Stay Gold, Ponyboy


AP/Photo/Ed Zurga

Mahomes has put up 24,241 yards, 192 touchdown passes, only 49 interceptions, 66.3% completion percentage, and a quarterback rating of 105.7.

73,426 people rise to their feet at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. Patrick Mahomes drops back, surveys the field, then steps up in the pocket and takes off towards the right sideline. The Cincinnati Bengals are tied up at 20 with Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs. Only eight seconds remain on the clock as Mahomes runs towards the sideline, around the 40 yard line. Bengals defensive lineman Joseph Ossai is in heavy pursuit of the Chiefs quarterback.

Mahomes steps out of bounds when Ossai runs into him while out of bounds, resulting in an unnecessary roughness penalty, pushing the Chiefs up 15 yards and well into field goal range, allowing kicker Harrison Butker to drill the game winning kick right through the uprights, but did Ossai really deserve this flag? Or were the refs just trying to save the NFL’s golden boy, Patrick Mahomes?

There is no doubting that Patrick Mahomes is one of, if not the best quarterbacks in the NFL today. In his five years of being the full time starter, Mahomes has put up 24,241 yards, 192 touchdown passes, only 49 interceptions, 66.3% completion percentage, and a quarterback rating of 105.7. Anyone that denies the success of the Texas Tech alum would be blatantly lying to you. When all is said and done, Mahomes could very well be considered one of the greatest players in football history.

With one Superbowl already under his belt, and a trip this year to try and win his second in four years, Mahomes’ resume has been bulking up more and more every day. While Mahomes’ play on the field has been nothing short of amazing, the money he brings the NFL off the field is impressive in its own right. The third highest selling NFL jersey of 2022, the third highest salary in the NFL, and the front runner for the league most valuable player award all belong to Patrick. It would make sense for the NFL and commissioner Robert Goddell to want to push Mahomes and the Chiefs because of all the money they bring in, but would the league rig the AFC championship game in favor of the Chiefs and Mahomes?

After the Chiefs barely escaped the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional round, albeit with some bang ups like an ankle injury that took Mahomes out for the whole second quarter, they turned their attention to the Bills vs Bengals game the following day to see who they’ll face off with in the next round. On Sunday, January 23, with very snowy weather in Buffalo, New York, the slightly favored Bills hosted the visiting Bengals. Due to the snowy climate, many expected the Bills to dominate, as they have the homefield advantage and a quarterback who can run and throw better than almost anyone in Josh Allen.

Despite all these disadvantages, the Bengals walked out of Highmark Stadium with a massive 27-10 upset victory of the Bills, priming them for an AFC championship rematch with the Chiefs, whom they had an epic battle with in the same game last year, except they came out on top of that contest. In 2023, the result flipped, with the Chiefs winning after the late flag against Ossai.

The online reaction to the Bengals vs. The Chiefs AFC championship game was quite poor. Many people called out the beyond ridiculous officiating. Twitter and Instagram users were quick to point out how one sided and bad the calls made by the refs were. A lot of pass interference and holding flags were thrown against the Bengals, making some scratch their head of how the refs could throw a flag on these plays, however these penalties are nothing compared to one of the most confusing plays in NFL history. The Chiefs were facing a 3rd and long situation early in the fourth quarter, deadlocked with Cincinnati at 20 apiece.

Mahomes takes the snap and throws to star tight end Travis Kelce, who gets tackled four yards short of a first down, bringing up fourth down and four to go. The Chiefs send the punt team out and are about to snap the ball when suddenly the refs blow a whistle and announce that it is third down. Everyone in the crowd, watching at home, and even players of the Bengals and Chiefs were confused as to how it’s suddenly third down again. The refs claim it was because they blew the previous play dead, but nobody, not even the players, heard the whistle and the refs didn’t say why the whistle was blown.

The play gave the Chiefs another chance on third down, where the Bengals got another stop. This time, the refs throw a flag for holding on controversial Bengals cornerback Eli Apple, giving Kansas City a first down, even though they had clearly been stopped on two straight third downs, despite the refs saving them.

The refs bailing out the Chiefs gave NFL fans flashbacks to the 2018 playoffs. The Jacksonville Jaguars, nicknamed Sacksonville due to their dominant defense, played host to the New England Patriots. Jacksonville was the clear fan favorite for this game. Fans loved the young and exciting defense and even more so just wanted Tom Brady and the Patriots to lose. Brady had become the undisputed greatest football player ever, and fans were sick of watching him win. Every chance he had to lose and not win the Super Bowl was a chance for the fans to root for it.

The Jaguars had a 10 point lead in the early minutes of the fourth quarter when the Patriots pulled off a beautiful trick play that involved multiple passes behind the line of scrimmage. New England’s running back Dion Lewis caught the final backwards pass and took off down the side, cutting upfield for a huge gain before getting dragged down by a group of Jaguars defenders, when suddenly Jacksonville’s Myles Jack, a second year linebacker out of UCLA, comes up with the ball and runs all the way down the sideline for a touchdown, the potential cherry on top of the game, except it wasn’t.

The refs ruled Jack down once he picked up the ball, but nobody touched him. After reviewing the play to see if it was a clean fumble or not, it was ruled first down for the Jaguars, but not the touchdown they rightfully deserved. The deep field position forced the Jaguars to punt and give the Patriots the ball back, allowing Tom Brady to lead his team back to win the game. The very one sided officiating and blatantly awful call on Myles Jack enraged football fans, making them believe the refs purposely called the game in favor of New England.

The possibility of the 2023 AFC championship being rigged will forever be something that is debated among fans of the NFL, and while there is a history of controversially refereed games to help the NFL’s golden boy, deciding if the league helped Mahomes win will definitely be a heavily debated topic in the football world for a long time to come.