NFL Referee Conspiracies: These Terrible Calls Have Fans Crying Fix

Darren - October 26, 2023

NFL Referee Conspiracies: These Terrible Calls Have Fans Crying Fix

Darren - October 26, 2023

In today’s National Football League (NFL), everyone loves to hate referees. And based on the sheer number of perceivable bad calls that seem to influence the end of games lately, it’s hard to blame them. However, that’s not always fair and each situation has its unique details. They have a thankless job in their role to keep players safe and ensure a level playing field. Nonetheless, the standard of NFL referee calls is dropping and we’ve seen some shocking decisions over the past couple of seasons.

This standard is seemingly getting worse with each passing week as well. It’s gotten so bad that fans are even accusing the NFL of fixing games because some of the calls seem so blatant. Remember, this isn’t impossible because they are technically a “sports entertainment” company in a legal sense rather than a pure sport. So today we’ll look at some of the most shocking NFL referee calls from the 2022 and 2023 seasons that have fans wondering if the product they watch every Sunday is legit as the league claims. Check them out and decide for yourself here.

Jets vs. Patriots (2023)

Let’s caveat this by saying that the Patriots didn’t play well when they met their division rival New York Jets in 2023. But it also doesn’t help when it seems like the refs are against them. Referees made their presence felt too strongly during this clash. Mac Jones threw a pass to Demario Douglas and defensive back Michael Carter intervened.


Carter blindly groped at the rookie’s mask as he tried to catch the ball. Somehow the officials didn’t think that this constituted pass interference or even illegal use of hands. Everyone watching knew that it was one of the worst NFL referee calls of the season so far (via Fansided).


Falcons vs. Buccaneers (2022)

Tom Brady and his Tampa Bay teammates enjoyed a tight victory over the Falcons in 2022 but there was controversy. That’s because the officials left their mark on the game like a child forgetting to flush the toilet. Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett tackled Tom Brady in a fair play late in the fourth quarter.

Sports Illustrated

But the officials didn’t see it this way and flagged him for roughing the passer. There was instant outrage online and some people accused them of showing Brady blatant favoritism. Many of them said that this was one of the worst roughing-the-passer calls ever made because it was so soft (via Bleacher Report).

Fox 16

Ravens vs. Titans (2023)

The Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans traveled to London for this clash at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. However, the UK fans received an unwanted taste of the NFL’s garbage officiating. That’s because they flagged the Ravens a couple of times for pass interference (via Sky Sports).

Bleacher Report

Referee Bill Vinovich and his team hand out more pass interference calls than anyone else in the NFL. They handed them out like candy and infuriated John Harbaugh along the way. One penalty call on Marcus Williams was particularly bad and left fans shaking their heads in despair.

CBS Sports

Patriots vs. Vikings (2022)

There are few things more annoying on an NFL field than when referees wrongly rule out touchdowns. Hunter Henry found this out the hard way after he caught a Mac Jones pass. But the officials infuriated every New England fan by ruling it an incompletion (via Sportskeeda).

Meanwhile, they missed it when a Vikings player gripped Mac Jones’ facemask before he threw an incomplete pass. There were also missed holding calls and they allowed a timeout after a delay in the game. They were some of the worst NFL referee calls we’ve ever seen.

San Francisco 49ers

49ers vs. Browns (2023)

Fans couldn’t believe their eyes during this Sunday afternoon game. That’s because they saw one of the most annoying calls of the week. Cleveland QB P.J. Walker fumbled the ball under pressure from the Niners defense. But the officials knew better in their wisdom because they judged that it was an incomplete pass.


It didn’t matter that the replays proved that it was a fumble and that everybody watching this game knew it. They made one of the worst NFL referee calls of the season and annoyed the world in the process. Moments like these can change games and that is why it’s so egregious (via Athlon Sports).

