The consensus after two controversial penalties cost the Detroit Lions a crucial win on national television in Week 6 was clear: Something has to change.
Fans, analysts and legends of the league all spoke out after Lions defensive end Trey Flowers was penalized twice for illegal hands to the face – a penalty Flowers has never previously drawn in his five-year career – late in the game against the Green Bay Packers, extending what would become a drive toward Green Bay's game-winning field goal.
The debacle that played out on "Monday Night Football" was seemingly the last straw for many in a season that has been marred by controversial flags and challenged penalties nearly every week.
A new rule allowing for the review of pass interference calls and non-calls has been the cause for most of the debate in 2019. Questionable flags against Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Johnny Holton garnered national attention, as well as more egregious non-calls on the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.
According to former defensive end and two-time Super Bowl champion Chris Long, however, the issue isn't that the officiating is getting worse — it's that fans know more than ever.
"I think the NFL has a lot to reckon with as far as how the game is officiated because the camera angles are getting better," he told AOL Sports on behalf of Crown Royal. "At this point, if you're going to grow the game and give all these fans this fancy access to every angle, you have to be able to adjust and adapt as officials, because the fans know more."
Fans and commentators in the booth being able to see as much, if not more than, the referees on the field on any given play is one of the main reasons for so much uproar, and the continued imbalance between what can be clearly seen on camera and what is called by the officials could damage the league. A more effective form of checks and balances, according to Long, is crucial to stopping the current bleeding.
"When a guy makes a bad call, why isn't there somebody that tells him that that was a fudged call?" he said, again referencing the calls against Detroit's Flowers, a former teammate of his in New England. "You might avoid the second one, or you might be slower to throw that flag."
Week 7 provided a much quieter spate of games on the controversial call front, just days after the NFL admitted a mistake was made with the second call on Flowers last Monday. With nearly half of the season already completed, the league has a limited amount of time to address officiating mistakes before the postseason in order to avoid costing another team a trip to the Super Bowl.