NFL ratings are down across the board, and everyone has their own set of excuses. While it’s probably difficult to place the blame on one particular event, you really don’t have to look further than last night’s primetime game between the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills.

With three seconds left in the half, the Bills lined up for a 53-yard field goal that would have cut their deficit to eight at the break. That’s when the officials took over:

As you can see, Richard Sherman jumps the snap, earning an offside penalty. Sherman barreled into Bills kicker Dan Carpenter, which should have been an unnecessary roughness penalty, but instead went uncalled.  You’ll also notice, at the end of the video, that Carpenter goes down with an injury.

Here’s where it gets complicated: because there were less than two minutes remaining, the Bills were out of timeouts, and medical attendants came onto the field to check on Carpenter, the injured player was forced to sit out for the subsequent play. Wisely, Rex Ryan elected to have his team spike the ball and waste a down while still leaving enough time on the clock to get Carpenter back out on the field. Again, though, the Football Gods failed to smile upon Rex and his ingenuity:

You saw that correctly.

After the spike, the officials had to replace the ball with the special K-ball (you might remember this from Deflategate) and, in the process, failed to see that the play clock had run down below twenty seconds before the ball was spotted – which should result in the clock being reset to twenty-five seconds.

Instead, the Bills were assessed a delay-of-game penalty and missed the subsequent field goal.

This was the perfect storm of what’s been ailing NFL officiating: misapplication of rules, general confusion, and above all, tediousness. It’s bad enough that the rulebook has become so convoluted that the officials can’t keep track of the rules; it’s another when that indecisiveness is played out in real time, on national TV, right before the half.

Oh, and the Bills ended up losing 31-25 after an incomplete pass in the end zone inside the final two minutes – meaning it’s safe to say that would have been a huge three points for Buffalo.


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