There were a lot of "oohs" when Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber was laid out on a wicked block by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin in the first quarter of Pittsburgh's 30-20 win on Sunday night.
Folks even made holiday-themed jokes about it.
Well, it turns out it was no laughing matter. Huber was quickly ruled out with a dental injury, but then it was revealed his jaw was broken. Now, it turns out the injury was even more severe.
Bengals punter Kevin Huber not only suffered broken jaw but also a cracked vertebrae in his neck on block by Steelers' Gavin. Headed to IR.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) December 16, 2013
The hit will no doubt result in a hefty fine from the league. It should also have resulted in a 15-yard penalty that wiped out Antonio Brown's touchdown on the play, and the fact that the officials so badly blew such an obvious call only adds insult to injury for the Bengals.
It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture (including) a kicker/punter during the kick or during the return.
Forcibly hitting the defenseless player's head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact of the defender's helmet or facemask is lower than the passer's neck and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him (is prohibited).
So there's two penalties then. It was about as blatant as fouls get, but Ed Hochuli's crew flat missed it.
Were the Cincinnati Bengals shafted by the officials in Week 15?
Mind you, this was the play that swung the game. Brown's return opened the floodgates, putting the Bengals in a 21-0 hole and leaving the team without its punter and field-goal holder for the remainder of the game.
In a season where criticism of NFL officials is at an all-time high, this latest gaffe shows that for all the talk about player safety in the league, the rules regarding it are still enforced arbitrarily.
Had it been a quarterback getting hit like that, we'd have been hip-deep in penalty flags and outrage. Instead, it was a punter, so it's crickets and Cris Collinsworth advising Huber to "keep his head on a swivel."
It would seem, after yet another blown call, it's the officials who need to get their heads on a swivel, because their tunnel-vision act is getting tired.