We were robbed! Most memorable officiating controversies for all 32 NFL teams

Schefter: The NFL is worried about the integrity of the game (0:58)

Adam Schefter breaks down Saints owner Gayle Benson's comments about the controversial missed pass interference call in New Orleans' loss to the Rams. (0:58)

It is exactly two years to the day since the infamous defensive pass interference no-call in the Rams-Saints NFC Championship Game of the 2018 NFL season. It is one of the most recent massive officiating controversies, but it's far from the only one. Rightly or wrongly, every NFL team's fan base has at least one call or non-call from over the years that still leaves it irate. Missed penalties, questionable flags, iffy rulings from the replay booth ... we've seen it all.

So as we get ready for the conference championship games this weekend, our NFL Nation reporters picked out one such controversy for each team. Which officiating blunder -- or perceived blunder -- still makes fans irate for all 32 teams?

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Buffalo Bills

The Music City Miracle, Jan. 8, 2000. The loss to the Titans in the AFC wild-card matchup was highlighted by Frank Wycheck's lateral to Kevin Dyson that resulted in the game-winning kickoff return touchdown. The in-game review produced inconclusive evidence to overturn the call, and a computer analyst hired by NFL Films deemed it correct, but Buffalo fans to this day believe the lateral was actually a forward pass. The game marked the beginning of a 17-season playoff drought for the Bills and is now an addition to a line of unlucky Buffalo sporting events. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques

Miami Dolphins

The Snowplow Game, Dec. 12, 1982. The Patriots beat the Dolphins due to a fourth-quarter field goal aided by Patriots snowplow operator Mark Henderson veering away from his task of clearing the yard markers and instead clearing out a clean path for the New England to put down and kick the ball. The 33-yard field goal was good, leading to a 3-0 Patriots win in a strike-shortened regular season.

Don Shula protested the call under the NFL's unfair act, claiming it gave the Patriots a competitive advantage. Commissioner Pete Rozelle said there was nothing he could do because there was no rule against it, although after the season the NFL banned snowplow use during games. Both teams made it to the playoffs that year, where the Dolphins got revenge in the form of a 28-13 win and a trip to Super Bowl XVII. -- Cameron Wolfe

New England Patriots

Hamilton roughs the passer, Dec. 18, 1976. In an AFC divisional-round playoff game in Oakland, the Patriots led 21-17 with 1:24 to play. The Ken Stabler-led Raiders offense faced a third-and-18 from their own 28-yard line, and when a pass fell incomplete, the Patriots were one long shot play away from victory ... or so they thought. Referee Ben Dreith called Patriots defensive tackle Ray "Sugar Bear" Hamilton for a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty on the play, giving the Raiders new life. The Raiders marched down the field to score the game-winning touchdown. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Robbery in Motown, Dec. 21, 1997. Driving for a potential go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, the Jets -- needing a win to secure a playoff berth -- were intercepted on a halfback option pass by Leon Johnson. Lions cornerback Bryant Westbrook caught the ball in the end zone for a touchback, but a replay showed he was out of bounds. There were no instant replay reviews in those days, and the Jets lost 13-10 and missed the playoffs in Bill Parcells' first season as coach. -- Rich Cimini


Baltimore Ravens

The substitution trick, Jan. 10, 2015. In an AFC divisional playoff game, the Ravens fumed about the Patriots' use of deceptive ineligible receiver plays, which ultimately resulted in a 35-31 loss. The controversy centered on Patriots running back Shane Vereen checking in with the referees as an ineligible receiver on one drive but still lining up as a wide receiver outside the tackle box. Then New England tight end Michael Hoomanawanui lined up as the left tackle and caught a pair of passes. The Ravens were confused about which players to match up with in coverage, and the Patriots scored on that drive to cut into Baltimore's 14-point lead in the second half.

Two months later, the NFL passed a rule that makes it illegal for an offensive player wearing an eligible number -- between 1 and 49, or 80 to 89 -- to report as ineligible and line up outside the tackle box. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

The Pacman penalty, Jan. 9, 2016. Adam "Pacman" Jones' unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the infamous 2016 AFC wild-card round still stings. The call came after Cincinnati's Vontaze Burfict was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for taking out Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. Jones' additional 15-yard penalty, for reasons that were unclear at the time, put the Steelers in position to attempt a 35-yard field goal in the pouring rain. Naturally, the Steelers capitalized on the advantage and hit the game-winning kick with 14 seconds to play. And furthermore, the Steelers were not penalized for having assistant coach Joey Porter on the field, which is against league rules. -- Ben Baby

Cleveland Browns

Bottlegate, Dec. 16, 2001. With their playoff hopes on the brink in Week 14, the Browns faced fourth-and-2 from the Jacksonville 12-yard line with 1:08 to play. Cleveland quarterback Tim Couch found Quincy Morgan for what appeared to be a first down. But after Couch's spike stopped the clock, officials interjected and declared they would go back and review whether Morgan caught the ball.

