By Ben Kelley
December 11, 2019
Ben is a first-year undergraduate BGSU student from Uniontown, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a journalism minor. His primary interests include professional and collegiate football.
Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs played up to the New England Patriots this week, with Mahomes leading his team to a 23-16 victory. However, the game almost resembled a Home Alone movie script rather than an NFL play-calling sheet.
Upon the Chiefs’ arrival in Boston last weekend, a container holding the equipment of thirty-five players went missing. The container was later found in Newark, New Jersey, and delivered to Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts before the game’s 4:30 start time. If the container had not been delivered, over half of the Chiefs’ roster would have been missing their helmets and shoulder pads (Schefter, 2019). Without the proper equipment, the players could not have played. If the players could not play, then the game would have ended in the first forfeit in NFL history (Farrar, 2019).
According to the 2019 NFL Rulebook, “If a team forfeits a game, the opponent will be declared the winner by a score of 2-0, but the points will not be added to the winning team’s record for purposes of offensive production or tie-breakers” (“2019 official playing,” 2019, p. 41). Doug Farrar makes note of this in his article “Chiefs avoid first forfeit in NFL history after equipment is diverted to New Jersey,” but other implications of the would-have-been forfeiture are not discussed by sports media (Farrar, 2019).
Both the win-loss records for the Patriots and Chiefs would have been affected by a forfeiture. The Chiefs victory would not have occurred, and the team’s record would have been 8-5. The Patriots would have gained a victory, and their record would move to 11-2. Playoff spots would not have changed, however, as each teams’ status as division leaders would remain the same. A record of 8-5 would still be good for first place in the AFC West, while the Patriots would have stayed as the AFC East winners with a record of 11-2. (“2019 NFL standings,” 2019).
A forfeiture would have also prevented one of the roughest outings for a refereeing crew this season. Multiple significant calls went against the Patriots, with two would-be touchdowns not being called. On one occasion, safety Devin McCourty punched the football out of Travis Kelce’s hands, and Stephon Gilmore picked up the football and began racing to the end zone. However, the whistles blew before Gilmore reached the end zone, signaling the end of the play.
The Patriots responded on the ensuing drive by scoring a touchdown to make up for Gilmore’s non-touchdown. Patriots’ receiver N’Keal Harry caught a pass, avoided stepping out of bounds, and dove into the end zone for six points. However, a referee blew the whistle when he thought Harry went out, and the play was not ruled a touchdown. Since Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick already had to challenge the referee’s decisions twice in the game, he was out of challenges to use. As such, the play was non-challengeable and since it was not ruled as a scoring play, the referees were not forced to review the play.
Not being called a score doesn’t take away from the heart N’Keal Harry shows here or the execution from Edelman not blocking too soon and getting this called back.— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) December 9, 2019
In a well-officiated game, this score might’ve put NE ahead pic.twitter.com/UOqyvH0TML
However, the referees showed little bias in the grand-scheme of penalty-calling. Kansas City ended the game with ten penalties for a total of 136 yards against themselves. New England was only called for five penalties, with twenty-five yards against the team (“NFL Matchup,” 2019).
Ironically, the Chiefs shot a video of themselves as the actors from Home Alone two months ago. At least referees and Patriots’ fans alike can get some laughter out of the game.
Farrar, D. (2019, December 8). Chiefs avoid first forfeit in NFL history after equipment is diverted to New Jersey. Touchdown Wire. Retrieved from https://touchdownwire.usatoday.com/2019/12/08/chiefs-try-to-avoid-first-forfeit-in-nfl-history-after-equipment-is-diverted-to-new-jersey/
NFL Matchup. (2019, December 8). ESPN.com. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/matchup?gameId=401127930
Schefter, A. (2019, December 8). Chiefs get gear after it’s mistakenly sent to New Jersey. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/28252143/chiefs-get-gear-mistakenly-sent-new-jersey
2019 NFL standings & team stats. (2019). Pro Football Reference. Retrieved from https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2019/index.htm
2019 Official playing rules of the National Football League. (2019). NFL.com. Retrieved from https://operations.nfl.com/media/3831/2019-playing-rules.pdf