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NFL defends controversial roughing penalty in Denver as a “judgment call”

Mike Florio

Rookie referee Adrian Hill got his baptism by F bomb on Sunday, thanks to a controversial shades-of-early-2018 roughing the passer call that extended what became the game-winning drive for the Bears in Denver.

Hill’s decision to flag Broncos linebacker Bradley Chubb gave the Bears 15 extra yards, helping to set the stage for Eddie Piñeiro’s game-winning 53-yard field goal. From no angle did it appear to be roughing, however.

Although Hill may privately hear negative feedback from 345 Park Avenue, the powers-that-be are circling the wagons, dubbing Hill’s decision to gift the Bears 15 yards a “judgment call.”

Well, yes, it’s a judgment call. But judgment can be poorly exercised. As it was by Hill, who simply may have been giving the Bears a makeup call for a questionable roughing penalty from earlier in the game, when Bears defensive lineman Eddie Goldman appeared to apply a legal hit to Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco. Both calls appeared to be an effort to address the “body weight” wrinkle that the NFL embraced early last year, until a hue and cry from fans, media, and teams forced the league to soften its stance.

The good news for the league is that Hill’s apparent error wasn’t the most egregious example of officiating ineptitude on Sunday, making it far less likely to resonate deep into the week. The bad news for the league is that Hill’s apparent error wasn’t the most egregious example of officiating ineptitude on Sunday.