Chiefs-Jaguars: Kansas City adamant Smith-Schuster hit deserved penalty

The Kansas City Chiefs and their fans aren’t new to controversial official calls that seem to change the momentum of a game. An outbreak erupted at Arrowhead Stadium a couple of weeks ago when Chris Jones made a questionable call on the defensive to be too rude to the passer.

However, there is another layer to a missed call when it comes to an individual player’s health and safety.

In the Chiefs’ 27-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster went down after a hard punch in the second quarter. Jaguar safety Andre Cisco landed high as he made contact with Smith-Schuster, making helmet-to-helmet contact and causing the wide receiver to drop the ball. Coaches surrounded him for minutes before being helped to the sidelines and into the locker room, eventually entering the league’s concussion protocol.

To no one’s surprise, a flag was thrown at the piece. But then the officers picked it up.

At this point, the Kansas City sideline erupted. Head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes led the plea for retaining the penalty kick.

“As long as there’s head contact, it doesn’t have to be in play,” Reid told reporters after the final whistle. “It looked like there was contact with the head from where I was standing.”

“Obviously I don’t think the player had any ill intentions,” Mahomes noted to the press in his post-game media availability. “He was just trying to get the ball loose. Obviously there was helmet-to-helmet contact. We want to get that out of the league as much as possible for player safety.”

Beyond the 15 yards gained – and the ability to resume possession – the Chiefs saw their teammate absorb an overly physical hit. Many players expressed their frustration for the cameras after the game – even the player who was Smith-Schuster’s teammate the least time.

“I was angry,” wide receiver Kadarius Toney told reporters. “I was kind of pissed off because I don’t really like dirty pieces. I feel like it gave the team a boost; it gave us something to play for, you might say.”

Like some Chiefs players, the officiating crew initially felt there was malicious intent; they threw the flag – and then withdrew it. In conversation with ESPN’s Adam Teicher after the game gave referee Brad Rogers his explanation of the procedure.

“The defender had adjusted and prepared for the impact and hit shoulder to shoulder, they didn’t feel like it was a helmet foul.”

“He was in a defenseless stance but they didn’t feel there was any sense of helm foul.”

When it was explained to him during the game, Reid disagreed with this reasoning. The veteran he coaches has seen a lot, so he tried to infuse common sense into the officials’ thought process.

“It’s not good, it’s not a good feeling at all,” Reid said. “That’s what I tried to explain to the officers: guys don’t slap their shoulders and lie around, there’s more to it than that. The head was involved. That’s what the rule was made for – things like that.”

Thankfully, post-game signs suggest Smith-Schuster’s status is more positive than negative — but as they played on, Chiefs players didn’t know that. At the time of the injury, they had a full two quarters left. That kind of time can be fuel for emotional teammates.

“It really makes me tougher,” Toney explained. “See him on the ground? It made me angry; it made me angry. It took a different kind of emotion from me because I don’t really like seeing my teammates on the ground.”

Toney used that sentiment to carry the receiving charge in Smith-Schuster’s absence, amassed 57 yards and a touchdown on four receptions.

Smith-Schuster’s new teammate is just one of many players who disagreed with the application of NFL rules to the incident. It’s one thing for the opposing team to do it — but if the league lets it slip, it gets a whole lot worse.

Essentially, Cisco has been activated. Later in the game, he delivered another smashing swipe at Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was under investigation after safety pinned him on an attempted catch.

If defenders aren’t blamed for hits that are really overkill – that is, illegal – it makes them more comfortable to carry on.

That’s the message the Kansas City players and coaches want to convey.

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