KANSAS CITY — Late in the third quarter, the Denver Broncos were threatening to beat the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time since 2015.
“The score was 17-13 at the time. It was a big third down. I think it was third-and-nine, or something like that. And we took a shot down the field,” Russell Wilson said, setting the scene for one of the crucial moments in the game. “They double-teamed Courtland [Sutton], but how you break a double team is you split through it. And he did a tremendous job splitting through it. He’s one of the best receivers in the National Football League. He ran his butt off. The line did a great job give me time. When I launched that ball to him, I knew he was going to get it. I mean I just knew. He makes those kind of plays all day. He made a great catch.”
Sutton did just that. On the Chiefs’ 40-yard line, the 6-foot-4 receiver went up and brought down the 44-yard pass from Wilson to set up Denver to extend their lead even further. But it was too good to be true for Sutton and the Broncos.
Instead, Sutton was called for offensive pass interference.
“I for sure thought it was going to be pass interference the other way, to be honest with you. But they called it,” Wilson said after the game. “We still had to respond. We still had a lot of game left. But that was a big point in the game because I think that, for us, we were up 17-13. We get the ball at their 40, it’s a 50-yard play or whatever. We’re getting the ball on their 40. We have all of the momentum. And now it’s third-and-20, or whatever it is.”
Denver, instead, was faced with a third-and-19 from their own eight-yard line, punting one play later.
“Apparently, when I asked the official that threw the flag, he said that I pushed the defender in the chest to make the catch and that’s where the flag came from,” Sutton said, explaining what happened. “But you guys can watch the film and see what happened.”
On the play, Sutton and Chiefs’ safety Bryan Cook were hand fighting as Sutton went up to make the catch. Right before the ball got to Sutton, he moved his arm, thus extending it, to get Cook’s hand off of his so he could make the catch. As Sutton does that, Cook falls roughly a yard back from where he had been in coverage.
“Unfortunate. The word of the day. Highly, highly unfortunate,” Jerry Rosburg said of the penalty, being mindful of his words so he doesn’t get fined for criticizing the officiating.
Another way people described the penalty was game-changing. If there hadn’t been the controversial penalty, Denver would have been on the edge of scoring range to at least extend the lead to a touchdown.
Eight plays later, however, the Chiefs took the lead and never looked back.
The word of the day, according to Denver’s interim head coach, was spot on for describing the controversial penalty as the Broncos lost their 15th-straight game to the Chiefs.