3 awful decisions from the refs in Bengals-Chiefs AFC title game
1. ... and of course, the "fifth down"
I'll be honest here -- I'm still not 100% sure what happened on a play (or series of plays) that will go down in NFL history.
Let's just take it from what we saw happen on the field and try to make some sense of it.
It was 3rd-and-9 from the KC 34 and the Chiefs had the ball looking to take the lead late in the game. The original play resulted in the Chiefs not getting the first down and being forced to punt. Somehow, though, the refs failed to communicate properly and despite a play being run, the officials thought the best course of action was to replay the third down.
This turn of events was absolutely ridiculous. A play was run, the Chiefs didn't get the first down, that should have been it. The fact that Kansas City got another crack at a third down when it was the officiating team's fault that the clock was or wasn't running (I don't exactly know what was happening, to be honest) is asinine.
The refs should have taken the time to fix the clock, KC should have punted, and the game should have continued. That's not what happened though and the NFL cannot let this go unaddressed.
The Chiefs ran another play, as per the refs ruling, and Patrick Mahomes was sacked, however, a flag was thrown on Eli Apple for holding so KC got a fresh set of downs. I'm not someone who is buying into any "The NFL is rigged" narratives but if there was a moment where I might have been drinking the Kool-Aid, it was in this moment.
Fortunately, the Chiefs did not score on the drive and ended up having to punt. Could you IMAGINE the (deserved) outrage we'd have heard all off-season had KC gone on to score here and win the game because of the points on this drive? Don't get me wrong, Cincinnati would have had every right to be upset but it'd be like the Saints and the infamous no-call in the 2019 NFC Championship Game all over again.
After the game, the officials addressed the situation and you can read about it in Paul Dehner's tweet below.
The Cincinnati Bengals did not lose this game because of poor officiating but there were really bad moments from the referees that will have NFL fans talking for the next several months. Whether this leads to changes for the officiating crews or not, Bengals fans will remember these moments forever because it truly felt like this was their year to win a Super Bowl and that got taken away from them.
All of this being said, the Chiefs had a touchdown and an interception wiped off the board from the officials too so it wasn't all against Cincinnati, even if feels that way right now. The Bengals also had plenty of opportunities to win the game and couldn't get it done.
It's okay to be upset because the officiating was bad but these decisions weren't what led to the Bengals losing.