Commanders, Giants Matchup Muddied by Referee Errors

  • The Giants defeated the Commanders 20-12 thanks to some head-scratching decisions
  • Terry McLaurin was called for a formation penalty after confirming he was in a legal position
  • Curtis Samuel was interfered with on the Commanders’ final pass but did not get a call
  • Public bettors and general fans are outraged by the referee crew’s decision-making 
NFL referees
Referees stole the show Sunday Night when the Washington Commanders’ comeback bid against the Giants was ultimately ruined. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Refs steal the headlines

Sunday Night Football’s Washington Commanders versus New York Giants matchup was left stained by questionable decision-making from the referee crew, and bettors are not happy.

decisions many have deemed illogical and hypocritical

Several Commanders big plays were scrubbed out by decisions many have deemed illogical and hypocritical, including a touchdown with 1:03 remaining that would have brought them within two points of their NFC East rival with a two-point conversion to come. Washington’s final offensive play—a failed shot to the end zone—also saw a player illegally harassed without a penalty from the refs.

The Giants went on to win the affair 20-12. The loss kept the Commanders in seventh place in the NFC and only a half-game ahead of the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions. The Giants, whom the Commanders were tied with entering the game, secured a one-game lead and the all-important tiebreaker.

Two head-scratchers

The stakes for the Giants and Commanders were at a premium entering the matchup. On top of being divisional rivals, both are competing for two of the three available playoff Wild Card spots and had already tied 20-20 when they met two weeks ago.

Many of their wins were come-from-behind victories

The Commanders were favored by four points on their home field on the back of winning six of their last eight games. Many of their wins were come-from-behind victories, so it was no surprise to see them marching down the field in the late-fourth quarter on Sunday night.

The play that has drawn the most criticism was a one-yard touchdown run by Brian Robinson Jr., which was nullified by a flag against wide receiver Terry McLaurin for illegal formation. However, McLaurin can be seen confirming with the referee that he is in a legal position, just as many receivers do before most plays:

The “thumbs-up” from the official came to be for nothing, as the same ref was the one who threw the flag. The Commanders were then forced to back up for a third-and-goal from the six-yard line, which resulted in an incomplete pass.

Washington then dialed up a pass to Curtis Samuel in a last-chance hope of tying the game up—unfortunately for them, Giants cornerback Darnay Holmes illegally contacted their star wideout but did not catch the eye of the officiating crew, leaving them dumbfounded by the decision:

The Giants kneeled the ball twice and walked out of FedEx Field with a victory, improving to 8-5-1 on the year, while the Commanders dropped to 7-6-1.

Public response

NFL fans have said for decades that the league has “script-writers” that decide games before they even kick-off. Of course, no one has ever revealed any proof, but that did not stop frustrated fans from floating the idea around in the aftermath of Sunday night’s debacle:

Commanders head coach Ron Rivera implied that he had an issue with the referees’ decisions after the game. Seemingly referencing the punishment he would receive if he criticized the officiating, he said:

Don’t ask me about the referee because I can’t answer the question”

Meanwhile, NBC rules expert Terry McAulay, a 20-year veteran of the NFL referee union, said on air that the illegal formation should not have been flagged and that Samuel was illegally impeded on the unsuccessful heave to the end zone:

Even opposing bettors were left stunned by the result:

The Commanders have three games left to save their playoff bid. They play the San Francisco 49ers away and then at home to the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys. The Giants are now in a strong position but have not yet solidified their spot.