Let’s get this clear, I have the greatest respect for NFL officials, especially Jerome Boger, but last night he and his officiating team made one of the worst calls in the history of the NFL.

And, unsurprisingly for some, it was Tom Brady that was once again at the centre of the controversy, although in his defence, he had no influence on the call that the officials made.

There will no doubt be a fair few angry Atlanta Falcons fans this morning, not to mention bet365 Sport punters who may have had a bet on the outsider Falcons to land an upset win at their divisional rivals and who may just have had a chance of a win on that bet snatched away from them.

Let’s first give the call some context before we examine the call in a bit more detail.

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Falcons @ Buccaneers Game Context

After a scoreless first quarter where both teams struggled on offense, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gained momentum in the game, scoring two touchdowns, both through Leonard Fournette, and adding two more field goals, plus a kick and 2-point conversion to lead the Falcons 21-0 heading into the fourth quarter.

At this point, Falcons fans probably would have felt that their chances of success were almost extinct but after struggling all game, the Falcons offense finally fired into life.

Avery Williams rushed for a touchdown and then after regaining the ball, the Falcons scored once again on their next possession and added a 2-point conversion to cut the deficit to just six points with plenty of time left in the fourth quarter.

Momentum in the game had shifted and with 3.03 left on the clock, the Buccaneers faced a crucial third down.

It was a moment that the Falcons needed their defense to stand up to make the Falcons punt the ball and give Atlanta an opportunity to get the touchdown that would at least tie the game and with a chance of kicking an extra point to take the lead.

The Crucial Play

Brady received the snap and stepped back into the pocket, but as he did so, Grady Jarrett burst past the Bucs left guard Luke Goedeke and was in the backfield incredibly quickly. Brady, to his credit, had barely any time to react before Jarrett was on him, wrapping him up and rolling him up and onto the floor for an apparent sack.

The Falcons players and fans were rightfully delighted at the play, until they saw a yellow flag on the ground in the area of the sack.

The officials briefly consulted before Jerome Boger flicked on his microphone and announced that they had called a foul on Jarrett for ‘roughing the passer’.

A decision which not only handed the Bucs the benefit of a 15-yard penalty, but an automatic first down.

Watching in real time, every single person I watched the game with felt it was an appallingly bad call and one that would kill the game.

On the side lines, the Falcons backroom staff looked equally stunned by the call, with head coach Arthur Smith seemingly apoplectic with rage at the decision as he knew it would likely cost his team any chance of an unlikely victory.

That proved to be the case as the Bucs were able to retain the ball and run down the clock to eventually close out the game in a victory formation.

Post-Game Falcons Fury

It was clear after the game that the Falcons were understandably furious with the call.

Grady Jarrett declined to speak with the press, a move likely fuelled by his anger and frustration at the call, while head coach Arthur Smith tersely remarked to reporters “I’m not going to get into that, I haven’t seen the film,” when asked about the controversial call.

Additionally, his defensive co-ordinator Dean Pees was reported to be equally angry about the call.

Tom Brady was non-committal after the game stating “I don’t throw the flags,” when asked about the officials decision, however Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles felt that the call was a fair one.

“They are starting to crack down on some of the things, slinging backs…I don’t know. Right now, the way they are calling [these type of sacks], I think a lot of people would’ve gotten that call,” Bowles contended in his post-game interview.

Boger Defends His Decision

After the game, Boger explained the reasoning behind his decision to call a penalty on Jarrett.

“What I had was the defender grabbed the quarterback while he was still in the pocket, and unnecessarily throwing him to the ground,” stated Boger.

“That is what I was making my decision based upon,”

So, is Boger saying that if you sack the quarterback, you can no longer bring them to the ground? If so, how is a 300lb+ defensive lineman or edge rusher supposed to tackle a QB in a generally inoffensive way? Tag him lightly on the arm and say “got you!”?

Mind you, that didn’t work out for Chris Jones in the Chiefs v Patriots Conference Championship game a few years ago as that’s pretty much what he did and it still got called.

Awful Roughing The Passer Calls

The call against the Falcons has made news as it clearly altered the game. The Falcons were finally flying and with the ball back and the chance to drive to win the game, they conceivably could have caused a big upset.

However, it was not the only awful roughing the passer call that has occurred in the NFL in recent times. Outlined below are just a few more selections.

And just to highlight how crazy that call was in the Bucs – Falcons game, here is a sack that drew no penalty and it is pretty much the exact same sequence of events and same outcome, just a different game and different officiating crew.

It is therefore little wonder that fans of the game, and not even of the two teams involved, are getting somewhat sick of the situation with these calls.

Reaction To The Tua Incident?

There is speculation that the calls this week may well be a reaction to the incidents that have left the Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagavoiloa’s career in doubt after he suffered two serious head injuries in two successive games.

Officials have been criticised for non-calls for excessively violent sacks, but it seems the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction and it is making solid defensive plays into penalties.

And worryingly, it is affecting the outcome of games in some cases.

Rich Eisen has suggested that making these calls reviewable may help and that is a good shout, because at the moment in a league that is heavily biased in favour of the offense, the last thing the defense needs is another of their opportunities to influence a game stripped away from them.