Refs somehow miss blatant Chargers false start, a huge mistake in Steelers loss

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The last time there was a missed call on a false start that was this bad, an NFL official lost his job in season for the first time in the Super Bowl era.

In the first quarter on Sunday night, with the Pittsburgh Steelers out to a 13-0 lead, Chargers right tackle Sam Tevi moved before the snap. It was obvious. But no whistle blew, and Philip Rivers threw deep to Travis Benjamin for a 46-yard score.

Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt on the field and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on the sideline were beside themselves. How could the officials have missed such an easy call? Suddenly, thanks to the missed call, it was a 13-7 game. That missed call was huge by the end, when the Chargers stormed back for a 33-30 win on the final play of the game.

NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya said she asked Tomlin about the missed false start at halftime, and Tomlin said officials admitted they missed the call.

“He told me, the officials told him, ‘We screwed up,’” Tafoya said on the broadcast. “There is just no recourse.”

When Tomlin was asked after the game, he didn’t elaborate.

“It was no explanation other than they missed it,” Tomlin said. “It’s unfortunate.”

Tomlin was asked another officiating question.

“I’m not getting into all the officiating elements of what transpired and how it was communicated. I’m just not. It’s fruitless,” Tomlin said. “It doesn’t change the outcome of the game.”

The false start wasn’t the only call Steelers fans will complain about.

Mike Tomlin wasn't happy with a false start by the Chargers that the officials missed on Sunday night. (AP)
Mike Tomlin wasn’t happy with a false start by the Chargers that the officials missed on Sunday night. (AP)

Officials missed false start call on Chargers

In the NBC broadcast booth, Cris Collinsworth and Al Michaels agreed that Tevi rocked back well before the snap.

“One thousand percent,” Michaels said.

When Michaels asked NBC officiating analyst Terry McAulay if he could remember a missed false start call that was that bad, McAulay mentioned the one earlier this season that cost down judge Hugo Cruz his job. The Chargers benefited then, too, when a false start on Chargers tackle Russell Okung was missed. The Chargers also scored on that play. Cruz was let go for more than the one play, as the league said he wasn’t “maintaining a very high level of performance over a sustained period,” but the egregious missed call certainly was a factor. He was the first official in the Super Bowl era to lose his job during a season.

After McAulay was done talking about that missed call earlier this season, Michaels chimed back in.

“Might have to check the classifieds tomorrow,” Michaels said.

Officials might have missed another key call

The Chargers tied the game in the fourth quarter on a 73-yard punt return score by Desmond King. But on the play, it seemed the Chargers had a block in the back that wasn’t called on a Steelers defender who had a clear path to King right as he was starting his return.

There was more to the Steelers’ loss than just the missed calls. They could have won had the offense moved the ball better in the second half or the defense could have gotten a stop. But the missed calls on Chargers touchdowns helped turn the game around as well.

Tomlin also referenced some holding penalties on the offense that stopped drives, but stopped short of saying any more.

“I’m going to keep my mouth shut. I’m going to do that. Because I’ve sent enough money to New York,” Tomlin said.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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