With the Jets facing a 4th-and-6 from Denver’s 48-yard line with just over a minute to play, the Broncos had to have felt confident that they were going to earn a huge win over one of the top teams in the AFC.
The Broncos held a 20-17 lead and Jets’ QB Mark Sanchez had just thrown two straight incomplete passes to bring up a fourth down. When he began to scramble on that crucial fourth down, he heaved a desperation pass to receiver Santonio Holmes, who was being covered by Renaldo Hill deep inside Denver territory. The pass fell short, but the ref standing on the sidelines immediately threw his flag to indicate pass interference on Hill.
The ref may have been in perfect position to make a call, but that doesn’t mean he made the right one. Hill did have a hand on Holmes and at one point he even had his hand on the receiver’s facemask, but to say that he interfered with Holmes’ ability to make the catch is a reach. Should it have been a 15-yard facemask? Sure. But not interference. Both the receiver and corner have a right to the ball and when it was underthrown, Hill was just trying to get in position to knock the ball down while keeping a hand on Holmes at the same time. But he didn’t shove Holmes, he didn’t impede his progress and it wasn’t a situation where he wasn’t looking back at the ball. It was a crap call, plain and simple.
The result of the penalty brought the ball down to the 2-yard line and allowed the Jets to score on a LaDainian Tomlinson 2-yard run one play later. Despite a late drive by the Broncos, New York recovered a fumble at midfield to put the game away.
Bad calls happen every week in the NFL, but it’s always a shame when they affect the outcome of a game.