A Harry Situation

The Chiefs came into Foxborough this past Sunday and beat the Patriots by a score of 23-16.  For the most part, there wasn’t much noise coming from the officiating crew, but one call particularly stood out.  On a first-and-15 play with just over 13 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Tom Brady was looking to pass to one of his rookie wideouts.  He completed a pass to N’Keal Harry, who ran up field along the left sideline.  Everyone at Gillette Stadium was cheering for what they thought was a successful touchdown.  Officials asserted that Harry stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard-line, but replay understandably proved otherwise.  If the play was called a touchdown on the field, there would automatically be a booth review to confirm the referee’s call on the field.  Since Harry was ruled out of bounds, rules state that Bill Belichick would need to pull out his challenge flag. New England was already out of challenges, so there was no choice other than to continue the game.  Ultimately, Nick Folk made a field goal on fourth down. Fast forward to the Patriots’ last drive of the fourth quarter. They needed a touchdown to send the game to overtime, which they failed to accomplish. If the pass from Brady to Harry was ruled a touchdown, Folk could have sent the game to overtime with a chip shot field goal.  Clearly, that would’ve been much more feasible for the team to achieve in the grand scheme of things. The lesson learned from this game is that referees should treat plays like this the same as they have with fumble returns. This season, officials have made it a point of emphasis to let potential fumbles play out, let the defense make an attempt to recover the ball and return it to the end zone.  If a player recovers a loose ball and returns it to the house, it can be reviewed since it will be deemed a scoring play. Booth review now has the ability to overturn a call if necessary. On the other hand, if a player supposedly has their knee down when they fumble, the play will stop. If a defender returns the ball for a touchdown, it will not count. When head coaches challenge these plays and win, the get the ball at the spot of the foul and are not rewarded with a touchdown.  When it comes to the Harry play, the referees should have ruled a touchdown. This gives the booth an opportunity to get the call correct instead of the two officials conferencing with each other and making their best guess.

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