During the replay, bottles came raining down out of the stands onto the field, which continued after officials overturned the call. Twenty minutes later, players came back from the safety of the tunnels so the game could be finished. During an impromptu news conference afterward, Browns president Carmen Policy noted, "Those bottles are plastic. They don't pack much of a wallop." -- Jake Trotter

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Thanksgiving coin toss, Nov. 26, 1998. Tied at 16 at the end of regulation on Thanksgiving Day, the Steelers and Lions met at midfield for the overtime coin toss. Jerome Bettis appeared to call tails as the official flipped the coin, but referee Phil Luckett heard him say heads. As he picked up the coin, Luckett announced Bettis had called heads and the coin landed on tails. The Lions got the ball and kicked a 42-yard field goal in three minutes to win in the sudden-death format.

After the game, Luckett told reporters that Bettis called "heads-tails," which Bettis vehemently denied. Later, video with enhanced audio aired by KDKA showed Bettis telling then-coach Bill Cowher on the sideline that he called "hea ... tails." The controversy changed how the NFL did coin flips, requiring players to make their selection before the toss. -- Brooke Pryor


Houston Texans

Hopkins goes out of bounds, Nov. 21, 2016. On the opening possession of the Texans' Monday Night Football game in Mexico City against the Raiders, quarterback Brock Osweiler threw a pass to DeAndre Hopkins that was blown dead when an official ruled he stepped out of bounds as he ran for a touchdown, though replays appeared to show Hopkins was in bounds. Houston's drive eventually stalled, and the Texans settled for a field goal in a 27-20 loss to the Raiders.

There were two other questionable calls later in that game. In the fourth quarter with the score tied at 20, Lamar Miller ran on third-and-2 and appeared to have the first down -- but was called short. The Texans then went for it on fourth down, and running back Akeem Hunt again appeared to get the first down. Hunt was ruled short, and head coach Bill O'Brien challenged the spot and lost. Five plays later, the Raiders scored the game-winning touchdown. After the game, O'Brien said, "You know, we got all of these cameras, and we can't get that right." -- Sarah Barshop

Indianapolis Colts

"Horrible job. Horrible." Oct. 18, 1998. Former Colts coach Jim Mora uttered that about the officiating after his team lost to Steve Young, Jerry Rice and the 49ers 34-31. The Colts jumped out to 21-0 lead on the road before the 49ers got back into the game with the help of the officials. The Colts had two interceptions that were negated due to holding penalties. On another play, the officials ruled 49ers receiver J.J. Stokes was out of bounds on a touchdown reception but changed the call after talking about it. The officiating was so bad that the NFL later issued a statement saying that the officials had made errors in the game. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Myles Jack wasn't down, Jan. 21, 2018. The Jaguars were leading the Patriots 20-10 early in the fourth quarter of the AFC title game when the Patriots used a trick play in which receiver Danny Amendola threw a pass to running back Dion Lewis. But Jack ran Lewis down after a 22-yard gain and ripped the ball out of Lewis' grasp as they went to the ground. Jack ended up with the ball and got up and headed for the end zone, but officials blew the play dead and stopped what would have been a touchdown.

After reviewing the play, the officials ruled that Jack was down by contact and the Jaguars took over on their own 33-yard line. The Jaguars went three-and-out after the turnover, and the Patriots responded with their first of two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Had officials not prematurely blown Jack's return dead, the Jaguars would have been ahead 27-10 and the entire complexion of the game would have changed. The Patriots won 24-20. -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Steve McNair's TD should have counted, Nov. 12, 2001. Down 16-10 on Monday Night Football, the Titans had the ball on the Ravens' 1-yard line when McNair dove into the end zone behind center Bruce Matthews for what would have been the go-ahead touchdown. But the touchdown was taken off the board because Ravens linebacker Peter Boulware was called for offside and the play was blown dead when he made contact with a Titans offensive player. Both teams played through the whistle, and Tennessee thought it scored the go-ahead touchdown. With three seconds on the clock, McNair once again tried to punch it in for the score but Sam Adams, Corey Harris and Ray Lewis stopped the run short of the goal line to preserve the win as time expired. -- Turron Davenport


Denver Broncos

Elway-to-Kay ruled incomplete, Jan. 25, 1987. The Broncos held a 10-7 lead over the Giants late in the first half of Super Bowl XXI, with the ball at their own 13-yard line. On a second-and-12, John Elway hit Clarence Kay for a 28-yard gain and a first down. Yet officials on the field ruled the pass incomplete and checked an available replay in what is believed to be the first time replay was used in a Super Bowl. But that was deemed inconclusive, so the call of incomplete stood. On the CBS broadcast, Pat Summerall and John Madden both believed the pass was a completion. And several minutes later, after the game had resumed, CBS had a replay available that showed Kay had caught the ball.

