Sauce Gardner initially “didn’t know what to say,” before he eventually found the words to describe his frustration over the game-changing penalty that was called against him on the Chiefs’ final drive.
With the Chiefs leading by three points with under five minutes remaining, Michael Carter II picked off Patrick Mahomes at the Jets’ 14-yard line, but the play was negated when Gardner was flagged for defensive holding against Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
The Chiefs maintained possession and eventually ran out the clock to hold on for a 23-20 win at MetLife Stadium.
“It’s real frustrating. I ain’t even gonna lie,” Gardner said after the game. “The receiver ran into me, it was a collision, same thing that was happening all game and they didn’t throw no flags.
“[Mahomes] threw the ball outside the receiver, and [Carter] was there, and he made the play. Then the ref threw the flag. To me personally that’s like when you play basketball one-on-one and you go up to make the basket, and they wait to see if you miss, and then call the foul. I can’t believe that happened. That was just crazy.”
Jets coach Robert Saleh was livid over the call, even drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct flag later in the drive.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” he said.
Jermaine Johnson also appeared to be held a few plays later, but Saleh admitted afterward that he was still angered over the call on Gardner when he was penalized.
Gardner, the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, certainly was more expansive in his answer than his coach.
“I don’t even think they threw the ball my way, the first three quarters. And then they started throwing checkdowns, and the shot they finally try to take to get going, they get bailed out by that [call],” Gardner said. “Fourth quarter, crunch time, I don’t even know what to say.
“If you’re really gonna call holding, call it early. Don’t wait until you see MC pick the ball off and throw the flag. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I saw MC catch the ball and then I see [the official] reaching and grabbing for his flag. It don’t really make sense to me. I haven’t been in the league a long time, but I know that’s not how you do things.”