fascinating. There are a variety of options, which will be dependent on the availability of starting corner Jason McCourty, who's missed time lately with a groin injury. 

What we saw in the AFC title game last year was a) Stephon Gilmore matched up with Sammy Watkins and J.C. Jackson matched up with Travis Kelce, then b) the opposite later in the game with the season on the line and the Chiefs in more passing situations. The Patriots could start the game off similarly this year, but the McCourty injury complicates matters. The Chiefs like their three-receiver, one-tight end looks. If McCourty is available, he might be a matchup for Demarcus Robinson. That would leave Jackson for Watkins (who has been largely a non-factor this season and has just two catches total in his last two games) and Jonathan Jones combining with Devin McCourty to double Tyreek Hill. That would free up Gilmore to take on Kelce, who's considered by the Patriots — based on how they've covered him — to be a big receiver rather than a true dual-threat tight end. 

If McCourty isn't available, that could throw things into flux. Then perhaps Devin McCourty or Patrick Chung would be called upon to take Kelce, with Gilmore on Watkins and Jackson on Robinson. Jones and a safety (either McCourty or Harmon) could check Hill. If Gilmore ends up on Kelce, he's totally capable. We saw him frustrate Zach Ertz in Philly earlier this season. 

"I gotta slow myself down a little bit because they're so slow," Gilmore said after the game when asked about covering tight ends. "But they're big and they push off a lot. Just gotta slow myself down a little bit because I'm used to covering faster guys. If I do that, I can play them pretty tight..."

"You can see it on film. Ertz is a fast guy, but like I said, I've guarded faster guys. I gotta really slow down and not get on top like I play receivers. Let him beat me a little bit. If I play on top he'll push me off. That's the game plan I had."

That plan worked in limiting Ertz's truly effective moments. He didn't touch the ball on third down or in Patriots territory. But Ertz still ended up with nine catches for 94 yards on 11 targets. 

Allowing Gilmore to run with Kelce — Kansas City's money player in tight situations — might be the best move for the Patriots. But there's still an opportunity for him to get his numbers. And since this is a fantasy article, I'd suggest you go ahead and start the best fantasy tight end in the game. The position is so weak there's little chance you have anyone better to play. Just be prepared for a down day. 

POPPERS

Julian Edelman: He's banged up. He's getting double-teamed. And yet still he puts up numbers. It's the same story every week. He's seen double-digit targets in seven straight weeks. The Chiefs aren't great at defending slot receivers, either, allowing over 70 percent completions. 

James White: New defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and his pattern-match zone coverages have helped this defense improve ever so slightly against the pass. Last year they allowed 7.5 yards per attempt. This year they're allowing 7.1. Where they've struggled most is in defending pass-catching running backs, allowing 7.6 yards per attempt to backs, which is 31st in the NFL. They're also, according to Sharp Football Stats, allowing a bottom-third success rate (24th) to backs in the passing game. Whether as a receiver or as a runner taking advantage of the lighter boxes he's seen of late — 5.6 yards per carry against the Texans — White should do some damage.

Sony Michel: The Chiefs have one of the worst run defenses in football. They allow 5.1 yards per carry (30th) and allow 141.3 yards rushing per game (30th). This could be the Michel breakout game you've all been hoping for. (Unless your fantasy team has to face Michel this week.) He showed positive signs last week in Houston, rushing for 4.5 yards per carry until the Patriots got down in the game and got away from running the football. 

DROPPERS

Tom Brady: Will the Patriots get this thing figured out eventually? I believe so. I believe a healthy Mohamed Sanu will help. I believe utilizing N'Keal Harry a little differently will help. But until you start to see some signs of real improvement, you can't depend on Brady as your fantasy quarterback going into the fantasy playoffs. The situation around him is simply too messy at the moment. 

Patriots receivers not named Edelman: While the Chiefs play a lot of zone coverages, they pattern-match. That means it's zone that eventually looks a little like man. They aren't necessarily just dropping to a spot and reading the quarterback's eyes. They might also simply play man. The Cowboys played way more man than normal a few weeks ago and it worked because they believed they could match up with the talent the Patriots had on the field.

If the Chiefs do the same, who's beating one-on-one coverage if Edelman is doubled? Sanu might be able to if healthy. Harry might be able to on certain routes. But it's hard to envision anyone filling up the stat sheet from this group. And that includes the tight ends. The Chiefs have actually been pretty good against tight ends this year, allowing just 6.7 yards per attempt to that position, which is fifth in the NFL. 

Tyreek Hill: The Patriots were lit up by Hill in the regular season last year, allowing seven catches for 142 yards and three touchdowns. They made a point not to allow that to happen again in the AFC Championship Game, doubling him everywhere on the field and giving up just one catch for 42 yards. Expect a similar plan Sunday. Plus, Hill hasn't exactly looked like himself of late. He's dealt with a hamstring injury at different points this year, and though he played 52 snaps last week against the Raiders, he had five catches for 55 yards on mostly short catch-and-run plays while aligned primarily on rookie Trayvon Mullen. It looked like he wasn't able to open it up and step on the gas.

Patrick Mahomes: I'm not saying you should bench Mahomes. I'm also not *not* saying that. Some numbers! In his last two games against the Chargers and Raiders — the 21st and 29th pass defenses in the NFL terms of yards per attempt allowed — Mahomes did not crack 200 yards passing. He threw just one touchdown in each game. He lit it up against the Titans in his first game back from a knee injury (446 yards, three touchdowns) so that's not an issue. (Which you can see if you watched him run for a touchdown last week against Oakland.) But the recent sample size has not been real encouraging.

The Chiefs have had to shuffle running backs. The offensive line has been spotty at times. And Hill didn't look like himself last week (see above). Against a defense that gave Mahomes a hard time for one half in each of their last two meetings — a defense that has improved since last year — I wouldn't expect this to be a tour de force performance. I think if you have Matt Ryan going against the Ron Rivera-less Panthers or Krik Cousins against the Lions, I think you've got a real decision to make.

LeSean McCoy: He's a big name, but he isn't getting all that much work. He hasn't seen double-digit carries or recorded 70 total yards since Week 7. While the Patriots have had their share of issues in the running game and against pass-catching backs at different points this year, McCoy isn't a reliable option this week for fantasy purposes.

Sammy Watkins: In his team's last two games, Watkins has two catches on six targets despite playing 95 snaps. He has 33 catches and no touchdowns since a monster Week 1 (nine catches, 198 yards, three scores). He's playing. And he's playing a lot. With one of the best quarterbacks in the game. You'd think that would lead to fantasy points. It hasn't. His last best game was in Week 9, when he caught seven passes for 63 yards. Anticipating a bounce-back game against one of the best pass defenses in football doesn't seem wise. 

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