New England Patriots

Stephon Gilmore of the New England Patriots runs the ball after recovering a fumble against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on December 08, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Gilmore was ruled down after recovering the fumble. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By Matt Dolloff,

The officiating mistake that will, and should, stand out in the Patriots’ 23-16 loss to the Chiefs is the missed touchdown call on receiver N’Keal Harry. But the only reason that missed call was a problem in the first place was because Jerome Boger and his crew made an even worse mistake before that.

I’m talking about Stephon Gilmore’s fumble recovery that should have had a good chance to be a scoop-and-score touchdown that would have potentially made it a 23-20 game late in the third quarter. But the officials doubly screwed up on the play. First they ruled that Travis Kelce was down by contact, when he wasn’t even close to down by contact. And then they made it worse when they whistled the play dead, which is typical of plays when the crew is absolutely convinced that the player was down by contact.

Well, they were wrong. On both fronts. And whistling the play dead made Gilmore stop running. Otherwise he would’ve had a real opportunity to score his second touchdown of the season and put momentum firmly on the Patriots’ side.

“I believe in myself, so yeah [I believe I would have scored],” Gilmore said after the game. “Coach [Bill Belichick] teaches us to keep playing until you hear the whistle and that’s what I did. I heard the whistle and I was surprised. You’ve just got to live with it.”

The worst part of the officiating errors on that play, however, was that it forced Bill Belichick to use his second and final challenge. So when Harry was ruled out of bounds despite clearly and obviously being in bounds, the Patriots were out of challenges and had to live with the decision on the part of Boger’s crew.

It was a domino effect of egregious officiating, and backward officiating at that. Boger’s crew easily could have just ruled a fumble then reviewed it like they have to on every turnover, and also ruled a touchdown for Harry then overturned it upon review if he were actually out of bounds. Boger’s explanation for the latter call and ensuing officials’ conference will make your head hurt.

But the reality is the officiating snafus started before the Harry play. If the officials did their jobs properly on the previous possession, we wouldn’t be talking about Harry at all. Well, we would have, because the play would have been ruled a touchdown like it should have.

It wasn’t the only reason the Patriots lost to the Chiefs – the offense is still struggling to find consistency – but the officials were just way, way too big of a factor to ignore this time.

“One thing coach teaches us is no matter what happens, until the whistle blows, keep playing,” Gilmore said. “I saw it was a fumble, I picked it up and I kept playing but it is the refs call. Do your job, play the play out. If they blow the whistle you’ve got to live with it.”

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at