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Travis Kelce loses ball in slowest fumble ever

Week 14: Chiefs at Cardinals (video)

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has a reception with the ball popping out after he is down. The replay review reversed it on a really tight observation, but correct, nonetheless. The key is when Kelce loses control of the ball, because a ball carrier cannot be down by contact when he is not in control of the ball. If Kelce was able to re-secure the ball and then lose possession, then he would be down, but as the video progresses, Kelce loses more and more control of the ball to the point that it’s in his fingertips.

Vice president of officiating Dean Blandino posted a quick explanatory video on the call on on Sunday night.

Referee Craig Wrolstad explained this call and a pass interference call to a pool reporter:

Q: On the [offensive pass interference] in the third quarter, involving [Chiefs tight end Anthony] Fasano that nullified the touchdown — yes, number 80 — simply what did you guys see on that?

Wrolstad: My back judge [Lee Dyer] reported to me that he had Fasano blocking downfield to create separation which allowed him to be open for the pass.

Q: On the play in the fourth quarter, the Kelce fumble that was reviewed, what did you see on that play?

Wrolstad: The tight end caught the ball, took a number of steps, got hit as he was going to the ground. Before any part of his body was on the ground, he ball came loose. The ball remained loose. He tried to get it, the other guy tried to get it, but the ball continued to be loose and rolled to a stop, at which time a player five yards away picked up the ball. So, he actually had a clear recovery. So, the challenge was that we had initially ruled it a catch, and that he was down by contact. And, when we looked at it in replay, we saw that, indeed, the ball had come loose. He was not down by contact, and then if there is a clear recovery, then we can reverse it and give the ball to the defense. And that’s what happened.

Q: And, obviously, a key part of that: he, in your eyes, did not retain the ball once it came loose when it came back up he did not —

Wrolstad: He tried to maintain possession, but he did not regain possession.

h/t Mike Jurecki, Fox Sports 910/Phoenix

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Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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20 thoughts on “Travis Kelce loses ball in slowest fumble ever

  1. total BS retaliation for last week.
    i’ve seen more absolutely, obviously, terrible calls, and non-calls this year then in all my 50+ years watching the NFL. i’m done wit this BS. won’t be wasting any more sundays, mondays, thursdays…

  2. Gotta say, and I’m one of the hardest on officials in all leagues, but this looks like an awful call.

    Certainly seemed from the two angles Blandino posted via twitter that he DID retain possession. Or at least he had better possession than in cases where no fumble is ruled.

  3. Guys, you got this wrong, pure & simple, and your continued efforts to justify an obvious blown call (and blown with the benefit of replay) is destroying your credibility.

  4. If this was called a clear fumble, then it appears to be inconsistent with the call in the Seattle/Philadelphia game where the kickoff return was ruled down by contact, even though the returner appears to have lost control of the ball as he was falling to the ground.

    I thought the NFL wanted consistency….

  5. The worst call since Don Denkingers call in the 1985 world series… when your wrong your wrong… be a man and admit it… so the rest of the world know the chiefs were robbed.

  6. Remember that it wasn’t just a call… it was on over turned call… ereputable evidence to over turn it…. yeah right!!!

  7. This is pure and classic NFL horse manure. There was no evidence to overturn the call on the field (which was the correct call) that Kelce was down by contact. Nobody watching that game, nor the announcers calling it, nor the officials on the field, felt Kelce really fumbled the ball. He was clearly down with control of the ball and the ball did not start spinning out of his hands until after his knee was down and he rolled through the play. Like everyone watching the game, I was stunned when the call was overturned and reversed by review. Stunned, but not surprised.

    But to understand what was really going on here you have to go back earlier in the game to an even worse call – the phantom offensive pass interference call on Fasano that resulted in the officials taking away a key TD from the Chiefs. On the play – Fasano and a defender collide at about the Cardinals 5 yard line. The defender falls down (looks like a flop – but give him the benefit of the doubt – he fell). Fasano spins off the hit, runs about 7-8 yards turns around in the end zone and catches the TD. Only as the ball is in the air and Fasano is about to catch the ball does the official throw the flag for the offensive pass interference. The TD is negated. Instead of the score being 21-9 Chiefs, it is still 14-9 and on the next drive the Cardinals score a TD to make it 17-14 (on yet another close call – the questionable call that the receiver crossed the plane of the end zone after the two-point conversion). That was a HUGE swing in the game, and in the end, it was the margin for victory for the Cardinals in the game. Give that win to the NFL officiating crew.

    If Fasano was guilty of offensive pass interference on that play, which occurred at the five yard line, why did the official wait until he turned, ran into the end zone, turned again to catch the TD pass, and only then throw the flag? What was the official waiting for? it looks obvious – the official was not going to throw a flag on that play because there was no penalty, simply incidental contact between two players before the ball was even thrown. The official decided to throw the flag on Fasano ONLY after it was apparent he was going to catch the TD pass.

