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Julio Jones Gets Hosed and the 10 Worst NFL Calls of All Time

By Kory Walker in Sports
| October 17, 2016 12:00 am PDT
NFL Player Russel Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks

Sports can be a serious mixed bag at times. The highs and lows of following your favorite team can be gut-wrenching, they can be immensely joyful and they can be downright brutal.

The low depths of a loss are never easy to take on after putting your heart and soul into something, but a loss by itself isn’t nearly as maddening as a win being taken from the players and fans by the referees.

We’ve seen bad calls countless times, but it’s the ones that truly impact the end result of a game that stick with us. We saw one such call in week six of the 2016 NFL season, when Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons is quite obviously interfered on the final play of a loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

Richard Sherman quite obviously pulls on Jones’ right arm, which shifts his body in mid air and not only alters his approach to a massive catch, but actually keeps one hand from being able to help make the catch with two hands.

On this play, Sherman without a doubt impeded Jones’ ability to go after the ball and made zero play on the ball. By NFL definition, this is pass interference (PI) all the way around, yet Sherman and the Seahawks got a serious pass. Had the call been made correctly, Atlanta would have been in position to fire in a field goal that, in a 26-24 game, would have likely resulted in a Falcons win.

The verdict is in, folks. Seattle got handed a win here and the Falcons got completely boned.

If there is any solace to be taken here, it’s that the Falcons are far from the only team to get hosed by referees in history. Here’s our personal accounts of some of the worst NFL reffing jobs we’ve ever seen:

Duke Johnson Recovers His Own Fumble

As bad as the non-call for Julio Jones was, it doesn’t touch this atrocious call on a Duke Johnson fumble just a few weeks ago.

Johnson does fumble the ball on this play late in a loss to the Washington Redskins, but he CLEARLY recovers his own fumble, gets up off the ground and displays the football that HE recovered:

Despite that, the refs blow the play dead and signal that the Redskin have somehow recovered the ball that Duke Johnson has in his hands.

The worst part might be that Dean Blandino, the NFL’s VP of officiating, defended the call. I get backing up your employees or in the event you disagree with fans you stick to your guns, but never acknowledging a blatantly terrible call isn’t just a joke, it’s borderline criminal.

Cleveland is usually to blame for their woes, but in this game, Browns fans rightfully get to hang this loss on the referees.

Toucherception or Fail Mary

Seahawks fans say it was an amazing play that sparked Seattle’s run as one of the elite teams. Green Bay fans say they got robbed. NFL fans in general aren’t sure what happened:

The reality, of course, is that the Seahawks were gifted a touchdown in a game they got out-played in, due to the infamous “replacement refs”. Jon Gruden analyzed this play perfectly, stating that Seattle receiver Golden Tate got away with blatant pass interference even before a Packers defender came down with complete possession of the football.

Gruden’s opinion aside, let’s look at the facts here: Green Bay safety M.D. Jennings secures an interception with two hands, comes down to the ground with the football and for some reason the referees wait for Golden Tate to wrestle the football away to determine the result of the play.

That isn’t how touchdowns are dictated, nor is it how change of possession is dictated – specifically in the end zone. In this case, Jennings had “more” of the possession with two hands and his body was on the ground. The play should have been over, as Tate only had one hand on the ball and did not complete the catch before the players went to the ground.

The biggest issue here is this isn’t a matter of opinion. Then again, we’ve seen some horrendous NFL catch rules over the past few years, which have crushed our reality and made us rethink what a “catch” even is anymore.

That leads us to…

Calvin Johnson’s “Catch”

Seriously, can we just narrow down the criteria for what a catch is these days? If pass interference is a total judgment call and can’t be reviewed, the same should be for catches.

Here, Calvin Johnson scores a game-winner and he absolutely secures the football, comes down to the ground on both knees and merely places the ball on the ground to support his body as he gets off the ground to celebrate:

Placing the ball down to push himself off the ground is somehow used against Megatron here, and the Lions get their score taken away. It’s highway robbery, folks, and worse yet, the NFL catch rule has been rewritten and discussed way more than it ever should be ever since.

A catch is a catch and you know it when you see it. All of this “how long did he have it” and “did he make a football move” stuff is just garbage.

Dez Bryant feels Calvin’s pain, too.

Cowboys Get Burned on Dez Bryant Drop

This one is even worse, as Dez Bryant secures what would have been a massive catch to put Dallas in position to beat the Green Bay Packers on the road in the playoffs:

This is where that disgusting “must complete the catch to the ground” rule comes in and sucks every Dallas fan’s soul out of their body.

The reality is, Dez went up and snatched the ball at its highest point, clutched it firmly to his shoulder and had the ball as he was going to the ground. By league rule, yes, Bryant hit the ground and the ball popped up, so he didn’t truly have full possession to complete the play. But this was straight up garbage, and everyone knows it.

