There were three seconds left on the clock when the Titans defeated the Bills after a 75-yard touchdown in the Wild Card round. They called it the ‘Music City Miracle’ because it took place in Nashville but the moment wasn’t without controversy. That’s because many Buffalo fans still believe it shouldn’t have happened.
They point to an illegal trick-play kickoff return that saw the Titans score the decisive touchdown. It was a devastating moment for the Bills and saw the franchise spiral out of control. They were a powerhouse in the ’90s but deteriorated and missed the playoffs for many years after this (via Democrat and Chronicle).
Bourbon Street saw a lot of action after the NFC Championship Game in 2019 after one of the most ridiculous decisions in NFL history. The Saints played the Rams in the showpiece event with a Super Bowl spot awaiting the winner. Drew Brees threw a pass in the fourth quarter toward TommyLee Lewis but an L.A. player took him out.
However, the seven officials present didn’t think it deserved a pass interference penalty and the Saints lost the game. There were at least two potential penalties in the build-up but the Saints didn’t receive any. This traumatized New Orleans for the next couple of seasons and it’s not difficult to see why (via CBS Sports).
There is a significant difference in quality between NFL officials and their college counterparts. The league found this out to its cost in 2012 when the former group went on strike. Then the NFL brought in a bunch of replacement referees who made many ridiculous decisions that hurt teams (via The Ringer).
The Packers came off on the wrong end of a terrible call against Seattle. Russell Wilson launched a Hail Mary pass toward the endzone as the Seahawks trailed. But Golden Tate and M.D. Jennings both caught the ball. Meanwhile, Tate illegally disrupted a Green Bay player but the referee awarded him the touchdown anyway.
After two years, the NFL changed its mind about one of the most controversial decisions of the past decade. Dez Bryant infamously caught the ball and maintained possession for the Cowboys. But the referee disagreed and said that he lost control in a costly moment for Dallas (via NBC Sports).
This immediately ignited an intense debate about what constitutes a successful catch. Eventually, the NFL clarified the rules because they didn’t want to see more ridiculous decisions. It didn’t help Bryant or his franchise but it was important for wide receivers around the league.
This remains one of the most shambolic sporting events in U.S. history. Fans expect at least one poor call in every game because human error exists. But the number of ridiculous decisions in Super Bowl XL was beyond belief. Many fans accused the NFL of fixing the game because it was insane.
Ben Roethlisberger’s touchdown in the second quarter was one of the most controversial moments. Then there was a holding penalty that could have gone either way but the Seahawks suffered. Seattle fans resented the officials because they feel they lost a massive opportunity (via Sports Illustrated).
Technically this wasn’t a bad call but it deserves a place on this list. The offensive tackle played for the Cleveland Browns against the Jaguars in 1999. During the game, the referee threw the penalty marker toward the area where the offense took place. But somehow it hit Brown in the eye and injured him (via Bleacher Report).
He reacted aggressively and shoved referee Jeff Triplette. The NFL hit him with a suspension for this action but it didn’t matter. That’s because Brown required surgeries to repair the damage to his eye and missed the next couple of seasons. Then the NFL changed one of their ridiculous decisions to make the game safer.
This is one of several bad calls from the same weekend that made headlines. However, the fact that Tom Brady was involved had an even bigger impact. Referee Jerome Boger made one of the most ridiculous decisions of his long and controversial career. He cited Grady Jarrett for roughing the passer after an obviously clean sack on the quarterback.
Context is important because this came in the aftermath of Tua Tagovailoa’s horrendous on-field seizure. But that doesn’t excuse Boger’s awful call or silence the conspiracy theorists. Many fans think that Brady receives extensive favoritism but this was egregious (via The Guardian).