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CallsRoundtable: ‘Communication breakdown’ drives Colts insane on Bengals drive to ruin

Roundtable: ‘Communication breakdown’ drives Colts insane on Bengals drive to ruin

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Snowy conditions make one grade inconclusive

Football Zebras Roundtable

As the snow blew through four games this weekend, there were a flurry of close, questionable, and controversial calls. To help us understand the Week 14 calls, former officiating supervisors Larry Upson and Jim Daopoulos took a look at a few plays.

It does not look good for the officials this week.

Pollard’s foul for hit on defenseless player

Play: Titans safety Bernard Pollard hit Broncos receiver Eric Decker after a pass flew out of his reach (image from Fansided)

Ruling: Pollard was penalized 15 yards for a hit on a defenseless player. (There was also a defensive holding penalty, so the official threw his hat to mark the second penalty.)

Decker did have defensive player protections because he was reaching for the pass, but was this a foul by Pollard?

Upson: In my opinion, this is an incorrect interpretation of the launching and targeting rule. The defender goes shoulder-to-shoulder with the Denver receiver. I think this is the way the league wants defenders to hit the receiver. I will be totally surprised if the league supports this as a correct call.

Daopoulos: Once again we are discussing a hit on a receiver and its legality under the NFL rules. Pollard does exactly what the League is looking for in regard to hits on receivers. He leads with his shoulder and makes contact with the shoulder of the receiver. I understand the reason the official made this call, as they are told to err on the side of safety. But at some point the League must think about reviewing these calls during the game and get the ones that are not fouls, as this one is not, and correct them in a replay review.

Indisputable evidence disputed

Play: On a fourth-and-goal, Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis stumbled in the backfield and landed at the 1-yard line. It appeared that Colts defensive lineman Josh Chapman appeared to have touched Green-Ellis in the backfield, making the play dead when Green-Ellis goes to the ground (video and separate post).

Ruling: Referee Jeff Triplette said after the game that the ruling was that Green-Ellis was ruled down by contact at the 1-yard line because of defensive contact that occurred at the goal line. In a replay review, he overturned the ruling to a touchdown. Triplette did not review if there was contact in the backfield.

Upson: It appears to me that Green-Ellis is touched by Chapman at approximately the 5-yard line and stumbles to about the ½-yard line. In my opinion, down-by-contact at that spot is the proper call. The referee can’t reverse the down-by-contact ruling unless he saw conclusive evidence that the player was not touched. Jeff Triplette has to have indisputable video evidence to make this a touchdown. I watched this play in super-HD and still came away unsure if Green-Ellis was touched or not.

Daopoulos: The runner stumbles inside the 5-yard line and bounces into the end zone. The official rules Green-Ellis short of the goal line and the play is reviewed. It is my opinion that the ruling on the field was correct and the runner was short being ruled down by contact. I understand that the complete play was not reviewed in replay and the referee did not look at the contact by Chapman in the offensive backfield. Had the play been reviewed correctly, I feel the referee would have confirmed the ruling on the field of the runner being shot of the goal line and not awarded a TD. A communication breakdown between the replay assistant and the referee contributed to this situation.

Former NFL official: 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. [This official requested that if we quoted him that we do so anonymously.]

Update: Dean Blandino stated on NFL Network that this call was incorrect.

Fumble review, apology from NFL?

Play: On a run by Vikings running back Toby Gerhart, he lost the ball and it was recovered by Ravens safety Matt Elam.

Ruling: The play was ruled a fumble. On replay review, the call was upheld (video).

Upson:  In my opinion, this apparent fumble should have been reversed to down-by-contact by the ball carrier and the ball given back to the Vikings.  It appears that there is clearly indisputable video evidence that the runner’s knee is down before the ball is ripped out.

Daopoulos: The adverse conditions that were present in Baltimore make decisions on plays more difficult for the officials. It appeared that the runner’s knee is in contact with the ground prior to the football coming loose, and I would think that the correct ruling would be fumble in this situation. The referee ruling “stands” demonstrates that for some reason he did not have indisputable visual evidence in replay to reverse the call. I would disagree, but it is difficult to question the look he may have given in replay.

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier: The fact that [the league office] called should give you an indication of how they felt about things on that day. That was encouraging that they wanted to talk about that game …  We did talk about the Gerhart play.

(Frasier declined to elaborate.)


Here is the grading card for the plays:

  Upson Daopoulos
Hit on a defenseless receiver
Ding Ding
Green-Ellis touchdown
Ding Ding
Vikings lost fumble Ding Mixed/neutral/inconclusive

Image: Baltimore Ravens photo. Football Zebras Roundtable is a periodic feature we will present on an ad-hoc basis to analyze select calls with experts.

Ben Austro
Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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