Andre Johnson's(notes) transformation is complete. For years, he was the most underrated player in football, toiling away in relative obscurity for the Houston Texans. Then, over the past two seasons of hearing every color commentator talk about how underrated he was, Johnson became regarded, correctly, as the top wideout in the game. And now that his status as alpha dog is strong, Johnson is getting the superstar treatment from officials that goes with it:
On an afternoon filled with bad calls from officials, this one stood out. There's clear interference on the play and it's not by Brandon Flowers(notes). Andre Johnson extends his arm, pushes off Flowers and creates enough space to haul in the catch from Matt Schaub(notes). It's textbook interference and it happened right in front of two officials.
What went wrong? First off, no other receiver on the Texans gets that call. Johnson gets it because he's a top, physical receiver and that status comes with a little leeway for officials. But I'm not sure it's just that. The call is so egregiously bad that I wouldn't be surprised if flagging Flowers was a mistake as simple as an official saying the wrong jersey color during that zebra conference. There was nothing remotely close to interference from Flowers. The only way a competent official could have fingered him in the penalty is if he did so completely by accident. It's possible that they got in the huddle, some said, "PI, white" instead of "PI, blue" and everyone else agreed. It's not probable, but you can't tell me that something like that doesn't happen at least once or twice a season.
The decision was a turning point of the game. With the penalty, the Texans had a first-and-10 on the Kansas City 24-yard line. If it had been called on Johnson, he and Houston would have faced third-and-10 from their own 35. The penalty, in essence, was a 39-yard call.