Triplette reversal gives TD to Bengals. Was it enough to overturn?

Week 14: Colts at Bengals (video)

week14Updated with pool report below.

Referee Jeff Triplette had a rough week defending his call to let the clock run when there was confusion over which down it was. The league said he should have stopped the clock. This week, he is under the microscope for a replay reversal that gave the Bengals a touchdown.

The Bengals were ruled short of the end zone on a run by running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Green-Ellis stumbled in the backfield, landed at the 1, and bounced into the end zone. Triplette believed that there was indisputable visual evidence that Green-Ellis was not touched by the Colts, and reversed the call to a touchdown. (The replay was triggered by the replay official, because it was after the two-minute warning in the first half.)

There does seem to be enough to support this call by Triplette, although I would have leaned the other way: short of the goal line with no conclusive evidence to overturn. Throughout all of the angles, there is nothing that shows that there was contact by Colts defensive lineman Josh Chapman (number 96); the fact that Green-Ellis is stumbling is not really enough to say he was touched. Usually, these close plays lean towards staying with the ruling on the field, although I can see Triplette’s rationale for the overturn.

There really is not much the Colts can grouse about here. All the hopes for the touchdown not being called are based on a determination that Chapman ever-so-slightly brushed the foot of Green-Ellis. Although I have a qualified support on this call, it would be interesting if there is a indication from the league office on how they will rule on this call.

Update 8:15 p.m. ET: Triplette did not review if Green-Ellis was touched in the backfield. If the call on the field was down by contact from contact at the goal line, then that would clearly be the focus of the review. It could have been a part of the review if the replay official Al Hynes and Triplette decided to look at that aspect.

However — and read the context of this carefully — if the call had nothing to do with defensive contact in the backfield, then Triplette could not rule conclusively that Green-Ellis was touched in the backfield. Conversely, if the ruling is down by contact, short of the goal line, because of contact in the backfield, then it would appear there is similarly no conclusive evidence to show that Chapman whiffed on the contact.

Still, I’m not happy that backfield contact was never considered as part of the review.

The pool report is posted below.

Update 10:40 p.m. ET: I got an e-mail from a former official on the play. He asked to speak anonymously, so that he may speak openly. Here’s his take on the call:

Jeff and the replay crew didn’t do their jobs properly.  This is an egregious error, and I’m sure the league will take a lot of heat for it.

Pool reporter interview with referee Jeff Triplette

Q: Were there differing views among the officials about whether BenJarvus Green-Ellis was down initially?

Triplette: There was discussion about whether the runner was touched down at the goal line or not.

Q: What did you see on the review?

Triplette: When we reviewed the video at the goal line, there was nobody touching him tere, and then he bounced into the end zone.

Q: What about the nose tackle? It appeared he might have had a shot at Green-Ellis –

Triplette: I don’t know about that, what position? There was nobody that touched him at the goal line.

Q: So you didn’t look at whether anybody touched him in the backfield?

Triplette: We looked at the goal line, [those] were the shots we looked at.

Q: There was a question about whether the nose tackle initially swiped at him and started him tripping –

Triplette: We reviewed the goal line.

Ben Austro

About Ben Austro

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of FootballZebras.com

9 Responses to Triplette reversal gives TD to Bengals. Was it enough to overturn?

  1. Dave says:

    I completely disagree. The video evidence is AT BEST inconclusive, which means Triplette must stay with the call on the field. Referees seem to have gotten away from the “indisputable video evidence” required to overturn the call on the field (Triplette isn’t the only one). As evidence, consider all of the controversial replay reversals that have been talked about this year. Indisputable video evidence, by definition, should leave no controversy.

  2. Brian says:

    While the play clearly dictates he was PROBABLY tripped, here is the most likely happened:
    Triplette repeatedly stated that they reviewed the runner being down at the goal line. I’d say the referees ruled he was down by being touched post backfield. Given this scenario, Triplette was reviewing if Ellis was touched near the goal line. If no referee deemed him touched in the backfield, then there was no conclusive evidence he was touched. IF this was the case, Triplette made the right call.

  3. Derek Maple says:

    Isn’t down by contact considered a judgment call? Therefore they couldn’t review whether someone touched him, only whether he crossed the goal line?
    In order for the linesman to rule the play dead before the goal line, he would’ve had to rule that the runner was down by contact. Otherwise yes, it’s a touchdown. It’s clear that no one touched him as he fell or after he fell, so the only other contact was the one that possibly caused the trip. I think Triplette was unsure of what he was reviewing.

  4. Ben Austro Ben Austro says:

    There could be an extreme outlier situation where down by contact is a judgement call (example, runner touched and stumbles for 10 yards and goes down — did he regain his footing to not be down by contact?). But down by contact is a solid call, no judgement. Either the runner was touched by the defender or not.

  5. Shannon Burnell says:

    There actually was a shot of Chapman’s thumb bending backwards as the law firm’s foot tripped across it. HD tv’s with super slow play back do not miss much. It is very clear that Chapman did make contact with Green-Ellis. I still cannot understand this call. If the ruling is down by contact, don’t you need to see if and where contact was made?? Then at that point, it should automatically lean towards “no irrefutable evidence to over turn the call on the field”

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  7. Aggie says:

    The ESPN commentator had it correct. Jeff Triplette needs to find a new job.

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