Recently, game officials have missed multiple facemask fouls in real time. They called two on the Patriots in Minnesota on Thanksgiving. But they failed to call a critical facemask that would have extended a key New England drive in the fourth quarter.
The Vikings led 33-26. The Patriots had the ball on their own 34, facing third and one with 8:20 to play. Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter grabbed the facemask of quarterback Mac Jones after he threw a ball that landed incomplete. Referee Alex Kemp, who is (or at least should be) in position to watch any and all contact with the quarterback, flat-out missed it.
As NBC’s Mike Tirico said while viewing the replay, “A pull and a grab and a twist. Should have been a flag.”
If a flag had been thrown, the Patriots would have had a first and 10 from their own 49, with 8:14 to play. Instead, they punted.
It doesn’t mean the Patriots would have tied the game on that drive. It doesn’t mean they would have won the game. But the call should have been made, and they should have had a fresh set of downs with 15 extra yards of real estate.
The missed penalty becomes the latest piece of powerful evidence for making facemask calls and non-calls subject to replay review. There’s no judgment or discretion involved. It can be reviewed by the replay assistant or the league office and fixed, when it’s missed.
What’s the argument for not making it reviewable, given the many other situations in which video is used to fix officiating errors? There simply isn’t one.
Again, in an age of ever-increasing legalized gambling, these are the kinds of missed calls that need to be subject to a quick and easy fix. It’s the right thing to do for the good of the game, and it’s the only thing to do to minimize the perception by some that something fishy is happening when fouls the rest of us see on TV are not seen by the people who are supposed to be seeing them.