Super Bowl LVI referee Ron Torbert stood by one of his crew’s controversial decisions after the Los Angeles Rams’ win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
After the game, Torbert said the decision not to penalize Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins for offensive pass interference or a facemask on his 75-yard touchdown was the correct one. (Ex-NFL ref Gene Steratore and scores of viewers disagreed.)
“It was a contested catch, and the crew didn’t see any contact that rose to the level of pass interference,” Torbert told pool reporter Joe Reedy. “… Our rule is that if there is a grab and twist and turn, there’s enough for a foul. If there’s just a rake across the facemask, where there’s not a twist and turn even if there’s a grab, there is no foul.
“The officials (also) did not see any contact that rose to the level of a foul for a 15-yard facemask.”
Higgins’ touchdown, which came against All-Pro Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, put the Bengals ahead on the opening play of the second half. They could not hold that lead, however, losing 23-20 on a late touchdown by Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp.
Torbert evidently was not asked about the questionable call that led to Kupp’s deciding score. On third-and-goal from the Bengals’ 8-yard line, linebacker Logan Wilson was flagged for an iffy defensive holding penalty against Kupp, giving LA a fresh set of downs. Officials proceeded to call three additional penalties — two of which were offsetting — over the next two plays before Matthew Stafford hit Kupp for a 1-yard game-winner.
There had been a total of four flags thrown in the entire game before that late flurry, with Torbert’s crew largely employing a “let the boys play” mentality.
“I’m hurt about it, because they weren’t throwing flags the whole game,” Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd told reporters at SoFi Stadium. “They should have just let it play out how they were doing the whole game. But it’s a lot of pressure when the time’s about to be over. It is what it is.”
Wilson disagreed with the pivotal call against him.
“Cooper came up to me and tried to push off of me, and I thought I made a good play on the ball,” the second-year linebacker said. “The refs saw otherwise. It’s a tough call.”
NESN’s big game coverage is presented by Berkshire Bank.