Detroit Free Press

Lions vs. Packers (2022)

The Lions couldn’t believe this referee’s mistake because it was so bad. Time ran out before Green Bay snapped the ball at the end of the third quarter. The clock hit zero before another couple of seconds went by that felt like forever. Then Jordan Love flung the ball downfield.

Sports Illustrated

This gave them a 44-yard gain and they scored a touchdown after another couple of plays. Nobody understood why the officials allowed it to stand because it was an obvious mistake. Detroit fans believed that there was a conspiracy against them but maybe the referees just don’t know what they’re doing (via USA Today Sports).


Buccaneers vs. Falcons (2023)

Fans openly accused the officials of taking bribes during this game. One fan tweeted: “I’ve never seen a game like this Falcons game. The refs have to have the Bucs’ money line. Three defensive holding calls on 3rd downs only reason the Bucs have points. This is brutal.”


The teams combined for 14 penalties before the end of the second quarter. Tampa Bay was on the wrong side of eight of these and it felt like the officials didn’t want them to do anything. It was one of the worst overall refereeing displays ever and the fans had a right to feel aggrieved (via Pro Football Network).

Miami Herald

Dolphins vs. Eagles (2023)

Everyone knows that football players can’t grab their opponents’ facemasks. Some athletes do it anyway because they think it’s worth the risk. James Bradberry proved this because he escaped without any punishment against the Dolphins. The cornerback grabbed Miami wide receiver Cedrick Wilson Jr.’s helmet during the third quarter.

Palm Beach Post

This blatantly prevented Wilson from catching Tua Tagovailoa’s pass and was a clear penalty. But then came one of the worst NFL referee calls of the year because the referees disagreed. Amazingly, they flagged the Dolphins nine times compared to zero for the Eagles causing the fans to cry ‘fix’ (via Athlon Sports).

L.A. Times

Steelers vs. Rams (2023)

A controversial ball placement call marred this game and irritated fans across the league. With all of the technology in football today, there’s no excuse for this type of mistake. The Steelers knew that a single yard would seal a win over the Rams so Kenny Pickett powered forward (via Pro Football Network).


The referees awarded the first down but the Rams believed that Pickett stopped short of the line. Replays were conclusive and showed they were right as Pickett was obviously short of the line to gain. But because the Rams didn’t have any timeouts left, they couldn’t contest the mistake by challenging the obviously bad spot. In the end, one of the dumbest NFL referee calls ever handed the Steelers the game.


Seahawks vs. Rams (2022)

Seattle benefited from several horrible calls in this decisive regular season game that had major consequences. It sent them to the playoffs while the Detroit Lions narrowly missed out. One of the worst NFL referee calls saw them flag Jonah Williams for running into Michael Dickson.

New York Post

But there was nothing in it and it was a garbage decision. This was one of several terrible calls throughout one of the worst officiated games ever. An anonymous executive told ESPN that there is “a real groundswell of unhappiness with officiating that is much deeper than I’ve seen and frankly, I haven’t seen in this league in years.”

Pro Football Network

Eagles vs. Jets (2023)

The Jets were always up against it in this game against the Eagles because they had no Aaron Rodgers. Meanwhile, the Eagles were arguably the best team in the NFC as the defending conference champs. But the officials made their job almost impossible with some of the worst NFL referee calls ever (via The Jet Press).

NBC Sports

‘Refs, you suck’ boors broke out at the MetLife Stadium after an abysmal call. They flagged Allen Lazard for a blindside block despite the reality that he made perfect contact with Reed Blankenship’s torso. There was nothing wrong with the block but in this game of marginal differences, it cost the Jets dearly.


Colts vs. Browns (2023)

Here’s one of the dumbest pass interference calls ever. Officials decided that Amari Cooper had bionic arms and would have caught P.J. Walker’s overshot pass. Maybe they thought that he was Mr. Fantastic or Stretch Armstrong because that’s the only way he was catching that ball.