Too late, however. The Giants sacked Elway for a safety on the play following the throw to Kay to make the score 10-9. Broncos kicker Rich Karlis then missed a 34-yard field goal on the last play of the first half, and the Broncos never regained any momentum in what became a 30-point second half and a 39-20 victory for the Giants. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Gonzalez's non-touchdown, Jan. 4, 1998. To this day, Tony Gonzalez -- not the most impartial observer -- will insist he landed in the end zone on a third-down catch in the third quarter of a divisional-round game. Gonzalez has a valid argument, but he was instead ruled out of bounds, and the Chiefs had no recourse in those pre-instant replay days. So they settled for a field goal, but the extra four points would have been useful. The Chiefs lost 14-10. The Broncos went on to win the Super Bowl, a destiny that may well have been waiting for the Chiefs had Gonzalez been given the touchdown. -- Adam Teicher

Los Angeles Chargers

"The Holy Roller," Sept. 10, 1978. The Chargers led by six with 10 seconds remaining, but the Raiders had the ball on the Chargers' 14-yard line with one last chance to win the game. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler was about to go down for a sack and flipped the football underhand out of desperation. Running back Pete Banaszak couldn't corral the football and instead swatted it forward. Tight end Dave Casper briefly kicked it around himself before falling on it in the end zone, giving the Raiders an improbable victory.

Fumbling forward was allowed then -- though the play prompted the NFL to implement a new rule stating that only the fumbling player can advance the football after the two-minute warning -- but fumbling on purpose was not. Official Jerry Markbreit made the call from behind the action, ruling a fumble because he couldn't decipher attempts to push the ball forward. The Chargers finished that season 9-7, one game behind the Broncos in the AFC West. -- Alden Gonzalez

Las Vegas Raiders

The Tuck Rule, Jan. 19, 2002. After an initial ruling of fumble when a blitzing Charles Woodson dislodged the ball from Tom Brady with 1:50 to play in a divisional playoff game the Raiders led 13-10, the call was changed to an incomplete pass after a video review. But most believe it did not show enough evidence to overturn the initial call, as some shots showed Brady with both hands on the ball at the time of impact. New England had new life, drove for a game-tying field goal and then won it in overtime.

In March 2013, the Tuck Rule was abolished by a vote of 29-1 (Washington and New England abstained). "Tom Brady owes me his house," Woodson laughed at the news. "I'm the reason why he's married to who he's married to. I'm a reason for a lot of that. Everything. Because they overturned that call. Tom, c'mon now, fess up. It was a fumble. It's still a fumble." -- Paul Gutierrez


Dallas Cowboys

#DezCaughtIt, Jan. 11, 2015. When a play gets its own hashtag, you know you were jobbed. In the divisional round of the playoffs, Dez Bryant made a spectacular fourth-down catch of a Tony Romo fade pass near the Green Bay goal line that should have put the Cowboys in position to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. Instead, the play was overturned via replay because it was deemed Bryant did not complete the process of making a catch -- despite multiple steps and lunging to the goal line.

Under the current rules, Bryant's reception would have stood. Who knows if the defense could have stopped Aaron Rodgers on the final drive had Dallas taken the lead, but the Cowboys sure would've liked to find out. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

The Trey Junkin play, Jan. 5, 2003. The NFL admitted missing a pass interference call on the final play of a playoff game in which the Giants blew a 24-point lead to the 49ers. The play started with Junkin's bad snap, which forced holder Matt Allen to scramble and eventually chuck a pass downfield. Offensive lineman Rich Seubert, eligible on the play, was basically tackled before the ball arrived. No penalty flag for that infraction. Game over. Giants lose. A penalty would've resulted in offsetting penalties and given the Giants another chance for a winning field goal. Instead, they lost 39-38. -- Jordan Raanan

