Cris Collinsowrth disagreed with an intentional grounding call on Bills quarterback Josh Allen (Credit: SNF on NBC)

It’s been quite the 2023 NFL season for Cris Collinsworth on NBC. 

From saying that America was about to find out how good Patrick Mahomes is on opening night, to being chided by Bill Simmons for having a “live orgasm” over the play of Zach Wilson, to his most recent love fest of Tyson Bagent rubbing SNF viewers the wrong way, the 64-year-old game analyst has said several of things this season to draw attention.

And while he may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Collinsworth was at his finest hour during NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcast of the Buffalo Bills-Cincinnati Bengals game in Week 9. 

Late in the second quarter of Sunday’s game, in which the Bengals won 24-18, the referee called an intentional grounding penalty on Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who attempted or appeared to try to throw the ball to wide receiver Gabe Davis. A Cincinnati defensive back stopped him short or seemed to, and the ball sailed away. It was nowhere near Davis, so the refs called grounding.

While we have previously praised Terry McAulay for offering a refreshing perspective in the past, Sunday wasn’t his finest moment. And Collinsworth took the NBC rules analyst to task.

“Let me tell you what happened,” Collinsworth said to McAulay. “That’s an option route. So, if you’re cut off as a receiver in the coverage, and you’re trying to go deep, the quarterback thinks you’re going deep, but you have the option if you feel like the quarterback’s in a better position than you are, to stop. And so, that ball was released before Gabe Davis stopped. Nobody was trying to intentionally ground anything.

“I understand the rule and the definition of it. But in reality — the game of football, that wasn’t grounding. He wasn’t trying to throw that one away. It was just a mistaken read.”

The former NFL wide receiver argued that it wasn’t grounding but that, instead, Davis ran an option route. He chose to stop running, and Allen made a poor read, Collinsworth said, so it wasn’t actually grounding. So he thought that, in the spirit of the rule, the call was incorrect.

McAulay disagreed.

“But Cris, let me just say,” McAulay began. “The route doesn’t matter. It’s where the ball lands. Is it in the vicinity or direction of the receiver? And it’s just not there. That’s the way you officiate for a very long time.”

“Terry, I know,” replied Collinsworth. “I totally agree with you. My point is, that’s something that the referees on the field understand and they know as football fans, but they have to call it, the way you’re describing. I get it.”

Collinsworth may have lost the battle, but he won the war.

Too often, commentators are often unwilling to challenge the rules analyst(s) on various networks, even if they disagree with the call on the field. That wasn’t the case on Sunday, and Collinsworth had a productive, yet spirited debate with McAulay.

We need more of this spirited debate on broadcasts, especially with how poor officiating has been league-wide this season. It’s only a matter of time before Collinsworth and McAulay get into it about a roughing-the-passer call.

About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.