The penalty that ultimately lost the Cincinnati Bengals the AFC Championship Game was a valid call. Patrick Mahomes clearly was out of bounds when Joseph Ossai shoved him, resulting in the 15-yard unnecessary roughness flag that set up Harrison Butker’s game-winning field goal.
But Bengals fans had every reason to gripe about several other rulings made earlier in their 23-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.
The most controversial of those involved Ron Torbert’s officiating crew allowing Kansas City to replay a failed third down early in the fourth quarter. The do-over benefited the Chiefs, who, after initially sending their punt team onto the field for what appeared to be a fourth-and-9, were able to pick up a first down thanks to a defensive holding penalty on Eli Apple.
After the game, Torbert explained to pool reporter Ben Baby of ESPN why the down was replayed. Here is the full transcript from that exchange:
Question: Can you just explain what the ruling was that led to the replayed third down?
Torbert: “On the previous play, there was an incomplete pass. We spotted the ball, but the line judge came in and re-spotted the ball because the spot was off. We reset the play clock and the game clock started running. It should not have started running because there was an incomplete pass on the previous play. The field judge noticed that the game clock was running. He was coming in to shut the play down so that we could get the clock fixed but nobody heard him, and the play was run. After the play was over, he came in and we discussed that he was trying to shut the play down before the ball had been snapped. So, we reset the game clock back to where it was before that snap and replayed third down.”
Question: What are the normal protocols when a play can’t get stopped in time and the play does get off, especially if it appeared that it did not affect the play?
Torbert: “If we were trying to shut down the play and we couldn’t, we would shut it down and go back and replay the down.”
The Chiefs’ dramatic win booked them a spot in Super Bowl LVII, denying the frustrated Bengals a second consecutive AFC title. Kansas City will face the Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona’s State Farm Stadium on Feb. 12.