Philadelphia Eagles

"Stay off the bottle," Dec. 9, 2018. That suggestion from safety Malcolm Jenkins came after a controversial call on the opening kickoff of the Eagles-Cowboys game that went in Dallas' favor and helped decide the division. Jenkins' hit on Jourdan Lewis caused a fumble that Kamu Grugier-Hill came out of the pile with. But the refs, citing "no clear recovery," gave possession to the Cowboys, denying the Eagles a huge momentum swing. "That was a pretty terrible call," Jenkins said. "So whoever's watching that in New York should stay off the bottle." -- Tim McManus


Mel Gray's phantom catch, Nov. 16, 1975. Washington and the St. Louis Cardinals both entered 6-2. Washington led by a touchdown with St. Louis facing fourth-and-goal at the 7-yard line with enough time for one more play in regulation. Quarterback Jim Hart's pass hit Gray's hands in the end zone, but the ball quickly popped out, and after Gray hit the ground he grabbed his helmet in frustration. One official signaled incomplete, but after a few seconds of chaos, another signaled a touchdown.

The Cardinals won in overtime and went on to win the division while Washington missed the playoffs by two games -- but they also entered a final-game loss to Philadelphia knowing they were already eliminated. Two senators later quizzed commissioner Pete Rozelle about the play during anti-blackout legislation hearings. A season-ticket holder even filed a lawsuit, which was quickly thrown out. -- John Keim


Chicago Bears

He was over the line, Nov. 5, 1989. With visiting Chicago protecting a 13-6 lead with 32 seconds to play, Green Bay quarterback Don Majkowski evaded Bears defensive end Trace Armstrong and scrambled outside the pocket, where he threw an apparent 14-yard touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe. An official, however, felt Majkowski crossed the line of scrimmage before the ball left his hand and called a penalty. As the Bears celebrated, replay officials began reviewing the play. After a four-minute delay, the replay official ruled that -- even without clear indisputable video evidence -- Majkowski was behind the line and awarded the touchdown (and victory) to the Packers. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

The picked-up flag, Jan. 4, 2015. There are many to choose from here over the past decade, from the Calvin Johnson catch rule to Calvin Johnson's batted ball out of the end zone to Trey Flowers' phantom hands-to-the-face against Green Bay. The call that still resonates, though, was the picked-up pass interference flag thrown on Dallas linebacker Anthony Hitchens in the Lions' wild-card game against Dallas.

The Lions were leading 20-17 and driving when the flag was thrown and then picked up on a third down. Instead of a first down putting Detroit in field goal range, the Lions punted, gave up a drive for a touchdown and lost 24-20, continuing the team's playoff losing streak. "That was trash," former Lions defensive lineman Darryl Tapp said at the time. The league then apologized for the missed call, but it mattered little with Detroit out of the playoffs. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Fail Mary, Sept. 24, 2012. You know it's bad when a play has its own name. With replacement officials working the game in Seattle because of a labor dispute between the NFL and its referees, a Hail Mary fell first into the hands of Packers safety M.D. Jennings before Seahawks receiver Golden Tate tried to pull it away. It led to mass confusion before the officials finally called it a Seattle touchdown to win the game 14-12. Two days later, the regular referees were back. Years later, just about everyone associated with the Packers believes it was an interception. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

The original Hail Mary, Dec. 28, 1975. Leading Dallas 14-10 with 24 seconds remaining in the divisional playoffs, the Vikings were the victims of a critical no-call after Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach launched a prayer to Drew Pearson in the end zone. Pearson admitted years later that he used his "outside arm to get inside leverage on [Vikings cornerback] Nate Wright," which many thought was a deliberate push off that should have resulted in offensive pass interference.

Pearson caught the ball against his hip and ran into the end zone to give the Cowboys an eventual 17-14 edge over their NFC rival. The play ended Minnesota's run of two straight trips to the Super Bowl and caused such outrage inside Metropolitan Stadium that one fan launched a whiskey bottle at the head of official Armen Terzian, who was momentarily knocked unconscious. -- Courtney Cronin


Atlanta Falcons

Roddy was held, Jan. 20, 2013. In the 2012 NFC Championship Game against San Francisco, receiver Roddy White said he was held/interfered with by NaVorro Bowman on a fourth-and-4 play from the 49ers' 10-yard line with just over a minute remaining. Matt Ryan's pass was incomplete, and the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl with a 28-24 road win. "I was complaining, but it was already over with,'' White said. "When you get to that point of the game, once they've let stuff like that go, it's a done deal. I've seen some bad calls, but the stakes were so high in that game.'' -- ESPN staff

Carolina Panthers

Cotchery's bobble, Feb. 7, 2016. The Panthers trailed Denver 3-0 in the first quarter of Super Bowl L when league MVP Cam Newton hit Jerricho Cotchery over the middle on first-and-10 from the Carolina 15-yard line. Cotchery bobbled the ball, but it never hit the ground. The play was reviewed and the officials said the ruling on the field as an incomplete pass stood even though replays clearly showed the ball never touched the ground.

