File this one away into the "duh" category.
NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino admitted today that the play where Jeff Triplette overturned a call that Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was down and instead awarded him a touchdown was in fact the wrong call. This per Dan Hanzus of NFL.com:
"No, it wasn't the correct call," Blandino told NFL Media's Dan Hellie. "There was not enough evidence to overturn the ruling on the field."
Blandino said that Chapman "potentially" touched Green-Ellis on the foot, but there wasn't "indisputable visual evidence" to say the original call on the field was incorrect.
"That's the standard. When we look at these angles, it's close," Blandino said. "Don't think it's definitive either way. And when it's not definitive either way, that means the call on the field should stand. So we made a mistake here. This should not have been overturned."
"Ultimately, it's my job to make sure our referees apply this standard consistently throughout the season. So that's what we'll continue to work on."
The situation was that the Bengals faced a fourth and goal play after the Colts defense had held them right near the goal line, and on fourth down - with 1:14 left in the first half with the Bengals only up 7-0 - the Bengals gave the ball to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Almost immediately, Colts nose tackle Josh Chapman burst through the interior of the offensive line, forcing Green-Ellis back outside but not before he appeared to trip him up. Green-Ellis fell just inches short of the goal line, but the Colts had held them and took over the ball in a situation that was potentially going to be a huge momentum changer.
Instead, referee Jeff Triplette - who the previous week had botched a situation in the Redskins/Giants game regarding having a confusion as to what down it was in a crucial spot - reviewed the play for a while (over four minutes, even though the longest they can actually look at the play is sixty seconds), and once he came back out on the field he announced that: "after review, the ruling on the field is reversed. The runner is not touched and is into the end zone."
The reaction was immediate and the reaction was fierce. Greg Gumbel, CBS's play by play man, responded, "Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Not touched? What did he think he tripped on back there?" He shortly after that said, "wow! Chuck Pagano is speechless, and frankly so are we," and said that, "I can't see any other reason why [number] 42 loses his balance."
They weren't alone in their thinking about the play. In fact, it was only Jeff Triplette who was alone in his thinking. Take a look at what some other people had to say about the game:
In CIN, it sure looks to me like he was touched by #96. Certainly can't prove he DIDN'T touch him.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) December 8, 2013
The NFL has to fire Jeff Triplette. He's consistently the worst ref in the NFL.— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) December 8, 2013
this is a huge game with significant playoff implications. The NFL needs to actually treat this situation with more than an apology and lube— Greg Cowan (@GregCowanCA) December 8, 2013
I would say there was utter disbelief in the press box here after that reversal. And that goes for those from Cincy and Indy. Stunning— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) December 8, 2013
The overturn by Triplette in Cincinnati: disgraceful. Indefensible.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) December 8, 2013
Boomer Esiason on the CBS Halftime show:
"Jeff Triplette needs to look for a new job, because that is a MAJOR mistake right there."
Doug Farrar, Sports Illustrated:
Peter King, the Monday Morning Quarterback and Football Night in America:
"At NBC we watched the replay three or four times. Nothing there. The play would stand. Check out the video above. Almost certainly Chapman flicked Green-Ellis' leg, causing him to fall forward, and his knees and thighs were down before he reached the goal line. Triplette overturned the call. He ruled a touchdown, saying Green-Ellis clearly had not been touched and could then reach the ball across the plane because he had not been touched down. We gasped in the room at NBC. Incredible. Jeff Triplette, for the second week in a row, made the kind of decision that makes the American public distrust, if not altogether hate, the officials who work these games. Triplette made a mockery of the term "indisputable visual evidence." Later in this column I'll explain why the league may go to centralized replay review. This call should be Exhibit A for it."
Chuck Pagano, Colts head coach:
"Again, I just trust our guys and his reaction to the play once the runner fell down and we saw the video and saw the jumbotron just like everybody else and his reaction. And during the time, him saying that, ‘I made the play. I made the play,' whatever. So I trust our guys. It is what it is."
Josh Chapman, Colts nose tackle who tackled BenJarvus Green-Ellis, supposedly without touching him:
"You get through there, make a play, you get hyped, celebrate about it. But at the same time, I look at it this way: the guy should have never been down there. We should've handled our business from the beginning. But when they get in the red zone, our job is to keep them out of the red zone."
And, now, even the officiating gurus at the league office are saying that they disagree with the call. But here's the thing: what good does that do? A moral victory? Big deal - we all already knew that, regardless of whether the league admitted it or not.
Chuck Pagano was asked yesterday if it does anything for him to have the league to admit it was the wrong call, and he simply said that:
"Still 14-0 at half, right? So, no."
And that's the big issue - that had the potential to be a huge, momentum-changing play, and the Colts were going to go into halftime down 7-0 at worst and at best tied. We can't say that this blown call was the only reason for the Colts loss, because that defense absolutely sucked in the second half and very well might have been terrible in the second half regardless. But we just don't know, and the truth is that the defense had held the Bengals to 7 points up to that score, and holding there could have been a huge turning point. There is a very good chance that the game would have wound up differently had the call been correct.
Look, the Colts aren't the only team to get screwed by the officials. Peter King in his Monday Morning Quarterback listed three other terrible calls that had a huge impact too, and Triplette's blown situation last week went against the Redskins. This isn't a Colts problem, this is an NFL problem, and until there is actually some real accountability for issues - not just an admission from the league and a downgrade for the official - then things aren't going to get better and fans are going to grow continually more and more distrusting and upset with the officials. This is a big problem this year, and the NFL needs to step up and do more than admit it when people continually got things wrong. If I was that bad at watching replays, I wouldn't be doing this. I'd be long gone. And if I said something that I only looked at part of the play (as Triplette admitted that he was only looking at the goal line), I'd continually get things wrong and I would absolutely be held accountable for them. If a coach was continually that wrong or a player screwed up that bad that often, they'd be gone. Only an NFL referee gets to mess up that bad and get away with it with such little consequences (I get that a downgrade is a big deal to them, but they're still getting paid to ref games regardless).
I get that officiating is tough. I would never want to be one. I get that it is incredibly hard. But these guys need to be held responsible for their job just like anyone else would be, and the fact of the matter is that as long as the NFL keeps doing nothing about it things won't get better.
Ok, my little rant is over. On a more Colts-related note, in my mind I just naturally assign certain games to certain referees. For example, the first thing I think of whenever I hear the name Ron Winter is the 2008 playoff loss to the Chargers, because Winter was TERRIBLE in that game. Similarly, the first thing I will think of when I hear Jeff Triplette's name from now on will be this call and this game.
The bottom line is this: it was the absolute wrong call on a big momentum-shifting play that everyone in the world saw but Jeff Triplette, and while the NFL admitted that it was the wrong call, Jeff Triplette will continue to ref a game next week. Let's see if he majorly screws it up for the third week in a row and keeps his streak going.