Athlon Sports

But they still punished the Colts and gave the Browns the ball on the one-yard line. This was a close game and moments like these can be life or death for teams. Imagine if this was the call that decided who won their division and made it to the playoffs (via Fox 56).

L.A. Times

49ers vs. Eagles (2022)

Sometimes nothing goes right for a team when the stakes are high. The Niners didn’t reach their full potential against the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. Brock Purdy’s compromised elbow involving a torn UCL didn’t help but the cherry on top came when the officials turned against them.

San Francisco Chronicle

They slapped the Niners with 11 penalties and only hit the Eagles with four. Most of these were petty calls while there was one egregious moment that killed the game. A roughing-the-kick call enraged everybody except Philly fans. But nobody wants to hand them a bone (via Fansided).

Akron Beacon-Journal

Titans vs. Browns (2023)

Football fans called for the officials to get their eyes checked after one of the most confusing NFL referee calls ever. Deshaun Watson found Amari Cooper with a 25-yard-pass that set the receiver free down the sideline towards an obvious touchdown. Bizarrely, the sideline referee signaled that he was out of bounds (via Akron Beacon Journal).

CBS Sports

Anyone with functional eyes could see that Cooper stayed on the field. However, the official inadvertently blew his whistle and they couldn’t review the play. Maybe it was a human error but there are too many of these in the NFL nowadays. It certainly didn’t make it any sweeter for the Browns to swallow either.

Fox News

Jets vs. Patriots (2023)

Here’s another moment of shocking refereeing from New England’s regular season game against the Jets. The Patriots attempted a quarterback sneak but the Jets defence suffocated Mac Jones. That’s fine but suddenly he wriggled free before C.J. Mosley took him out.

Then Sauce Gardner crudely shoved Jones to the ground and the officials blew their whistles. But they didn’t punish the Jets and flag Gardner for his needless aggression. But they failed to show consistency because they called Myles Bryant for pass interference later in the game (via NESN).

Bleacher Report

Giants vs. Commanders (2022)

This was one of the most important games of the regular season because it had Wildcard consequences. Washington had an eight-point deficit before Brian Robinson scored a touchdown on their last drive. However, the referee had other ideas and called it back due to an ‘illegal formation.’


Footage showed Terry McLaurin asking if his position was acceptable before the referee gave him a thumbs-up. Then he wiped the touchdown off the board in an inexcusable move. This is the type of absurd behavior that turns fans and players against officials out of sheer anger (via Deadspin).


Chiefs vs. Jets (2023)

This game saw two of the worst NFL refereeing calls of the season because they were so egregious. Some fans even complained that the NFL rigged this game because Taylor Swift was in the crowd supporting Travis Kelce. First, the referee didn’t call a Chiefs holding on the Jets’ Jermaine Johnson.

CBS Sports

The no-call gave Pat Mahomes the chance to scramble for 25 yards. Later, Jets corner Michael Carter II had a brilliant interception. But the officials wiped it out. Finally, they gave New York defensive back Sauce Gardner a controversial flag for holding in a key moment at the end of the game. The Chiefs gained two key first downs from these moments and won the game (via Fansided).


49ers vs. Browns (2023)

John Hussey had a nightmare in this game as his team made several high-profile errors. This one saw them call a face mask on the Browns but the 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey was the offender. He grabbed Zadarius Smith’s helmet but the referee missed it in a weird moment.

York Dispatch

Eventually, they overturned the decision but it took them a frustrating three minutes to reach this conclusion. That’s right, an entire team of officials ruminated over this for a long time before finally making the right decision. It was so dumb but they got there in the end (via USA Today Sports).


Vikings vs. Colts (2022)

Minnesota produced the most remarkable comeback in NFL history but the officials almost ruined this game. Chandon Sullivan saw the zebras rule out two of his touchdowns in shocking circumstances. The officials mangled their decisions and twisted logic as they ruled against the Vikings.