Lions Get Burned Again

This one combines the insanity of the Julio Jones pass interference non-call and Detroit once again getting burned by the referees. Late in a tight playoff game with the Cowboys, the Lions had a huge 3rd and 1 and should have gotten a beyond obvious PI call when a Dallas linebacker mauled tight end, Brandon Pettigrew.

As is pointed out in this video, Hitchens not old held Pettigrew, but also impeded his ability to catch the ball by pushing him backward – all while failing to look at the ball or even trying to make a play on the ball. All of that is pass interference 101 and the worst part is it actually was called on the field:

How this was called and then somehow overturned is beyond everyone with any sense ever.

Jerry Rice Doesn’t Fumble

Late in a playoff game the San Francisco 49ers were driving, down 27-23 and veteran wide receiver Jerry Rice fumbled the game away. At least that’s what clearly happened on instant replay, but referees did not have access to instant replay at this time (league did not review calls via video for a few seasons) and the call on the field was a catch and receiver being down.

Replay shows Rice has full possession of the ball and is clearly not down when the Packers strip him of the football. Green Bay recovers and with less than a minute to go, would go on to win the game.

That’s fantasy land, of course. The referees instead ruled Rice down without a fumble and as history went, Steve Young hit Terrell Owens for the game-winning touchdown just seconds later.

Ed Hochuli Saves Jay Cutler

Ed Hochuli later admitted he blew his whistle too early and got this call wrong, but that doesn’t take away the fact that he saved Jay Cutler and the Denver Broncos late in a game against the San Diego Chargers:

Cutler goes back to throw and before he pushes his hand and the ball forward, loses grip of the football, resulting in a lost fumble. San Diego registers what should be a game-winning fumble recovery, but the blown whistle kills the play and allows Denver to maintain possession.

This leads us to the startling reality: quick whistles should not end plays. Every play, regardless of a blown whistle, should always be able to be reviewed. This would greatly help make up for horrible reffing.

Heads or Tails

This one didn’t even occur on the field, as now infamous NFL referee Phil Luckett completely blows a crucial overtime coin flip by either mishearing Steelers running back Jerome Bettis or just not caring what he initially said.

Luckett flipped the coin for Bettis and the Steelers to decide the fate as far as who got the ball first in their battle with the Detroit Lions and Bettis determined Pittsburgh wanted tails to have a chance at receiving the ball to start OT:

As you can see (and hear) Bettis said tails and the coin landed on tails. Naturally, Pittsburgh should have received the ball, but Luckett lost his mind here and awarded the Lions the ball. It was another Thanksgiving Day miracle!

Aaron Rodgers Facemask Calls

Aaron Rodgers gives us a fun two-in-one facemask penalty, as he has been on both ends of two horrendous facemask calls.

Back in a playoff game against the Arizona Cardinals, Rodgers got completely hosed on a strip sack that ended a crazy overtime game. Before losing the football, Rodgers was clearly grabbed by the facemask, a play that absolutely should have resulted in Green Bay keeping the ball and getting 15 yards via penalty.

Instead, this happened:

There is no denying that Karlos Dansby hit the ball loose to cause the fumble first, but he proceeded to grab (and never let go of) Rodgers’ facemask as he took him to the ground. Arizona scored on that play and won the game in sudden death overtime.

Rodgers would later get the benefit of the doubt on a different facemask penalty, of course, one Detroit Lions fans won’t soon forget. In a 2015 battle in Detroit where the Packers were on their last leg late in the game, the refs called a phantom facemask penalty despite no Detroit player actually ever touching the Packers quarterback’s facemask:

It certainly looked like a facemask initially, but the reality is the Lions defender grazed the facemask (never grasping it) and actually turned Rodgers when contacting his shoulder pad. Due to the NFL not allowing judgment calls to be overturned via instant replay for some odd reason, the play stood and the Packers got one last crack at a score with no time left.

Green Bay won the game on a hail mary on the very next play. Ouchy.

The Tom Brady Tuck Rule is Born

If ever there was a moment in the NFL where it felt like the referees, the league or some unknown entity was very specifically (and obviously) pulling for one team to succeed, the Tom Brady Tuck Rule shows us that.

During New England’s first Super Bowl run in the Tom Brady era, they had to beat the Oakland Raiders to move on in the playoffs. They probably never should have, however, as Brady clearly fumbled the ball late in the game and Oakland recovered.

The game should have been over, but on the fly, the refs decided to implement a made up rule that previously never existed – the Tuck Rule:

This is favoritism at its worst, as this rule didn’t even exist yet and yet Brady got a total pass that led to a game-winning field goal for the Patriots. Sorry, Raiders.

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