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Dolphins lost to Titans but NFL officiating continues miserable trend

The referees were bad on Monday night as the Dolphins hosted the Titans. Miami did not lose because of the officiating, but that does not change the referees have to be better.

Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

Before we go any further, let me be upfront, very clear, and very straightforward - the Miami Dolphins lost to the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football because of the Miami Dolphins. They did not execute and they lost the game. The were up 14 points late in the fourth quarter, and they lost the game. It was a brutal performance from a team that is supposed to be a threat in the AFC this year.

The officiating in the game was nearly as bad as Miami’s collapse down the stretch. Miami did not lose the game because of the officials, but the officials continued the season- (years?) long trend of just being miserable. The Dolphins have played in games where officiating was completely one-sided - the 10 penalties against Miami and zero against the Philadelphia Eagles game is a clear example - and they have been in games where decisions just do not make sense. They have benefitted from questionable at best calls. And they have been crushed by them. Monday night was no different as Adrian Hill and his crew just continued the trend.

And this is not limited to just the Dolphins. Last night’s game was another example, but we have seen it every week this year. The NFL has an officiating problem and they do not seem to know how to fix it. Blatant fouls are missed. Phantom fouls are called. Games are decided on whether or not a flag is thrown. What constituted a penalty early in a game may or may not be one late in a game. Which quarterback is under center dictates whether it is roughing the passer or which wide receiver is trying to catch a pass determines if it is pass interference. How loudly a player complains about an infraction can lead to a flag being thrown. Fun is always punished.

The NFL has a massive problem that, if they do not fix it, is going to lead fans away from the game and question the legitimacy of the contests. Jokes and conspiracy theories of a “scripted” season will become louder and more mainstream the more often people can screenshot clear misses.

The biggest talking point out of Sunday’s game was not the AFC or NFC playoff picture. It was not some amazing play where a tight end threw a pass across the field for a wide receiver to score a touchdown. It was about the referees. Yes, Kadarius Toney was offsides on the play where Travis Kelce threw the ball back across the field and Toney took it to the house for an apparent game-winning touchdown. The penalty in that case was correct.

But, Toney lined up in the same position throughout the game. Why were none of those plays flagged? ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky - who was calling the Titans at Dolphins game on Monday night - broke down the repeated instances where the referees ignored Toney’s alignment. If it was a penalty on one play, why was it not in any other instance?

The officiating is miserable. They are not consistent. And the NFL has to fix it.

Mike McDaniel, a “very biased Dolphins fan” account on X (former Twitter) - who stresses in his bio that he is “NOT THE COACH” - took a look at six plays where the officiating simply missed calls during the Titans-Dolphins game on Monday night:

That is just inexcusable. This is a play with 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter. A penalty was called on the play for defensive pass interference, but somehow quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was not protected at all on the play. That is both a blatantly late hit on the quarterback and a lunge at the quarterback’s knees, both of which are supposed to result in flags. Just a horrible miss by the referees, one even the commentators immediately point out had to be called.

Another blatant miss. This was a first-quarter play with Tagovailoa throwing through triple coverage to find wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Tagovailoa did not do Waddle any favors in putting him into a position where he could be hit, but clearly that was a hit to the head on a defenseless receiver. Luckily, Waddle was not seriously injured and came back into the game, but it was another miss by the referees and, after the commercial break, the commentators mentioned it probably should have been a flag.

Another just compete miss by the referees. How was that not called as a horse collar tackle? As the X post says, that could have been a season-ending injury for Hill. As it was, it severely limited him throughout the rest of the game and we will have to see if he is able to bounce back this week, but just a miserably bad job of protecting players and calling clear and obvious fouls.

Another missed call with no flag thrown. Hopkins clearly rips Howard’s arm down, changing his jump and pulling him away from at least a pass breakup. If this were a lone event during the game, maybe it could be understandable that at full speed, with officials trying to make sure they are in the right position, it could be missed. But, in a game and a season where so many calls are completely blown, this is another example of the league’s officiating getting it wrong.

This is another miss by the referees, but I think it is not for what the X post says. This probably could be a penalty on Dolphins lineman Liam Eichenberg. Titans defensive lineman Denick Autry is trying to get his foot free from Eichenberg who is just holding on to it for no reason. This is a tough one to say the officials missed a blatant penalty because it is subtle and Eichenberg makes it look like he is just trying to get up. This is very reminiscent of things we have seen from a player like Richie Incognito, where there is an extra little roll while holding a foot or leg. This probably should have been a foul on Eichenberg, but it would be tough to see unless you were looking directly at the two players.

This one I still do not understand. I do not think I have ever heard this penalty called. If a player is making sounds to simulate a snap count, that makes sense and I have heard called. But a sideways shift by a defensive lineman is not a delay of game penalty ever. Defensive tackle Zach Sieler did not enter the neutral zone to draw a player into a false start. The player who did false start was not over Sieler - it was a receiver who flinched. Not sure how this is a penalty at all.

Here is the full pre-snap movement so you can judge how this was a “sudden” movement to warrant a delay of game penalty.

Again, the Dolphins did not lose because of the officiating, but the NFL has an officiating problem. When you broadcast partners are calling out the officials for missed calls and blatantly bad calls, you have a huge problem. We are to the point that the officiating experts hired by the broadcast companies - former officials themselves - are questioning the calls being made. The league has to fix this.