Two plays later, Denver's Von Miller got a strip sack for a touchdown to make it 10-0 and propel the Broncos to a 24-10 victory. Players and coaches to this day believe that kept the Panthers from having a legitimate shot at winning the Super Bowl after going 15-1 during the regular season. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

The play that changed pass interference, Jan. 20, 2019. No surprise here. It might be the most famous officiating gaffe in NFL history, and it led to a radical one-year rule change in the offseason, allowing pass interference to be reviewed by replay for the 2019 season. The Saints and Rams were tied with 1:49 remaining in the NFC Championship Game when the officials missed a blatant PI call against Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman (who admitted that he intentionally "whacked" receiver Tommylee Lewis to keep him from scoring). A penalty would have allowed the Saints to run out most of the clock and put them in better position for a TD. Instead, they settled for a field goal and the Rams came back to win in overtime. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Emanuel catch reversal, Jan. 23, 2000. The Bucs were trailing the St. Louis Rams 11-6 in the NFC Championship Game with 51 seconds to go. On second-and-23, Bert Emanuel made a 12-yard reception at the Rams' 23-yard line, setting up a third-and-11. It wasn't until coach Tony Dungy called timeout that officials decided to review the play. "We looked at each other and were like, 'What are you reviewing?'" Emanuel recalled. Referee Bill Carollo and replay official Jerry Markbreit determined that the nose of the ball touched the ground as Emanuel fell, ruling it an incompletion.

Two failed pass attempts later, Tampa Bay's season was over. The NFL changed the rule the following year. "It has haunted me since that day," Emanuel said. "I've lived with that scenario of, 'Maybe I cost us a chance to go to the Super Bowl' for years." -- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals

Santonio's toes, Feb. 1, 2009. The Cardinals were 42 seconds from their first Super Bowl trophy, up 23-20 with the Steelers at the Cardinals' 6-yard line. That's when Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes on the right sideline of the end zone for as close a touchdown catch as can be. The play was reviewed to determine if both of Holmes' feet touched down, and replay upheld the score.

The Steelers went on to win. But more than a decade later, there are still questions about whether Holmes' right foot touched down or if his toes were pressed against the bottom of his left cleat. -- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams

Too much contact, Feb. 3, 2002. The Patriots effectively slowed the Greatest Show on Turf and defeated the Rams 20-17 in Super Bowl XXXVI, thanks in large part to how their defensive backs mugged receivers throughout the game and were not flagged for it. It's likely no coincidence that Rams coach Mike Martz was on the Competition Committee that, in 2004, made illegal contact a point of emphasis. -- Lindsey Thiry

San Francisco 49ers

A pair of fatal flags, Jan. 8, 1984. After a 21-point fourth-quarter rally in the NFC Championship Game, the Niners appeared to be bound for the Super Bowl when Washington quarterback Joe Theismann and the offense took over at their 22-yard line and began marching for the game-winning points. But not without the benefit of a couple of controversial flags.

On second-and-10 at San Francisco's 45, Theismann threw deep for receiver Art Monk. The pass sailed over the heads of Monk and cornerback Eric Wright, but Wright received a pass interference penalty at the Niners' 18. The Niners argued the pass was uncatchable but to no avail. Soon after, Ronnie Lott was flagged for holding on third down. Both controversial calls led to Washington's 24-21 win and prevented San Francisco from reaching the Super Bowl. -- Nick Wagoner

Seattle Seahawks

"I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter," Feb. 5, 2006. In Super Bowl XL, there were four calls against the Seahawks that ranged from questionable (Did Darrell Jackson's push-off in the end zone warrant offensive pass interference? Did Ben Roethlisberger actually cross the goal line?) to bad (Sean Locklear getting flagged for holding an offsides Clark Haggans) to baffling (Matt Hasselbeck getting flagged for a "low block" while trying to make a tackle on an interception return).

The referee in that game, Bill Leavy, volunteered a heartfelt mea culpa in 2010, saying: "I kicked two calls in the fourth quarter and I impacted the game, and as an official, you never want to do that." He didn't specify the plays, but the penalties on Locklear (which negated a completion to the Steelers' 1-yard line) and Hasselbeck (which put Pittsburgh 15 yards closer to what would be the clinching touchdown) were both in the final frame. -- Brady Henderson