The Chargers definitely got away with one here.
It's rarely just one call that bites you in a loss, but the Kansas City Chiefs have reason to be angry at the officiating in their 27-24 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. The loss didn't affect Kansas City's playoff positioning -- it had the AFC's fifth seed wrapped up, which is why it rested many of its starters. However, with eight seconds left in regulation, the Chiefs were in position to win the game as Ryan Succop lined up to kick a 41-yard game-winning field goal from the San Diego 23. Succop missed the try just barely to right, the game went into overtime and the Chargers won when Kansas City could not answer Nick Novak's 36-yard field goal on their first drive of the fifth quarter.
At least, that's what Bill Leavy's crew would very much like to you to believe.
Leavy's crew botched a simple new rule, and as a result, the Chiefs were left without another try at that field goal at the end of regulation. Before the 2013 season, the NFL's Competition Committee put in place a new rule by which teams are not allowed to have more than six defenders on either side of the snapper during any field goal try. It's supposed to be a five-yard penalty for illegal formation and a re-try, but Leavy's crew didn't get the memo. You can clearly see in the picture above that the Chargers have seven defenders on the line to Succop's left.
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Former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira, now an analyst for FOX Sports, confirmed on Twitter that the call was blown.
On Monday morning, the league admitted that an illegal formation penalty should have been called, and Succop should have been able to attempt a 36-yard field goal.
With 0:08 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, Kansas City faced a fourth-and-12 from the San Diego 23. The Chiefs attempted a 41-yard field goal that was no good.
On the play, San Diego lined up with seven men on one side of the snapper. This should have been penalized as an illegal formation by the defense.
Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 (b) (1) of the NFL Rule Book (page 51) states that “No more than six Team B players may be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the snap.”
The penalty for illegal formation by the defense is a loss of five yards. This is not subject to instant replay review. Had the penalty been assessed, it would have resulted in a fourth-and-seven from the San Diego 18 with 0:04 remaining, enabling the Chiefs to attempt a 36-yard field goal.
And on Monday afternoon, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that he called a timeout specifically so that the formation could be reviewed (which, per the NFL, it couldn't).
"That was for a reason. I saw it. I couldn’t challenge. The only thing I had was a timeout, so I called it so maybe they would take a peek and read through the timeout and see what took place. Listen, human error.”
Yes, it was still up to the Chiefs to take care of business in overtime, and you can bet that the NFL will take a hard look at how many key players Kansas City rested -- after all, commissioner Roger Goodell has been talking for years about how he wants every game to be competitive. But the result of this game put the Chargers in the AFC playoffs and left the Pittsburgh Steelers on the outside looking in. Given the number of officiating mistakes this season, this play is one more clear indicator that Goodell, the Committee and the league in general will have to take a strong look at how the game is officiated in future seasons.