The 2023 AFC Championship game was memorable for a number of reasons. Only one of them was the thrilling 23-20 victory by the Kansas City Chiefs over the Cincinnati Bengals. The other headline is that they are now headed to Super Bowl LVII where they will meet the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles.
But perhaps the over-arching storyline of Sunday’s game will forever be the officiating in the fourth quarter. Some close, confusing, and (sometimes) downright sketchy calls had NFL observers throwing the challenge flag.
Especially in Cincy, where the fans and players were quick to voice their opinion that they had gotten shafted out of a surefire, Super Bowl berth. However, the vitriol wasn’t limited to just The Queen City.
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Fans all over the world were chirping about the conclusion of the game, even going so far as to say the game was rigged in favor of Kansas City
Social media was ablaze all Sunday night following the game and throughout Monday. To put it mildly, it wasn’t exactly being kind to the guys in pinstripes.
Bob Menery tweeted, “Dear NFL Whoever these referees are. Please make sure they never officiate an AFC Championship game ever again. As a matter of fact…they should be gone for good.”
“Unbiased opinion here…The bengals got shafted tonight,” he added. “Really poor performance all around. Sucks to watch.”
In a follow-up tweet Menery wrote, “The poor poor Bengals. They got absolutely f***ed tonight by the refs. That was so hard to watch.”
“Guys battle all year long only to have these incompetent referees ruin their chsnces at a super bowl appearance. Shameful,” he added.
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Much of the fury came from a third-down play that was eventually turned into a ‘do-over’. Referee Ron Torbert’s crew wiped out a failed attempt by the Chiefs, who would go on to convert.
Kansas City would eventually capture the franchise’s third AFC Championship behind a 45-yard field goal from Harrison Butker
Torbert says a field judge was trying to wave off the first third-down play because the game clock operator made a mistake. According to Yahoo Sports, he explained that the crew had to make an adjustment as quickly as possible.
“On the previous play, there was an incomplete pass,” Torbert said. “We spotted the ball, but the line judge came in and re-spotted the ball because the spot was off. We reset the play clock and the game clock started running. It should not have started running because there was an incomplete pass on the previous play.”
He continued, “The field judge noticed that the game clock was running. He was coming in to shut the play down so that we could get the clock fixed but nobody heard him, and the play was run. After the play was over, he came in and we discussed that he was trying to shut the play down before the ball had been snapped. So we reset the game clock back to where it was before that snap and replayed third down.”
Frustration went even higher when a penalty for a late hit on Patrick Mahomes extended the winning drive. As the game progressed, it started to look more and more like the odds were stacked to ensure a hand-picked Super Bowl participant. The media had a field day with it all.
The dustup will likely force Roger Goodell and the NFL to take a closer look at the protocols on how they handle these types of game situations.
Regardless of all the speculation, the Chiefs and Eagles are set to kick off The Big Game on Feb 12 in Glendale, Arizona.
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