Chiefs' Reid still incensed that flag was thrown with no warning for costly offside penalty

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Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Kadarius Toney runs to the end zone after catching a lateral by teammate Travis Kelce during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Sunday, Dec. 10, 2023, in Kansas City, Mo. The play was nullified after Toney was called for being offside on the play. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs coach Andy Reid was still baffled Monday by an offside penalty called on his offense that wiped out a go-ahead, 49-yard touchdown pass against the Buffalo Bills, taking the officiating crew from Sunday's game to task for throwing a flag rather than issuing a customary warning in that situation.

The play came with just over a minute left and the Chiefs trailing 20-17. Patrick Mahomes threw over the middle to Travis Kelce, who was about to get tackled when he lateraled to Kadarius Toney, who ran untouched the rest of the way for the score.

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The Chiefs began to celebrate the touchdown, only to see that an official had thrown a flag on Toney for lining up offside.

“There are no excuses on this thing. That's not what I'm saying,” Reid said. "I've always had a good working relationship with these guys, and that's the important part. They know when they tell me something with a guy, I'm going to address the guy — like, right now — and make sure it gets changed. When you're talking about inches, those happen in the game.”

In fact, there were numerous instances throughout Sunday's game in which players on both teams — and both sides of the ball — were lined up in the neutral zone. Bills pass rusher Von Miller was offside more than once, and more egregiously than Toney, who may have been at most 3 inches beyond the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped.

Reid acknowledged during a Zoom call with reporters Monday that Toney was in the neutral zone. But in those situations, officials will usually give him a warning about the player, then throw a flag if there is another infraction.

“It's a working relationship. That part is so important in this thing,” Reid said. “You can see it on both sides, whether it's the defense lining up in the neutral zone at times. Just give the coach a heads-up, and in our case, we tell them. And then if they get called, listen, you've been warned. That's how it worked over the years.”

Referee Carl Cheffers acknowledged that offensive offside is not something officials “want to be overly technical on,” but added that “when in his alignment he’s lined up over the ball, that’s something that we are going to call as offensive offside.”

It doesn’t matter whether that happens on the first play of the game or a big play in an important moment.

“If they looked for alignment advice, certainly we are going to give it to them. But ultimately, they are responsible for wherever they line up,” Cheffers told a pool reporter. “And certainly, no warning is required, especially if they are lined up so far offside where they’re actually blocking our view of the ball. .... This particular one was beyond a warning.”

It's not the first time that a player being offside has cost the Chiefs in a crucial moment.

Five seasons ago, during the AFC championship game against New England, the Chiefs thought they had clinched their spot in the Super Bowl when they were leading 28-24 and Charvarius Ward picked off Tom Brady with a couple of minutes to go. But pass rusher Dee Ford was offside on the play, giving the Patriots another chance, and they scored a go-ahead touchdown — the Chiefs would kick a field goal to force overtime, but Brady and Co. scored a TD on the first possession to win the game.

It's also not the first time the Chiefs were left to rue the officials.

In fact, one week earlier, they were driving for a potential tying touchdown in Green Bay when Mahomes threw a deep pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Packers defensive back Carrington Valentine ran right through him but no flag was thrown for pass interference, and the Chiefs went on to lose the game 27-19.

“Let us play, man. Let us play the game,” Mahomes said Sunday night. “That's why like, last week, I didn't say anything because that's just letting us play. Let us go out there and win the game. I've said I'd rather them let us play and go out there and see who wins — I mean, you want that as a competitor. You practice all week to go out there and try to win."

Mahomes also was frustrated that the penalty seemed to be arbitrarily enforced in such a decisive moment.

“I mean, that's elementary school, we talk about it. You point to the ref, do all that different type of stuff, and they warn you,” he said, “and there was no warning throughout the entire game, and then you wait until there's a minute in the game to make a call like that? It's rough. I mean, loss for words.”



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