Minkah Fitzpatrick isn’t a big social media guy. Not someone you’ll find tweeting up a storm. So when he says anything, especially something critical, it’s worth noting. Saturday, Fitzpatrick offered candid thoughts on his “illegal” end zone penalty in Thursday’s loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Fitzpatrick was called for a personal foul on this end zone collision with WR K.J. Osborn, a completely clean and textbook hit, the type the NFL should be advocating for instead of penalizing.
That gave Minnesota a fresh set of downs inside the Steelers’ five-yard line. Seeing that clip, Fitzpatrick took to Twitter yesterday to offer a response, calling it “very poor officiating.”
What makes the call even more frustrating is the angle the back judge had. He has as good of a look at the hit as anyone on the field. Standing just feet away, the play happening directly in front of him with no other players or angles to obstruct his view. And he immediately reaches for his flag as soon as the hit happens. It seems like the refs are making calls based off how “bad” the hit looks, a receiver flying backwards from the force of the hit.
Moments later, Fitzpatrick had a conversation with the referee who appeared to apologize for an incorrect call. Fitzpatrick should not be fined for the hit and the good news is the Steelers’ defense still held the Vikings to a field goal but this is a blatantly incorrect call.
Refs have a hard job. And to their credit, they get it right most of the time. With the bang-bang nature of these hits and the NFL’s wide scope of replay ability, the easiest fix would be making these calls reviewable, similar to college football’s targeting system that offers automatic reviews. It should not take long to look and judge these hits. Most of them are illegal hits to the head, and contact there can quickly be determined. This wouldn’t even have to be a booth review. It could be a centralized official upstairs or the officials from New York who look at the call off-site and buzzes down to the crew if a call needs to be changed.
As Fitzpatrick said, these calls can and do change games. Given how tight the rules are, defenders can’t be flagged when they do everything right and make a great play.