LONDON – After the herd of cameras left, Nickell Robey popped to his feet inside the locker room at Wembley Stadium to re-enact the play that had him so livid. On third and 15, he played off wide receiver Bryan Walters. He waited, saw the play he had studied on film and then broke on the ball for a pass breakup.
With 3 minutes to go, the Bills would’ve taken over with a chance to ice the win.
Instead, an official called Robey for defensive pass interference and – two plays later – Blake Bortles hit Allen Hurns for the game-winning touchdown in Jacksonville’s 34-31 win over Buffalo.
Robey referred to the call as “terrible” at least five times after the game.
“The worst call I’ve ever been a part of in my life,” he said.
When Robey asked an official for an explanation, he said the official only shook his head.
“It was just a terrible call,” Robey said. “I’m still here waiting for an answer: What did I do?
“I really feel like it was a terrible call. My teammates feel the same. They can vouch for me and so can my coaches. One thing I know here right now, we’re still together here trying to put the puzzle together and come away with all these wins but sometimes I feel like calls are questionable. And the call today was terrible. I don’t see where the contact was made, where any of that was made.”
And when Robey was asked other questions – about the overall heartbreak, about the Bills’ goal-line stand – he kept bringing it back to the penalty.
“I really feel like it came down to that last call right there,” he said, “where the call was really terrible.”
As Robey replays it, he was in his backpedal and once he saw Walters making his break, he knew the ball was coming. He knew on third and long, the Jaguars only ran outs and verticals, which is how Robey was able to anticipate the throw so quickly. Robey beat Walters to the spot and a flag was throw.
Life is already difficult for a defensive back, he continued. And these flags, he said, “contradict” what they’re trying to do.
“That’s how we make our money,” he said. “We make our money by covering people.
“So it was just a bad call, a bad call.”
What else can a cornerback do in today’s flag-heavy NFL? “Let him catch it. Let him catch it and tackle him. I don’t know what they want from us.”
Up on his feet, clutching a white towel, Robey demonstrated. His mind, still blown. He gripped the “Yes Sir!” band around his wrist in agony.
Robey isn’t the first defensive back upset over such a ticky-tack call, and not even the first this year in Buffalo. Safety Corey Graham was flagged for a questionable unnecessary roughness at Tennessee that rebooted a Titans drive late. Only that penalty didn’t cost the Bills; this one did.
The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Robey already faces an uphill battle sizewise. He hopes the league reaches a breaking point with the flags.
“I really hope so,” he said. “I really hope there’s somebody – a referee, an official – that’ll vouch for the DB’s just a little bit. I really hope that happens because this is winning and losing games right now. These calls are winning and losing our games right now. I don’t appreciate it and I’m pretty sure my teammates don’t appreciate it.”
He believes that call, that play could’ve capped an all-time classic, too. This one would’ve been “one of the best comebacks ever,” he said. And he’s sure the Bills had the Jaguars “scared.”
Instead, they lost and they head into the bye week at 3-4 and are still on pace to tie the record for penalties in a season.
“They’re going to have to find a way to make calls in our favor,” Robey said. “Because right now, it’s not in our favor and I’m here to say that.”
Similar to the Detroit Lions’ reaction to the batted ball at the end of their loss to the Seattle Seahawks, what upsets many players here is the lack of accountability from officials.
When they had a terrible play during a game, they answer questions from the media and hear the fans’ wrath on social media.
“This is what they supposedly do,” Robey said, “the refs that ref the game, after the game they watch the film on the calls that were questionable. And if the call was questionable and they made the wrong call at that time, the only thing they do is say, ‘I’m sorry.’ You can’t be sorry to my defensive coordinator! Like, ‘Sorry DT. I’m sorry DT, that was a bad call.’ We lost the game already!
“Sooner or later, that’s going to change.”
For the Bills, unfortunately, there was no change Sunday.
This game was in England. Not New England. But the Buffalo Bills battled headset problems throughout their 34-31 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday at Wembley Stadium.
The coach-to-quarterback communication was sporadic in the first half, particularly.
“Yeah, that’s an understatement,” coach Rex Ryan said. “I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. But this one was absolutely miserable. I mean, it’s unacceptable is what it is.”
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman often shouted plays to quarterback EJ Manuel from the sideline to get by.
“I wouldn’t say it was the entire game,” Ryan said, “but it was a majority of the game. It was unbelievable. Had everything ... static, you couldn’t hear anything. A frustrating time obviously in those circumstances. That’s why you saw EJ having to come and run over to get the call with Greg trying to yell it into him quite a few times.”
Manuel called it a “dead spot” on the field. He said the problem was worst in the second quarter and that it wasn’t so much static. Rather, he couldn’t hear anything. And eventually, the problem was fixed.
“I don’t know the technical reasons why it wasn’t working and why it was working at certain times,” Manuel said. “We finally got it fixed.”
By league rule, the Jaguars must also have their headsets shut down if the Bills’ aren’t working.
Rex Ryan didn’t consider benching EJ Manuel when the Buffalo Bills quarterback was committing turnovers at a record rate, citing the fact that Manuel had a great week of practice.
Manuel helped the Bills turn a 27-3 deficit into a 31-27 lead before losing, 34-31.
And afterward, Ryan assured he still has confidence in Manuel as the backup quarterback.
“Yeah, 100 percent,” Ryan said. “Absolutely. Absolutely I am 100 percent comfortable with him as the backup, yep.”
After Tyrod Taylor missed the last two weeks with his sprained MCL, Ryan is hopeful he’ll be ready out of the bye week.
“I’m confident that he’ll be back,” Ryan said. “And we’ll see where he’s at when we come back off the bye.”
Running back LeSean McCoy stayed on the turf several moments after his fumble at the Jacksonville 1-yard line but returned the next series. The only injury for Buffalo this game was to linebacker A.J. Tarpley, who is now in the concussion protocol.