With 1:14 remaining in the second quarter, the Bengals had a decision to make. It was fourth down from the Colts one-yard line and there were two options presented to them. Take the safe three-point field goal and 10-0 lead, or be aggressive in the confidence that your offense can generate one yard for a touchdown to take a 14-point lead -- or at the very least, force Indianapolis to go 99 yards with a minute remaining if the conversion fails.
Electing to go for it, the Bengals brought defensive tackle Domata Peko into the game as the team's proverbial fullback in short yardage situations. Peko pounded through the hole on the right between right guard Mike Pollak and right tackle Andre Smith. Colts nose tackle Josh Chapman penetrated the line of scrimmage and at some point after that, BenJarvus Green-Ellis stumbled, landing short of the goalline but bouncing into the endzone.
Originally the call was short of the goalline, turnover on downs, Indianapolis Colts ball.
The booth called a review and referee Jeff Triplette went under the hood. Bantering with my twitter folk during the break (should the Bengals have taken the points or gone for it on fourth down), it was expected that the call would be confirmed and that the Colts would take over at their own one-inch line. It appeared that Chapman hit Green-Ellis' foot, causing him to lose his balance and that Green-Ellis' knee touched the ground prior to the football breaking the goalline.
Triplette turned on his mic and said the beautiful words that most Bengals fans didn't expect to hear. Play reversed. Bengals touchdown. Weird. But who's complaining? Now the Bengals have a 14-0 lead with a minute remaining in the second quarter.
In CIN, it sure looks to me like he was touched by #96. Certainly can't prove he DIDN'T touch him.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) December 8, 2013
Unicorns? Fairies? There's really no telling. RT @DonBanks: Can anyone explain what Tripplette saw to reverse that?— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) December 8, 2013
Jeff Triplette is so bullet-proof with the NFL that he’ll probably get the Super Bowl assignment out of this week’s screw-ups.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) December 8, 2013
The overturn by Triplette in Cincinnati: disgraceful. Indefensible.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) December 8, 2013
After the game, the pool reporter interviewed Triplette (courtesy of Joe Reedy with the Cincinnati Enquirer)
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."
What did you see in 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."
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."
So you didn't look at whether anybody touched him in the backfield?
Triplette: "We looked at the goal line, (those) were the shots that we looked at."
There was a question about whether the nose tackle initially swiped at him and started him tripping...
Triplette: "We reviewed the goal line."
It appeared that Triplette either didn't bother to see if there was any contact prior to Green-Ellis reaching the goal line or he wasn't given that video (which seems rather unbelievable considering it happened a second prior to Green-Ellis falling).
Chapman confirms that he touched him.
"He was definitely down. I hit his foot when I came through," Chapman said via ESPN. "The call is the call, but just have to play through it. I was surprised [when the call was reversed] because I thought I had him. But football is football."
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis basically just offered, "He wasn't touched." Shocked.
Triplette was the referee during the downs gaffe between the Washington Redskins and New York Giants. During the final drive on last week's Sunday Night game, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III completed a four-yard pass to Pierre Garcon after the two minute warning, falling one yard shy of a first down at Washington's 45-yard line.
Some of the officials, including the one's nearest Washington's sideline, motioned for a first down and the chains were moved. Believing that they have a fresh set of downs, Griffin unleashed a deep pass over the middle that fell incomplete. That's alright, it's only second down. No, wait, the officials corrected... it's fourth down.
"We signaled 'third down' on the field," Triplette told pool reporter Zac Boyer of The Washington Times. "The stakes were moved incorrectly. After that play, we said it was still third down. We had signaled third down prior to the play starting. The chains just got moved incorrectly."
According to John Keim with ESPN, Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan asked for a measurement and received a completely different story.
"He said, 'You don't have to, it's a first down,'" Shanahan said. "I saw it as a first down on the other side, and he signaled to move the chains on our side. I asked him if it was third down. He said he already told me it was a first down. ... After I saw it was fourth down, I asked him, 'You already told me it was first down.' That was quite disappointing."
In the end it didn't matter. Griffin converted the first down pass anyway and Garcon had the football yanked from him and the Giants took two knees for the win.
Officials are graded after every game and at the end of the year, they're placed in three tiers, per Peter King with Sports Illustrated.
Tier 1 officials are eligible to work all postseason games. Tier 2 officials can work Wild Card and Divisional playoff games. Tier 3 officials, [VP of officiating Dean] Blandino says, are not playoff-eligible and would be subject to a thorough offseason review and possible replacement by the league.
Somehow I don't think we'll see Triplette in the Super Bowl (or the playoffs either at this rate).
Per Peter King and Mike Florio on Sunday night, the NFL is considering centralizing replays.
Per a league source with knowledge of the situation, the Competition Committee’s annual offseason discussions regarding officiating have in recent years included a conversation about removing the instant replay function from the game site and transferring it to a central location — presumably to the league office in New York City.
Not only would it take away replays from the referees control, the league believes that centralizing reviews would speed the games up a little. For example:
The mistake made Sunday by Triplette, who overturned a call on the field of no touchdown without indisputable visual evidence, resulted in a five-minute, 13-second gap between the end of the play to the announcement from Triplette.
Hey, it's a start.