The Denver Broncos lost their 12th game of the 2022 NFL season to kick off the New Year in 2023, and that 12th loss of the year just so happened to be the team’s 15th-straight loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, a streak dating back to 2015. Although this loss will go down as just another loss, it certainly feels a bit different than a variety of the others throughout this entirely disappointing streak the Broncos are on.
Why was this loss any different? Well, the Denver Broncos got absolutely hosed by the officiating in this one, and one particular penalty called by the officiating crew in this game changed the entire outcome of the game.
Courtland Sutton erroneously called for offensive pass interference
For those who didn’t get the chance to watch the game live, you can see the play by clicking here. Courtland Sutton skies high against multiple defenders and comes down with an incredible reception on third down with the Broncos up by four points. This play was one of the biggest momentum shifters of the game, and seeing Sutton make a play like this was some pretty sweet redemption for him given the tough season he’s had on the whole.
We haven’t seen a ton of Sutton going up and dominating at the catch point all year, but apparently, the officiating crew decided he was too aggressive in pursuit of the ball on this one, and instead of the Broncos having a first down at the +40 with a four-point lead, they had a third-and-a-thousand from inside their own 20.
The sequence after this call by the officials?
- Broncos punt to KC
- Chiefs drive for touchdown to take a 3-point lead
- Russell Wilson throws INT on next Broncos possession
- Chiefs score another TD, take a 10-point lead
Fans will complain about officiating a ton throughout the course of the season. Heck, the Broncos lead the NFL in penalties as a team this season. Although complaining about the “refs” is overrated in many respects, this was unquestionably a game-changing call by the officiating crew, and it cost the Broncos dearly.
As if the Chiefs, playing at home in January, didn’t have enough in their favor with the Broncos having 20-something players on injured reserve and an interim head coach at the helm, the officials provided them yet another advantage in this one.
You can argue all you want that the Broncos shouldn’t have allowed the Chiefs to score on back-to-back possessions after this bad call. You can sit there and say that “great teams would have found a way to win” but the reality is that the Broncos made the big plays to put themselves in a position to win this game. This catch by Courtland Sutton should have gone down as a defining moment for the season.
Now, we don’t know what would have happened had the officials let this play go without a penalty, either. The Broncos may have found a way to lose anyway. But the fact that we’ll never know is a massive problem, especially after the officials made another bad call just before halftime when they declared that Russell Wilson was strip-sacked when he clearly had possession of the ball as his hand was moving forward.
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This isn’t so much sour grapes as it is a plea to the NFL to figure out an officiating issue. The Broncos have had problems with inconsistent officiating all season, one week getting called for a dozen penalties and the next not hardly getting called for anything. Certainly for a player like Courtland Sutton, this was a monumental moment stripped away because of meddling officiating.