If you thought NFL officiating had reached a new low in the past few weeks, this phantom penalty will convince you that there is no bottom — NFL referees have infinite capacity for badness.
This time the call cost the Jacksonville Jaguars, who were taking on the Houston Texans in London on Sunday. Midway through the third quarter, defensive end Calais Campbell dove to try and tackle Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. Campbell mostly tackled the air, landing on top of one of his teammates, and barely nicked Watson as he was going down. Somehow the referees turned that tackle into a personal foul call for leading with the helmet.
The broadcast booth was stunned by the call, and so was Campbell. He indicated that he’d actually delivered the tackle with his forearm and not his helmet, which is how it looked. His head was definitely leading, but it wasn’t aimed at Watson — it was aimed at the air next to Watson. It doesn’t look like Campbell ever intended to touch Watson with his helmet at all.
It was a thoroughly baffling call, but there are other bad personal foul calls this season. This brutal mis-call on Bradley Chubb of the Denver Broncos back in Week 2 certainly stands out.
Both the Chubb call and the call on Campbell are really bad. With the call on the Broncos, at least Chubb made full contact with the passer, but the penalty cost the Broncos the game. The roughing penalty didn’t cost the Jaguars the game, but Campbell barely touched Watson at all, and definitely not with his helmet. It’s hard to decide which one is worse.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), we’ve got another eight weeks of games left, which mean’s there’s still plenty of time left for the NFL referees to make calls that compete with these for the worst of the year.
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