On an NFL Sunday full of controversial calls, the most controversial of all came in St. Louis, when Redskins receiver Josh Morgan was flagged for a personal foul for throwing the ball at Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan, a 15-yard penalty that took the Redskins out of range for a game-tying field goal. The NFL’s replacement officials were right to throw that flag on Morgan, but they were wrong not to throw a flag on the Rams as well.
Immediately after Morgan got his penalty, Rams defensive end Chris Long stood in front of the Redskins’ sideline, appearing to yell at Redskins players and pointing at his helmet, as if to say, “Use your head.” Long’s actions were a clear violation of the NFL’s definition of unsportsmanlike conduct, which prohibits “Using abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents” and “Using baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.”
So, you say, this is yet another example of a player committing a penalty that the officials didn’t see? Nope. The officials did see it. Here’s a brief clip that shows Long making the gesture toward the Redskins’ sideline and an official coming in and telling him to stop. What that brief clip doesn’t show is that after the official told him to stop, Long did stop — for about one second, before walking back toward the Redskins’ sideline and gesturing again, all in plain sight of the official who had just told him to stop.
It would be one thing if Long had simply made a brief gesture or a quick comment to a Redskins player in the heat of the moment after Morgan’s penalty. But Long made the gesture repeatedly, stopped for a moment and then went right back to doing it after an official specifically told him not to, right in front of that official.
If the officials had properly enforced the rule against taunting and thrown the flag on Long, the Redskins would have gotten the 15 yards back, and would have been right back in range for a 47-yard game-tying field goal. Instead, the Redskins missed on their attempt at a 62-yard field goal.
Again, the issue with the penalty on Morgan isn’t that it was the wrong call. It was the right call. The issue is that in the Redskins-Rams game, the penalty on Morgan seemed out of place because the officials repeatedly allowed players on both teams to get away with unsportsmanlike conduct after plays. Including letting Long get away with it, right after flagging Morgan for it.