Missed facemask foul ended key Patriots drive

New England Patriots v Minnesota Vikings
Getty Images

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.

18 responses to “Missed facemask foul ended key Patriots drive

  1. Refs missed tons of penalties of the Patriots:
    1.12 men in the huddle.
    2. Numerous false starts
    3. Block in the back on Smith on that blitz.
    4. Hold on Za’Darius when he came up the middle.

    Plenty of stuff missed…

  2. And on that same play they can also count the 12 players that the Patriots had in their huddle.

  3. How about the Refs call the 12 men in the huddle first, then they wouldn’t have to miss the face mask call as well.. just a thought

  4. Maybe the “quick and easy fix” is precisely the reason why those will continue to be “missed.”

  5. Wasn’t that the same play New England had 12 men in the huddle and the refs missed that too? Or am I just remember two different plays?

    Either way, some rough calls by the officials.

  6. Worldwide audience also were shown an obvious false start by Patriot Left Tackle, astonishingly overlooked by Line Judge. This allowed pass completion, which lead to Pat’s final score.

  7. The first face mask penalty called against the patriots was interesting because the Vikings player stepped out of bounds before the hand caught the mask. In essence, the facemask didn’t determine why the play was over. I get why they called it, but I wouldn’t have liked it if it was my team.

  8. Add in the obvious missed hold on the kickoff return touchdown… if only the NFL allowed all plays to be reviewable.

  9. “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.”


    OR maybe gambling odds and money is the reason the NFL doesn’t want to fix them.

  10. As a Vikings fan, that was the first game I watched this year where it looked like the refs were more for us than against us.

  11. Trying to hard to not look like a Homer here.. Multiple calls were missed against the Vikings as well.

  12. The line and side judges give a slight bit of latitude on pass-play false starts just ahead of the snap of the ball. On the left-tackle play in question, TV didn’t show a replay with the player and the ball in the same shot, so its hard to judge. Take Mike Tirico’s word for it? I’m not inclined to think he knows better than the officials. The replay they showed revealed the left tackle moved earlier than the left guard, the only other offensive player in the shot as I recall, but perhaps the LG moved late. Watch a game carefully, looking at the tackles and the ball. On pass plays, they usually move on cadence. So does the center. They may have different reaction times or rhythms, but the refs usually allow it as long as it’s reasonably close in time.

  13. I have no issue with reviewing things like this. But, let’s not make it about gambling or the tin foil at crowd that thinks the fox is in. Also, as we know from watching the Vikes and Bills game (no catch, 12 men in field), let’s not pretend this would fix everything. The speed of the game dictates that some things will always be missed. And that bad or missed calls generally even out for the year.

  14. Should we also review delay of game? There’s 3-4 every single game where the clock is at zero and the ball has not been snapped.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.