Chiefs prevail as refs fail to execute pro-Patriots conspiracy

Published: 12/8/2019 10:07:53 PM
Modified: 12/8/2019 10:00:12 PM
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots — normally beneficiaries of a league-wide conspiracy to assure their success — lost to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, 23-16, when officials failed to execute the scheme.
The Patriots almost always benefit from correct calls like they did in the “Tuck Rule Game” from 2001 or the Jesse James non-catch against Pittsburgh in 2017. Such proper applications of the rules have long vexed fans across the league and led them to presume in a totally rational and well-thought-out conclusion that proper officiating is an NFL conspiracy to help the Patriots succeed.
This particular conspiracy theory, unlike most other conspiracy theories, makes perfect sense. After all, why wouldn’t the NFL want the Patriots to be in the Super Bowl every single year? America loves that. Every time New England goes deep into the playoffs, the entire country swells with joy. No one ever complains about it. It’s grand.
And really, if the league isn’t doing everything it can to aid the Patriots, then why was Tom Brady suspended four games for general awareness of an alleged equipment violation that they couldn’t even prove? Think about it.
On this Sunday, however, the Patriots were on the verge of an epic comeback before the conspiracy went to pieces. Rather the applying the rules as written, officials made no less than four incorrect calls, all of which worked against New England. The conspiracy, at least for one day, was totally botched.
The play that will long stand out in the minds of Patriots sympathizers was a N’Keal Harry catch and score from 15 yards out in the fourth quarter. The would-be touchdown was inexplicably ruled out of bounds at the Kansas City 3, and New England wound up settling for a field goal. The Patriots, who went down 23-7 with 8:46 left in the third quarter, were now within one score.
With a proper application of the rules, the Patriots would have been in position for a game-tying field goal in the game’s final minute. Instead, they failed to convert for a game-tying touchdown.
The Harry play followed a sequence in which the Patriots burned both of their challenges late in the third quarter. The first challenge came when the officials missed an illegal pick on a Kansas City conversion on third and 4 from their own 35. Chiefs receiver Sammy Watkins also failed to reach the line to gain on that play, but benefitted from a poor spot. The officials reviewed the play and did not call the penalty or re-spot the ball.
So, technically, the officials were wrong four times on that play alone (twice in real time, twice in replay), which is about as bad as any officiating crew can be at executing a pro-Patriots conspiracy.
That cost New England its first challenge. The Patriots had to use up their second challenge when Stephon Gilmore recovered a Travis Kelce fumble after the play was incorrectly ruled down by contact. Gilmore, who may have had a chance to score on the play, was unable to advance because of the early whistle. That left the Pats with no more challenges. It was an embarrassing blunder for a crew that is supposedly charged with helping the Patriots win.
The absence of challenges rendered the Pats unable to force a second look at the Harry touchdown or a later pass interference against Phillip Dorsett that would have given New England a first and goal at the KC 5 with 3:31 left in the game. The league and the officials will surely look back with disappointment realizing they left New England points on the field.
But after years of properly officiating games to assist New England, they will surely rebound. After all, they got back on track after burning the Patriots with a blown pass interference call against Luke Kuechly and the Panthers in 2013, which Kuechly later admitted was a bad call. They also cost New England Super Bowl LII by failing to properly apply the existing catch rule on a Corey Clement touchdown, but hey, no one is perfect. Not even the people trying to correctly officiate games to help the Patriots win.
Surely, after watching the officials fail to execute this conspiracy, an outraged nation will demand rule changes. One has to imagine that football fans everywhere will be clamoring to allow coaches to keep their second challenge, if it prevails, even if they failed on their first challenge. Or they might ask for automatic challenges on plays that could be scores or turnovers, which if you think about it is as reasonable as automatic challenges for scores and turnovers.
Indeed, America will certainly make itself heard to the competition committee to fix rules that kept New England from winning.
The Patriots, after losing to Kansas City on a night when the offense struggled, are now on to wherever it is the Bengals play.
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.

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