Not many people across the NFL were fans of the league’s new crackdown on taunting rules — not fans, not pundits, and certainly not players.
But the failure of referees to flag Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill for what was seen as a “blatant” taunt toward Buffalo Bills defenders on a late touchdown on Sunday has sparked new controversy and accusations that the league is applying the rule unevenly.
After the Bills scored a touchdown to take a 29-26 lead with 1:54 remaining in the game, Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs on a five-play scoring drive that ended with a 64-yard catch-and-run from Hill. As he was racing toward the endzone, Hill threw up a peace sign at the trailing Bills defender but did not draw a flag. The failure to penalize Hill for his actions led to some controversy, especially after many lesser infractions had been penalized throughout the season.
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Pundit Calls Miss ‘Blatant’
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk wrote that while he disagrees strongly with the crackdown on taunting, officials needed to call a penalty against Hill.
“No flag was thrown for the obvious taunt. It should have been. The gesture is textbook taunting,” he wrote, calling that taunting from Hill “blatant.”
“It’s a simple concept. Enforce the rule consistently, or get rid of it.”
Others agreed, pointing out that other players were flagged during the divisional round for offenses not as blatant as Hill’s taunt.
Had officials called the penalty on Hill, it would not have wiped out the touchdown but rather forced the Chiefs to kick off from the 20-yard line. In the end, the lack of a call did not have an effect on the game, as Josh Allen led the Bills on another touchdown drive to take the lead only to watch Mahomes pull the Chiefs into field goal range for a game-tying kick and then take the opening drive in overtime 75 yards for the game-winning touchdown.
Many Want Taunting Rule Gone
The prevailing sentiment around the NFL is that the league should drop its emphasis on taunting rules for next season. Before he wrote an article pointing out the missed call on Hill, Florio published another on Sunday pointing to the controversial taunting penalty assessed to Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. As Florio pointed out, Suh was talking to former teammate Matthew Stafford because Suh believed that Stafford had kicked him. The conversation, while not specifically taunting, still drew a flag, he pointed out.
Florio said the only way coaches can deal with this emphasis is to instruct players never to speak to their opponents under any circumstances, which he said is a far-from-perfect solution.
“But that’s stupid. It’s unrealistic,” he wrote. “Football is a sport that thrives on human emotion. It evokes human emotion. How can players be expected to access those emotions in order to do their jobs and then to immediately flip the switch from on to off?”
“We gave it a year. We tried to understand. We’re done. We’re out. The rule is crap, and it needs to go.”