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Horrible spot could have marred Chiefs' final drive of regulation

Luckily, Super Bowl LVIII lacked an officiating controversy. The key word is "luckily."

As explained on Tuesday's PFT Live, the first play of the final drive of regulation in Super Bowl LVIII included a bad spot. A very bad spot. An egregiously bad spot.

Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes found tight end Travis Kelce for what seemed to be an 11-yard gain. Clearly, Kelce got the ball past the Kansas City 35, the line to gain for a first down.

CBS believed it. The graphic on the screen said it was 1st and 10, and the yellow line moved accordingly. However, the ball was spotted short of where the play ended. BY TWO YARDS.

It was second and one from the 34. With no one noticing the mistake. The fact that the Chiefs had shifted to no-huddle mode had something to do with that. Regardless, it's a blunder that never should happen, especially not with a championship on the line.

Mahomes scrambled for a first down on the next play, so the mistake was inconsequential. But what if the Chiefs had failed on second down and then on third down and then on fourth down? It would have become one of the biggest controversies in league history. And it would have fueled speculation, distrust, and allegations that the game was fixed — which is exactly what Commissioner Roger Goodell feared in an age of legalized gambling.

That's how we found out about it. Someone sent in an email suggesting that the Chiefs got a free first down from a short scramble on first down, without realizing that it was actually second down when it shouldn't have been. It reconfirms that people are actively looking for evidence of foul play when watching NFL games.

Perception is reality. The NFL isn't willing, however, to spend the money and/or to make the changes necessary to change perceptions, from hiring full-time officials to fully incorporating technology into officiating to embracing transparency and more.

They're apparently willing to just tolerate the status quo, since that's a lot cheaper. The smarter move would be to reinvest some of that gambling revenue into buttoning up the various flaws that will set the stage for a major scandal that will significantly undermine the integrity of and public confidence in the sport of professional football.

Covering the first major NFL scandal of the post-legalized gambling era would be good for this specific business. The first major NFL scandal of the post-legalized gambling era, however, would be very bad for the league. Here's hoping the NFL gets its act together before that first major NFL scandal of the post-legalized gambling era happens.