It’s the holding call heard ’round the NFL. And the debate over whether it was even a penalty continues to rage.
Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner was penalized for defensive holding on Chiefs wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling on a third-and-20 play late in the fourth quarter Sunday night — a decision by referee Frank Steratore that negated an interception by Michael Carter II and gave the ball back to Patrick Mahomes.
Kansas City worked the clock the rest of the way and held on for a 23-20 victory over New York.
A livid Jets coach Robert Saleh shouted at Steratore after the call, and again on the final play of the game. Gardner was also angry, saying he was stunned — and that he didn’t hold Valdes-Scantling. Chiefs coach Andy Reid agreed with the call, and so did Mahomes.
On Monday morning, the NFL had “Chiefs are 2-0 as Swifties” in its social media profiles. That, of course, spun the conspiracy theorists into a tizzy since pop superstar Taylor Swift was at the game at MetLife Stadium to watch Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. Swift was also at the Chiefs’ home win over the Chicago Bears last week at Arrowhead Stadium after Kelce invited her.
“Lmaoo maybe if I was a swiftie, the ref wouldn’t of threw the flag,” Gardner said in a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Last season’s AP Defensive Rookie of the Year then edited the post to say: “Lmaoo maybe if I was a swiftie then …nvm.” The post was later deleted.
The NFL also removed the reference to Swift from its social media profiles.
Saleh was asked about his opinion on the call Monday after he had time to calm down and watch replays.
“I’m just going to leave that one alone until I get a chance to get clarification (from the league),” Saleh said after pausing briefly.
The situation kicked off conversations about the call on sports radio in the New York area as well as on ESPN and NFL Network.
Mahomes supported the call in an interview with 610 AM Sports Radio in Kansas City on Monday.
“I mean, at the end of the day, you get your hands around the guy’s neck like 15 yards downfield, they’re going to call something,” the Chiefs quarterback said. “If it’s going to be holding or illegal contact, it’s just not allowed. Once I saw him grab him, I threw it up there to give Marquez a chance, kind of knowing the flag was going to come.
“You could see it from my position. I mean, I understand people want to let teams play and stuff like that, but you can’t get your hands around guys’ necks like that.”
Gardner quote-tweeted a post from the radio station that included Mahomes’ comments.
“Since we are commenting, let me say it from my perspective,” Gardner wrote with a laughing emoji. “For starters, this was around 5-7 yds from the LOS… not 15. 2. I extended my arms and he made the choice to lean on me with all of his weight which caused my hand to slide to the back of his pad; not his neck.
“I did not grab him, I actually made a conscious effort to remove my right arm as you can see in the video. He then tried to swim with his right hand and I pushed his arm down with my left hand lmaoo.. There yall have it. It was not a holding or illegal contact. Ohh my fault, it was holding bc he threw the flag.”
Dean Blandino, a rules analyst for Fox Sports who previously served as the NFL’s vice president of officiating, said officials made the correct call.
“Valdes-Scantling tries to break to the inside and Gardner reaches across his body and grabs the left shoulder and restricts his ability to get downfield,” Blandino said in a video posted on X by The 33rd Team. “It was properly called.”
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/NFL