    Both of those terrible calls by the game officials need to be taken together to see what was really going on in the Chiefs – Cardinals game. The league wanted the Cardinals to win and the officials were there to ensure they did. Taking away a TD form the Chiefs and then stopping the potential game-wining drive at the end of the game with that terrible reversal of the Kelce fumble call, sealed the win for the Cards.

  8. I find it strange that the picture above shows the ball securely held by BOTH hands. If you watch the replay closely you will later see the defensive player taking a swat at the ball knocking out of Kelce’s hands. I will chose to believe this is the result of complete incompetence and not a conspiracy but I have to admit it made me feel the same way I felt years ago when the communist block judges gave US skaters scores far lower that others in the Olympics. I just want to enjoy watching a good game and if my team loses, so be it. This was sickening.

  9. As to all the fumble controversy, I am surprised to read “worst call ever…put them out to pasture, etc.” because is seems not to long ago the replacements were being called the worst ever, et al. The national hypocrisy regarding the replacements and now 2-years of the “regulars” continues (Ed Hockuli faced the wrong direction on penalty announcement TWICE in one game!)
    Second, as far as the OPI in the Chiefs game, BY RULE the offense cannot initiate contact more than 1 yard down field on a PASS PLAY that crosses the LOS. If there is a delay between the “block” down field and the pass, then there MUST BE a delay with the flag. Otherwise, it is a running play and the block is legal. Whether he meant to or not, the Chiefs player gained a CLEAR advantage by knocking the DB to ground and getting that wide open in the EZ. Correct call by the official. Don’t blame the refs. for teh outcome b/c why didn’t the Chiefs stop the Cardinals on their next possession?

  10. Jerome, did the refs cost the Chiefs the game? No, they played horribly in the second half. But, unfortunately in this game, the officials did have an effect on the game essentially wiping out what was at least 7 points, and possibly 10 points for the Chiefs.

    First of all, the Offensive Pass Interference. You say BY RULE the offense can not initiate contact…. While that may be correct, the bigger issue is the lack of consistency which is a huge issues for this crew. I think its hard for most Chiefs fans to swallow because offensive players often make contact with defenders more than one yard down the field and there is no call made. When you throw in the timing of the call, it certainly seems suspect. Was it officially OPI? Maybe. Were there times in the game yesterday that Cardinal receivers made contact with a defender down field and weren’t called? Absolutely on more than one occasion. So you can do the typical “it was the right call,” crap, but it wasn’t the right call if you aren’t going to consistently make that call, and they were not consistent on OPI in that game..or in many games for that matter. The fact that he made the call AFTER the pass was caught…nearly five seconds after the “contact” is also reason to question the judgement of the official.

    As far as the fumble. That is probably the worst overturned call I have ever seen, and that isn’t hyperbole. I honestly can’t remember right now a reversal that was so clearly not indisputable. By now I think most everyone has seen the video and pictures of Kelce on the ground with possession of the ball in contact with the defender. At that point, the play should be over, AND WAS according to the ruling official as he blew the play dead. The reason there is so much controversy today, and the reason the NFL Director of Officiating is making the rounds doing all the “spin” is because the reversal was incorrect. Retired Referee Mike Carey was very clear when he looked at the play, and didn’t hesitate at all when he said it should not be overturned.

    The NFL Director of Officiating is doing nothing more than covering his ass for his crew’s complete incompetence in yesterday’s game. Hopefully Wrolstad and his crew will learn from this experience and will not make the same mistakes again. I just don’t have much confidence that will happen, because the problem is that when these guys make mistakes like this, they aren’t held accountable. Instead the NFL defends the incompetence. Coaches and players jobs depend on these games, and the level of incompetence shown by the crew yesterday should not be tolerated.

  11. two hands on the ball and his back on the field. he’s down. he may have juggled on the way down but re-controlled the ball before the cardinal player swiped it out of his hands. This official should be fired. And yes, when the game is one the line, one call does make a difference in the outcome.

  12. Bring back some of the replacements…seriously. I was at the opening night game of Chicago at Green Bay and they were great! Not one call disputed by the announcers, kept THREE fights from starting, made 2 correct helmet-to-helmet calls, and had the GREAT fake FG PERFECTLY covered by the BJ and FJ who covered the goal line from the middle of the field AND the pylon. I’m just sayin’…

  13. I know my comment will sound like I am just being silly but it seems like officials are consistently making hard on the Chiefs this year . The raider game last drive the pass interference call against the Chiefs to me the receiver iniated the contact but no only against the Chiefs do they call that. Does anyone else notice that certain teams seem like they are given special treatment by the officials is cowboys, patriots, and seahawks !!

  14. It looks like the James boys…..Frank and Jesse… out of the bank robbery business and went into NFL officiating. They obviously robbed the Chiefs in AZ.

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