Sullivan threw his helmet on the floor in disgust and the referees had no problem citing him for that. It felt like the Vikings were playing two games at once as they battled with Indy and the officials. This made their victory even more incredible because it came against the odds (via Fox Sports).

The Tennessean

Titans vs. Saints (2023)

The officiating crew got out of jail with this one because of Ryan Tannehill’s shocking display. The quarterback took the heat away from them but the zebras still committed one of the worst errors we’ve ever seen. Tannehill went 16 for 34 with three interceptions in a nightmare performance (via A to Z Sports).

The Tennessean

But the officials also changed the game with a touchdown-killing call. Kevin Byard thought he scored before they overruled it and awarded an incomplete pass. Mike Vrabel raged after the game: “Next week, that’s going to be a fumble and then the next week, it’s going to be an incomplete pass, and the next week it’s going to be a fumble.”

Sporting News

Browns vs. Steelers (2022)

Cleveland met Pittsburgh in this January clash that saw Deshaun Watson in the middle of some bad decisions. There were two bad NFL referee calls that showed their inconsistencies. First, Cameron Hayward grabbed Watson’s facemask but the officials didn’t flag him.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It’s Watson so few fans, players, and officials alike shed any tears over that. But they made up for their mistake later in the game when they ruled in Watson’s favor. This time they protected the quarterback with one of the softest calls ever after Hayward sacked him. It was pathetic but that’s NFL officiating right now (via Fansided).

Kirby Lee

Dolphins vs. Eagles (2023)

Some fans couldn’t believe their eyes when they watched this game. They complained that the NFL was soft and that they were watching flag football. One of the worst NFL referee calls of the season happened after Jalen Hurts threw the ball. Christian Wilkins hit him but it wasn’t excessive.

CBS Sports

But the officials disagreed and cited him for roughing the passer. Then Hurts set up an Eagles touchdown in a very decisive moment. This is a classic example of referees being inconsistent and too quick to involve themselves in the game. It’s very frustrating for fans, players, and coaches (via BVM Sports).


Eagles vs. Jets (2023)

It’s fair to call the Jets one of the unluckiest franchises in football. Sometimes it feels as if the entire NFL is conspiring against them. Fans cried foul after Jalen Hurts’ controversial touchdown run in this game. We already saw some bad calls in this game but this was decisive (via Bleacher Report).

Sports Illustrated

He ran for three yards before officials judged that he fumbled at the touchdown line. But then they incredibly reversed it and awarded the Eagles the touchdown. However, the play clock ran out so it should have been a delay of game penalty and a Jets ball. There’s no excuse for this terrible officiating.

Kansas City Chiefs

Chiefs vs. Bengals (2022)

Cincinnati fans cried foul in the 2022 AFC Championship Game. They felt like the decisions only went one way in this crucial clash. Many of them accused the NFL of fixing this game so that Patrick Mahomes could win a second Super Bowl ring. The key moment was a roughing-the-passer call that moved the Chiefs closer to the game-winning field goal.


There was an extremely controversial moment when the referees gave the Chiefs another chance to convert a third-down attempt. This came after they already failed to do so and ruffled many feathers. Meanwhile, there was also a weird intentional grounding penalty on Joe Burrow (via Sportskeeda).

The New Yorker

Super Bowl LVII

The problem with modern refereeing is that there are no excuses. Fans expect perfection because of all the available technology and they don’t believe there’s any justification for mistakes. The officials did a reasonable job in Super Bowl LVII but one soft call killed the game and handed it to Kansas City.


Philadelphia’s James Bradberry received a flag after he allegedly held onto Chiefs receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. However, replays suggested that he didn’t hold Smith-Schuster, at least not enough for a Super Bowl-deciding call. It all depends on whom you were rooting for. Many thought it was holding while many others thought it was a horrible call. But it was too late for the Eagles because it gave the Chief a new set of downs. Then they scored the game-winning field goal (via Sportskeeda).