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Falcons again on the losing end of NFL’s inconsistent protection of game integrity

Atlanta is having some bad luck with disparate treatments and punishments surrounding the the integrity of the game.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The Falcons have been penalized twice in 2022. Once due to overly protective rules to protect the integrity of the game. Once due to a lack of rules to protect the integrity of the game.

What an absolutely maddening time to be a Falcons fan.

On Sunday against Tampa Bay, we saw one of the most poorly officiated games in quite some time. While most saw the egregious roughing the passer call on Grady Jarrett’s clean and legal sack of Tom Brady, there was so much more going on. We saw Tom Brady kicking at Grady Jarrett multiple times without penalty. Similar sacks on Marcus Mariota not flagged. The roughing the passer penalty was only possible because the refs saved Tampa’s drive just a few plays earlier with a penalty on AJ Terrell for pass interference within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

Jerome Boger, the head referee in the game, tried to defend the indefensible call. It seems he describes what has always previously been considered as a “sack.” Now it is illegal to sack Tom Brady if that sack makes him real angry.

The Falcons twice ended Tampa’s drive, twice giving the Falcons the ball and an opportunity to score. Twice the refs bailed out Tampa, following one very bad call with something so egregious all NFL pundits, outside of Tampa fans, agreed it was a travesty. Tampa was able to kneel out the clock and the Falcons never touched the ball again.

The NFL needs to clean up this bad referee problem as it directly impacts the integrity of the game. Even fans and media outside of Atlanta agree that this sort of problem is very bad for the NFL. Even the NFL’s new revenue streams, such as legal betting and new fantasy games, are put into serious potential jeopardy.

Why risk money on a product that has such an inconsistent application of the rules? Do fans have to consider the refs when setting fantasy football lineups? Are the refs simply grossly incompetent or influencing outcomes? After yesterday, the answer is tough to discern.

The above is apparently important to the NFL, as the explanation for Calvin Ridley’s season-long suspension was due to even the potential implication of impropriety. The NFL can’t have an NFL player betting on games, even if in small amounts or with the player already ruled out for the year. Ridley foolishly bet on his own team, but these were games he wasn’t even playing in. Ridley’s potential impact on the game was nearly zero, as was his ability to use inside information to influence his betting decisions since he was away from the team at the time that the bets were made. That apparently hard-line rule resulted in Ridley, who missed most of the 2021 season, to miss all of the 2022 season.

Are the refs held to the same standard as the players? After all, the refs have even greater control of games than just players. In Sunday’s game, we inexplicably saw two unsupported drive-extending flags, with the latter being indefensible. It is difficult to support this league, let alone watch it, when games can be lost or won by a referee’s bone-headed decision.

Will the NFL investigate Boger and his crew for potential impropriety or conflicts of interest? Perhaps a suspension? At least move them off of next week’s games? Will the refs see even a fraction of the review or punishment as was handed out to Ridley? After all, the integrity of the game is at issue. In the meantime, the Falcons remain on the losing end of inconsistent and nonsensical punishments.