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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, however my support 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 there, 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 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)