The NFL's opening night draws a lot of eyeballs as one of the most anticipated dates on the sports calendar.
On Thursday, those eyeballs were repeatedly focused on Kansas City Chiefs right tackle Jawaan Taylor — and the officials calling the game. For much of Detroit's 21-20 win, Taylor was matched up against Lions pass-rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who's fresh off a stellar rookie campaign that started with him the No. 2 draft pick and ended with 9.5 sacks.
Viewers repeatedly noted on social media that Taylor was regularly lining up well off the line of scrimmage and getting an early start on the snap. Some wondered why officials weren't flagging Taylor for the infractions. Among those wondering was NBC rules analyst Terry McAuley, who agreed with critics that Taylor's stance and early start were not legal.
NBC's Terry McAulay on Chiefs' RT Jawaan Taylor: "He's really not remotely close, and it's really putting the defensive end at a tremendous disadvantage when you can be that far back."
Taylor appeared well behind the LOS and appeared to start early throughout the game. pic.twitter.com/2UrkTH8bTo
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) September 8, 2023
"To be on the line, his helmet has to break the waistline of the center," McAuley said. "And to be honest, he's really not remotely close. And it's really putting the defensive end at a tremendous disadvantage when he can be that far back."
Officials didn't flag Taylor. And he continued to appear to gain an unfair advantage against the pass rush— until the very end of the game.
With Detroit leading 21-20, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid rolled the dice by going for it on fourth-and-20 rather than punt with 2:09 remaining. He did so despite the Chiefs possessing all three of their second-half timeouts. That fourth-and-20 turned into a fourth-and-25, thanks to Taylor drawing a whistle for a false start.
It took 58 minutes, but Jawaan Taylor just finally got called for a penalty.
Collinworth: "Jawaan Taylor playing slot receiver."pic.twitter.com/PbWziIfNxe
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 8, 2023
The extra 5 yards did not deter Reid, whose Chiefs unsuccessfully went for it on a fourth-and-25 that ended with a desperation Patrick Mahomes pass that fell to the turf.
The Chiefs can't convert on 4th & 25 and the Lions take over with 2 minutes remaining! pic.twitter.com/PwkRRVUu01
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) September 8, 2023
The Lions took over on downs and proceeded to run out the clock.
This looks familiar
The controversy surrounding Taylor was familiar to fans who watched last season's playoffs, when Taylor played for the Jacksonville Jaguars. An early start similar to the ones noted Thursday drew the wrath of Los Angeles Chargers pass-rusher Joey Bosa, who threw his helmet in disgust after Taylor wasn't flagged for a false start on a pivotal play. Instead, Bosa was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct, a sequence that proved pivotal as the Chargers blew a 27-point lead in a wild-card game.
Now Taylor is in the AFC West alongside Bosa, and they'll face off twice in the regular season. Taylor's playing style will be under more scrutiny following Thursday's game. Will the extra attention result in more penalties called on Taylor?