The Falcons may have lost this game even if Richard Sherman hadn’t rather blatantly interfered with Julio Jones on the last Atlanta passing play of the game. Then again, they may not have. When a blown call throws the outcome of a game into question, it’s not a good look for the NFL, and it’s deeply frustrating for the fanbase that loses.
I’m not one to pin the outcome of games on referees very often, both because teams generally do a fine job of winning or losing earlier in the night before a decisive call, and because referees have difficult jobs. When you consider that the referees legitimately missed at least a couple of late calls against the Seahawks and missed that potentially game-changing call in the fourth quarter, though, this one stands out.
Here’s that blown call, in case you missed it:
Got to throw the flag- Julio never had a chance to get his right arm up pic.twitter.com/fBdkHcPdWz— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) October 16, 2016
What isn’t in question is that the NFL, if it determines the officiating crew boned the Falcons, will do little more than apologize and maybe toss a small fine toward the referees. That’s the case in most major American sports, but it’s still an unsatisfying way to address blunders that directly impact the outcome of games, especially if those losses later wind up impacting the playoff picture in a significant way.
Unfortunately, if we’re being honest, the NFL isn’t going to do anything about this, and they really can’t. To do so would be to further undermine the state of NFL officiating, which is already on shaky ground, and change the outcome of games that have already been played. There’s no way to do that without kicking off the kind of firestorm of controversy the NFL is dedicated to avoiding, and so the league will not.
We do have to remember that the Falcons could have won this game had they not stumbled so badly in the first half, had Matt Ryan been able to connect with Sanu on one of those three throws on the final drive, and if Julio Jones hadn’t had a pass bounce off his hands for an interception on the preceding drive. It’s never quite as simple as a call alone deciding a game, and if that’s only a small consolation to you, so be it.
Regardless of this, Atlanta showed us a lot in this game, and we’ll just have to hope the loss doesn’t come back to haunt them when it comes time for the playoffs. We’ll have to hope that somehow, the NFL’s officiating crews get better at making the right calls when it matters.