How Patriots-Bengals Ref Explained Rhamondre Stevenson Fumble Call

'We felt that he still had his feet'


Dec 24, 2022

FOXBORO, Mass. — Rhamondre Stevenson’s ball security faltered at the worst possible time for the Patriots during their Christmas Eve loss at Gillette Stadium.

With New England driving for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown, Stevenson fumbled at the Bengals’ 8-yard line with less than a minute remaining.

Cincinnati recovered and held on for a 22-18 win, withstanding an 18-point second-half comeback by the Patriots.

Stevenson initially made contact with Bengals defensive tackle D.J. Reader at the 5-yard line. Referee Craig Wrolstad explained in a postgame pool report why the play was not blown dead for forward progress.

Question: How much consideration was there to blowing the fumble play with New England running back Rhamondre Stevenson dead due to forward progress being stopped?

Wrolstad: “In order to have forward progress, the runner has to be controlled by the defense. He has to be held and controlled, and basically have his feet taken away. We felt that he still had his feet. So, we did not feel that he was held and controlled by the defense. He was still free to gain yardage and then also, obviously, there was still a chance that he could fumble.”

Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne said he believed Stevenson’s progress had been stopped on the play, but the running back said he still was fighting for additional yardage when the ball popped loose.

“I was trying to make something happen,” Stevenson said. “I was probably trying to do more than I was supposed to do. I probably should have just went down. But ultimately, he took the ball from me, and I fumbled.”

It was Stevenson’s first lost fumble since his NFL debut in Week 1 of last season. The second-year back also committed a costly error one week earlier, lateraling the ball to Jakobi Meyers before the wideout’s last-second backward pass was picked off by Las Vegas Raiders linebacker Chandler Jones and returned for a walk-off, game-winning touchdown.

Overall, though, Stevenson has been New England’s offensive MVP this season, emerging as one of the best all-around backs in football. He entered Saturday’s game as the team leader in both receiving yards and receptions and ranked 12th in the NFL in yards from scrimmage.

The Bengals’ defense successfully limited Stevenson, holding him to 30 yards on 13 carries and two catches on five targets for 3 yards.

“There’s not a message to him, man,” safety Adrian Phillips said after the game. “If you go back and look at our whole season, he’s been pretty much our best player on the offensive side of the ball. He knows how much it means for him to be able to put the team in a position to win. Things didn’t swing his way (Saturday). For whatever reason, it just didn’t swing his way. There’s nothing that needs to be said. We just console him and tell him, ‘You’re still a dog. We still love you.’ “

Pushed to the brink of elimination from playoff contention, the 7-8 Patriots will host the Miami Dolphins next Sunday before finishing with a road game against the Buffalo Bills.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks
Previous Article

Sportsbook Allegedly Pays Out Patrick Mahomes MVP Tickets Early

New England Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne
Next Article

Bill Belichick Gives Odd Answer To Question About Kendrick Bourne Playing Time

Picked For You