Sunday's NFC Championship Game was a thrilling battle that came down to the wire but, unfortunately, it was also one that was decided by a rather controversial call inside in the final two minutes.
With the Buccaneers holding a 31-26 lead and needing to convert on third and 4 to put the game on ice, Tom Brady dropped back to pass and tried to find Tyler Johnson across the middle. Brady couldn't connect with his intended target but a (very late) flag came flying in after Packers cornerback Kevin King grabbed Johnson's jersey. Pass interference was called, essentially locking up the victory and booking their ticket to Super Bowl LV.
In a vacuum, the sequence seemed to be an obvious penalty. However, given the magnitude of the moment and the fact that referees had been letting defenders get away with a lot all game long, many thought the flag shouldn't have been thrown. A number of NFL players past and present weighed in on the ruling and, in Joe Haden's case, how late the flag was thrown.
Omg!!!!!! Lasted flag EVER!!!— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) January 24, 2021
(We have to assume Haden meant "latest" flag ever here.)
There were varying opinions from those close to the game, so we should be in for quite a few days of takes.
THAT IS NOT A FLAG‼️‼️‼️‼️— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) January 24, 2021
Uncatchable ?— Tarik Cohen (@TarikCohen) January 24, 2021
Never bet against Brady...simple mistake by Analyst Humph— Marlon Humphrey (@marlon_humphrey) January 24, 2021
Look man, Father Time officially took the L on TB12.— Chase Edmonds (@ChaseEdmonds22) January 24, 2021
They’ve let em play all game, but anyone that knows an inkling about the game knows that has to be called.— danny woodhead (@danny__woodhead) January 24, 2021
Omg I’m sick. Wow. Just wow.— TJ Lang (@TJLang70) January 24, 2021
Bro! I know y’all hate that they threw that flag, but you can not say he didn’t grab him.— Ryan Clark (@Realrclark25) January 24, 2021
Of course, there were the Brady conspiracy theorists too.
TOM BRADY REFS WOW ! That’s not PI— Antwaun Woods Sr. (@AntwaunWoods_) January 24, 2021
Tom Brady still got the refs on his side— Jeffsradamus (@JeffAllen71) January 24, 2021
But it wasn't just NFL stars chiming in, either. Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid didn't quite enjoy the call either.
FREAKING BAD CALL— Joel “Troel” Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) January 24, 2021
In any case, it wouldn't be an NFC Championship Game without some controversial officiating at the end of the game, now would it?