A major point of contention from viewers of last week's Patriots game was the 15-yard penalty called on safety Brandon Meriweather for taunting. The call gave the Broncos the ball at the Patriots' 11-yard line, and they scored the game-tying touchdown on the very next play.
Though it certainly looked like Meriweather taunted receiver Eddie Royal, replays clearly showed that the official threw the flag before the taunt occurred.
So the NFL Network's Rich Eisen asked the NFL's VP of officiating Mike Pereira, "How can somebody be called for taunting before the taunt? And if that was a flag on something other than the taunt, then why wouldn't your official have also thrown his hat for the infraction for the taunt in addition to whatever the initial flag might have been for?"
"Well maybe he's got a bad hair day going on or something and he doesn't want to throw his hat," Pereira quipped.
Forgive Patriots fans for not being amused.
"But here's really what happened," Pereira continued. "If you look at the play, it is a taunt. What happens is that he calls a helmet-to-helmet hit on a defenseless receiver. That's what he called … which I actually think it is.
"Now after this comes the taunt, and the back judge from the middle of the field is the one that came over and called the taunt. In the conversation [among officials], the head linesman came down and said it wasn't a helmet-to-helmet hit, so they picked the flag up for the helmet-to-helmet hit and went with the taunt that was called by the back judge."
Pereira admitted that the way it played out on television "sure did make it look fishy." He said he would have preferred the side judge explain to the referee that the helmet-to-helmet flag was picked up, but the back judge's call of taunting was to take effect.
"If we'd have done that, then the referee would have come out and said, 'There is no foul for helmet-to-helmet contact, that flag is being picked up. However, there is taunting called.' And I think that would have taken this misconception out for what looked so funny in the situation."