NFL referees across the league came under fire for a slew of questionable calls that threw a wrench in a few games Sunday.
Players and coaches on multiple teams – including the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Philadelphia Eagles - took shots at the officiating after their games ended, saying they felt like they may have been hosed by some of the calls that were made.
The Giants dropped their second straight game, losing to the Carolina Panthers in the closing seconds. Giants safety Landon Collins and defensive tackle Damon Harrison both voiced their opinions on a questionable call that may have changed the tempo of their game.
In the second half, Collins attempted to intercept a pass from Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. His head collided with Panthers wide receiver Devin Funchess’ head and the referees penalized the defensive back for “contact on a defenseless player.” Collins didn’t hold back when asked about the play after the game.
“The mood is we need better refs,” Collins said after the game, according to The Athletic. “That's the mood. Point-blank, simple. It's bogus calls being called out there.”
Giants coach Pat Shurmur also remarked on the play, saying Collins made “a play on the ball with no attempt to target the receiver.”
Harrison took to Twitter, saying the league should explain themselves, “I can take a loss...to have a win stolen is a different type of feeling. The NFL has some explaining to do...”
Harrison also criticized officials for the spot they gave Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey in the closing seconds of the game. McCaffrey was given a first down on a close carry and the play wasn’t reviewed.
“I think they jumped the gun a bit. From where I was, I don't think it was a first down. It was short,” Harrison said, according to the Charlotte Observer.
The first down gave the Panthers to kill the clock and set up for the game-winning field goal.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wasn’t a fan of some of the calls during his team’s 41-17 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Tomlin was particularly upset over a roughing the passer penalty that was called on T.J. Watt. Replays of the video showed Watt clipping Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s leg.
“Some of the other stuff, man, is a joke,” Tomlin said after the game, according to ESPN. "We gotta get better as a National Football League. Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We gotta get ‘em correct. So I’m pissed about it, to be quite honest with you.”
Watt’s brother, Houston Texans superstar J.J. Watt, also tweeted criticism while watching the game.
"Would love to hear the explanation on how this was ‘roughing the passer,’" J.J. Watt wrote.
Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett was also flagged for roughing the passer in his game against the Minnesota Vikings. Bennett appeared to have wrapped Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins up by the ankles before making a less-than-aggressive tackle.
“I just think they sometimes lack common sense,” Eagles cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said after the game, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I get it, we want to protect quarterbacks. I completely understand that; they’re lifeblood to our game. But it’s really hard to do a job and it’s having an effect on some games. But we have plenty of opportunities to win a game. That was just one play that was a little frustrating.”
Bennett reportedly declined interview requests after the game.
Referee Walt Coleman explained after the game the penalty was called because Bennett went for Cousins’ knee area, according to NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“He went low into the quarterback’s knees with his shoulder, with force,” Coleman said. “And the rule is that you cannot hit the quarterback low at the knee area or below with force. He got him there with his shoulder, so that’s what I had as far as roughing the passer.”
NFL officiating has come under fire since the start of the season. Most notably, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews blasted officiating after he was called for roughing the passer against the Washington Redskins.
“Unfortunately this league's going in a direction I think a lot of people don't like. I think they're getting soft,” he told the media, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “The only thing hard about this league is the fines they levy down on guys like me who play the game hard.”
There have been 48 roughing the passer penalties through five weeks of the season, according to NFLPenalties.com. There were 107 in total last year.