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On the heels of the terrible roughing the passer call by NFL referee Jerome Boger involving Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady, NFL referee Carl Cheffers made an equally bad roughing the passer on Monday Night Football involving Kansas City Chiefs DT Chris Jones and Las Vegas Raiders QB Derek Carr.

After the game, Cheffers gave a better explanation than Boger did a little over 24 hours earlier. However, the 22-year veteran penalty-caller had the more challenging task of explaining how he called a penalty on a player who had the ball in his hands when the flag came out.

NFL referee Carl Cheffers bad roughing the passer call on Chris Jones

(L-R) NFL Referee Carl Cheffers; Derek Carr of the Las Vegas Raiders is sacked by Chris Jones of the Kansas City Chiefs.
(L-R) Carl Cheffers, Derek Carr and Chris Jones | Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images; David Eulitt/Getty Image

In an exciting Week 5 Monday Night Football game, Patrick Mahomes came back from a 17-0 deficit to lead the Chiefs to a 30-29 victory over their AFC West rival Raiders.

As the first half wore down and the Chiefs were losing 17-7, the KC defense seemed to make a huge stop when DT Chris Jones sacked QB Derek Carr, stripping the ball and recovering it all in one motion.

The huge play would have set up Mahomes and the offense with a 1st-and-10 with just over a minute left at eth Las Vegas 42-yard line. Instead, NFL referee Carl Cheffers called a shocking 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Jones.

The call was seemingly due to Jones landing on Carr with his entire body weight, but replays also showed that as the pair were going down, Jones actually gained possession of the ball.

Cheffers’ call was terrible on the face of it, but the fumble made matters even worse. Many fans, and even Troy Aikman and Joe Buck, asked the question if Jones had possession of the ball, wouldn’t that negate the roughing the passer?

Cheffers explained to pool reporter Adam Teicher of ESPN after the game that it doesn’t matter who has the ball during a roughing the passer call. The reporter asked explicitly if “the fact the ball came out before the quarterback landed on the ground and the player landed on the quarterback, does that negate the penalty at all?”

“No, because he still gets passing protection until he can defend himself, NFL referee Carl Cheffers explained. “So, with him being in the passing posture and actually attempting to make a pass, he’s going to get full protection until the time he can actually protect himself. The fact that the ball came out and was subsequently recovered by the defense is not relevant as far as the protection the quarterback gets.”


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While it’s a ridiculous explanation by Cheffers in general, it does help fans understand why — by rule — the fumble didn’t matter with the roughing the passer call. It doesn’t excuse the call itself, but it still is clarifying.

The NFL needs to address these phantom roughing the passing calls soon, and rumors are that they will look at the rules in-season after the rash of bad calls.

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