The Washington Commanders had the chance to complete an improbable comeback against the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football, but they were doomed by some questionable officiating.
Trailing by eight with under two minutes left in the game, Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke drove the team down to the Giants goal line. When it looked like rookie running back Brian Robinson punched in a touchdown, the referees threw a flag for illegal formation because star receiver Terry McLaurin was deemed to be not lined up properly.
While that call felt egregious since McLaurin told reporters after the game that he had confirmed the legality of his pre-snap alignment with the referee, fans at FedEx Field were even more incensed after Heinicke's fourth-down throw to the end zone.
The ball bounced off the hand of receiver Curtis Samuel, but a closer look showed a clear and obvious pass interference by Giants cornerback Darnay Holmes. Only this time, the referees swallowed their whistle, sealing a 20-12 loss for Washington in front of its home crowd.
The inconsistent officiating in the crucial moments of Sunday night's game drew the ire of NFL Twitter, as many unloaded on the referees after the game:
Lake Lewis Jr @LakeLewis
A game doesn't come down to one play but damn that was text book pass interference. The referring in the NFL is at an all-time low. Too many new rules every year when the previous rules weren't mastered in the first place. League needs to get back to the basics of officiating.
Chris Brockman @chrisbrockman
NOT pass interference, for those scoring at home. <br><br>your boys in stripes had a really awful day <a href="https://twitter.com/NFLOfficiating?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NFLOfficiating</a> — get your crap together before the playoffs. <a href="https://t.co/fk4qmN4sVb">pic.twitter.com/fk4qmN4sVb</a>
Officiating in the NFL has been the subject of controversy throughout the 2022 season. Along with roughing the passer calls, pass interference penalties have fallen under a microscope because of the inconsistencies in how the rules are being enforced.
Washington had overcome an 11-point halftime deficit to make it a one-score game. Heinicke has proven to be able to come up clutch when needed, but he wasn't given a chance this time because the referees took over the spotlight.
The Commanders (7-6-1) are still hoping to make a push for the playoffs, so they will have to regroup quickly and turn the page to next week's game against the San Francisco 49ers (10-4) on Christmas Eve.