Referees for Monday night’s Chiefs win over the Broncos admitted that one of the most dramatic plays of the game should not have been allowed to happen, according to multiple players on the Denver defense. After the play clock hit zero before a third-and-seven snap during Patrick Mahomes’s comeback drive, the Kansas City quarterback took the ball, rolled to his right, and uncorked a spectacular 35-yard pass to Demetrius Harris at the 11-yard line with two minutes remaining. What should have been a delay of game penalty instead became a critical play in Kansas City’s comeback.
After the game, a couple of Broncos defenders said the refs copped to missing the delay of game—which is not reviewable under NFL rules.
“The ref told us that the ref that was supposed to be watching it just missed it,” linebacker Brandon Marshall said. “He told us that, the ref told us the guy that was supposed to be watching the clock just missed it. So maybe he got caught up in watching the game because it was a good game, but you’ve got to do your job. Come on, that was huge. That was big.”
Cornerback Chris Harris said he was told the same thing:
“That was crazy, man,’’ Harris said. “It was zero seconds on the clock forever. ... [You] can’t review it. I asked everything. If a ref messed up on a call, you should be able to fix it. Dude, look how long the clock was on zero. That’s not why we lost the game—but that was a huge, huge no-call.”
Broncos coach Vance Joseph, however, said the referee told him something different: “He said he looked up and it was zero and the ball was gone. I disagree. I disagree.”
The NFL does give offenses a little bit of leeway on delay of game relative to other penalties, because the official will see the play clock hit zero and only then look to the ball to see if it’s been snapped. In the Chiefs’ case, that split-second cushion was all Mahomes needed to legally deliver a huge first down. But that won’t make the loss sting any less for the Broncos.