The NFL will try to get through a weekend without an officiating controversy.
The Kansas City Chiefs will attempt to put their grousing aside and get back into the win column.
As Week 15 of the NFL season continues, everyone involved in the memorable play that wasn’t Sunday in Kansas City will do their best to move on.
The NFL’s officiating was back in focus and the Chiefs’ frustration was on vivid display. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes fumed at the officials from the sideline after the Chiefs had a late go-ahead touchdown on a spectacular play — a completion from Mahomes to Travis Kelce and a lateral across the field from Kelce to Kadarius Toney — nullified when Toney was penalized for lining up offside.
Mahomes and Chiefs Coach Andy Reid were critical of the call following the game. Mahomes expressed regret Tuesday for his conduct on the sideline and during his postgame exchange with Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
This season has had its share of officiating issues. But this really wasn’t among them, given that Toney did line up offside. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday at the owners’ meeting in Irving, Tex., that the officials had made “absolutely the right call.”
Goodell said he also was aware of the public griping from some players and coaches leaguewide about the officiating this season.
“We understand that,” Goodell said. “That’s not new. You get that. And it’s frustrating. We know how hard those players are playing. We know how hard the coaches are coaching. We know how much the fans put into it passionately. So we want to get it right every time. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to be able to hit that bar. But we’re going to sure work our [butt] off to do it.”
Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, called the officiating “a constant work in progress.” Vincent said the league is “always looking to improve officiating.” But that does not mean that teams are always justified in their complaints, Vincent said.
“You’ve got half the teams that win on the week: The officiating was good. The other half that loses: You don’t like the officiating,” Vincent said Wednesday. “That’s a reality in our game. We’re not perfect. We’re imperfect human beings. The concern is to make sure that we’re getting better and that we’re properly communicating in this particular area. But there is accountability that occurs. We don’t make those things public. But we have a process that we go through each week.”
The Chiefs must turn to their own problems as they prepare to face the New England Patriots on Sunday in Foxborough, Mass. They’re the defending Super Bowl champs. They’ve hosted the last five AFC championship games. But they’ve lost two straight and three of four to drop to 8-5. They’re only a game ahead of the Denver Broncos in the AFC West, and they’re two games behind the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC’s top seed.
The Chiefs’ issues at wide receiver have been glaring. Mahomes and Reid have been unable to find solutions as readily as they usually do. Perhaps that’s why their frustrations about the offside call on Toney spilled out, uncharacteristically for them, following the loss to the Bills. But there still is time for the Chiefs to sort things out, with all of the AFC front-runners showing some level of vulnerability. A triumph Sunday in Foxborough would be a first step.
It has been a mostly miserable season for the Patriots, who have struggled to a 3-10 record amid a din of speculation that this could be the end of Bill Belichick’s tenure with the franchise he has coached to six Super Bowl triumphs. But the Patriots are coming off a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and now they have a chance to add to the Chiefs’ woes.
The Patriots-Chiefs game originally was scheduled for Monday night. But the NFL flexed it to 1 p.m. Eastern time Sunday, in a sign of just how troubled this season has been for the once-so-mighty Patriots.
Saturday triple-header: The weekend begins with three games Saturday featuring six teams that have winning records (though barely in most cases, with five at 7-6).
The Minnesota Vikings visit the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers face the Colts in Indianapolis. The Broncos play the Lions in Detroit.
Four of those teams will play Saturday with quarterbacks who weren’t their original starters this season. Nick Mullens is scheduled to start for the Vikings, with Kirk Cousins out for the season because of a torn Achilles’ tendon in his right leg and Joshua Dobbs benched. He’ll face Jake Browning, who makes his fourth straight start for the Bengals in place of Joe Burrow, who underwent season-ending surgery for a torn ligament in his right wrist.
Mitch Trubisky makes a second straight start for the Steelers, with Kenny Pickett sidelined because of a high ankle sprain. Gardner Minshew continues to start for the Colts after rookie Anthony Richardson underwent shoulder surgery that probably ended his season.
It’s just a sign of the NFL times. Mullens is set to become the 56th starting quarterback used by NFL teams this season. Davis Mills could become No. 57 if he starts Sunday for the Houston Texans, with C.J. Stroud in the NFL concussion protocol.
Wilson and the Jets: Quarterback Zach Wilson will try to make it two successful starts in a row for the New York Jets when they face the Dolphins on Sunday in Miami Gardens, Fla.
Wilson was named the AFC’s offensive player of the week after throwing for 301 yards and two touchdowns in a 30-6 victory over the Texans in East Rutherford, N.J. That came after Wilson was benched for two games and denied a report that he was reluctant to return to the starting role because of injury risks.
The Jets, at 5-8, are all but eliminated from playoff contention. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s 21-day practice window expires next week, ahead of the Jets’ Christmas Eve game against the Washington Commanders at the Meadowlands. At that point, the Jets must activate Rodgers from the injured reserve list or officially end his season. He has not ruled out playing again this season after suffering a torn Achilles’ tendon in his left leg four snaps into the opener.
The Dolphins are attempting to rebound Sunday from their 28-27 defeat to the Tennessee Titans on Monday night. They inexplicably squandered a 14-point lead in the final three minutes. Wide receiver Tyreek Hill missed part of the game after suffering an ankle injury on a hip-drop tackle. He could be limited or sidelined Sunday, and it’s clear that the Dolphins’ offense does not function nearly as well when he’s not at full capacity.