Bills have reason to complain . . . but not about pro-Patriots conspiracy


FOXBORO -- The Buffalo Bills have reason to be miffed.

“Clear and conclusive evidence” is what’s needed to overturn a call via replay. It’s highly debatable that standard was met in the case of the Kelvin Benjamin touchdown that wasn’t Sunday afternoon in Foxboro.


Slow it down, send the screen shots, make the case all you want. But absent a picture of the football being totally away from Benjamin’s body when his left foot scrapes the ground, you can’t flip it.

However, NFL VP of Officiating Al Riveron did just that. So the Bills were pissed. And then -- as teams inevitably do after being victimized by the officials against New England -- they hinted at a great league conspiracy to prop up a team that doesn’t really need propping (never mind it being a team the league office reviles).

Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes said the overturned call -- which cost Buffalo four points before halftime -- led to their meltdown.

“I just think for the most part it just felt like guys who are now focusing on how we're going to beat the officials,” he explained. “How can we get them on our side? I think when you see things like that take place in the game you're better off trying to do your best to forget about it. I know it's pretty much impossible to forget about it. It's a pivotal call in a huge game for us, but I mean it's just part of being an athlete. Sometimes we're not going to get calls and sometimes we will. So we've just got to learn how to live with it and let it just roll off our shoulder.”

Asked point blank if he felt the officials were favoring New England, Hughes answered, “Yes it certainly does creep in and I can certainly feel for everybody on the sideline because it's hard not to really think about it. I felt like [Benjamin] made a phenomenal catch. For them not to review ]Rob Gronkowski’s] one-handed touchdown catch was just kind of weird.”

And this is where we lapse into listening to players -- and then quoting them -- when they don’t really know how things work.

Every touchdown is reviewed and then confirmed. All of ‘em. Gronk’s was. It’s been that way for years. Further, it isn’t the officials on the scene who orchestrate the replays, it’s New York.

Now, what’s happening there certainly is raising eyebrows. Former VP of Officiating Mike Pereira pointed the finger at the process, saying on Twitter, “[Nothing] more irritating to an official than to make a great call and then someone in a suit in an office in New York incorrectly reverses it. It is more and more obvious that there isn't a standard for staying with the call on the field.

Between last week’s overturned TD in Pittsburgh, Sunday’s Benjamin overturn and then a drive-extending review that went the Patriots way, this spate of calls benefiting the Patriots gives fuel to moronic spitballing that the Patriots are the league’s chosen ones.

Like this from LeSean McCoy. “They always seem to get it right for the Patriots, but that’s not why we lost. It sure would have helped out in the game. We battled hard; we have to do a better job finishing. We’ve been preaching it all week, at the end of the half finish hard. At the beginning of the second half, start hard, let’s finish. We kind of did that, if we get that touchdown, it’s just crazy because we put so much into it, to get robbed like that. Come on, that was a touchdown, but it is what it is.”

Take a look at the video the NFL put out in which Riveron makes his case for the overturn. There are a couple of great angles.

You do see the ball away from Benjamin’s body in the second view. You also see it tucked in milliseconds later. But you can’t definitively see where his toe is when the ball is secured. You can guess. You can infer. But you don’t know. It’s not clear. It’s not conclusive. And when it takes that long to build a circumstantial case to overturn a call, you’re doing it wrong.

But blaming the officials for gaming it for New England is absurd. The catch rules and the replay rules are -- as written -- very good. But they are only useful if they’re correctly applied. Incompetence should not be interpreted as bias.


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