The general national consensus is that Ravens WR Steve Smith grabbed and pushed Bengals S George Iloka to the turf. Here's the video evidence:
George Iloka on Steve Smith pass interference: "I saw the ball. Waiting for the jump ball and (he) didn't allow me to jump...he pushed me."— Joe Danneman (@FOX19Joe) October 26, 2014
More words from Iloka:
"He had two hands on my chest. He knocked me off," Iloka said. "You can't do that. I was getting ready for a jump ball. I'm 6-3, about 220 [pounds]. I was like, 'There ain't no way he's going to out-jump me for the ball.' He knocked me off."
No way do I think George Iloka flopped. In good position to stop a game-winning TD, strategy isn't "hope the refs bail me out."— Pete Damilatis (@PFF_Pete) October 27, 2014
Sorry @Ravens fans. The OPI on Steve Smith was a correct and gutsy call. Here's why: via: @kfc https://t.co/frlVcfuGaM— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) October 26, 2014
ESPN's John Clayton:
This won't go over well in Baltimore, but the officials got it right when they flagged wideout Steve Smith for offensive pass interference late in the Ravens' 27-24 loss to Cincinnati. The call voided a potential game-winning, 80-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds left.
At the owners meetings in March, Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, countered the league's proposed emphasis to call more defensive interference, defensive holding and illegal contact penalties by saying it would closely watch offensive interference.
Although both Smith and Bengals safety George Iloka were making contact downfield, Smith made a grab with one hand and pushed with the other.
ESPN's Kevin Seifert:
Rule 8, Section 5, Article 2(g) prevents either an offensive or defensive player from "initiating contact with an opponent by shoving or pushing off, thus creating a separation in an attempt to catch a pass" when the ball is in the air.
The replay reveals that Smith -- a 14-year veteran who knows all the tricks -- grabbed Iloka's jersey at the chest with his left hand. With his right arm, Smith pushed away Iloka's left arm. The contact wasn't violent, but Iloka fell to the ground before Smith caught the pass and dashed into the end zone.
Some might believe Iloka would have fallen anyway, with no contact, given his body position. Others have suggested that Iloka flopped or otherwise exaggerated the contact. Neither seems a credible explanation.
We'll never know if Iloka would have fallen, and it doesn't mitigate the fact that Smith initiated contact. Blakeman's crew is the NFL's most conservative and probably not susceptible to a flop. Flopping rather than tackling Smith in that situation wouldn't make much sense for Iloka, knowing the relative unlikelihood that Blakeman would call OPI.
The "controversy" is that you don't often see officiating crews insert themselves into game-deciding plays. The tendencies of Blakeman's crew suggest it is especially likely to "let them play." Smith was no doubt counting on that trend continuing, but based on the wording of the NFL rule, he committed OPI. It was a brutal turn of events for the Ravens and their fans, but the call was more than defensible.
A vocal minority, mostly Ravens supporters, believes that Iloka "flopped" and thus there should not have been a flag thrown. Others have said that there wasn't enough contact to throw a flag, either. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said the call was "embarrassing." He also did this:
Harbaugh sent the tape of offensive pass interference call on Steve Smith to the league. Called it one of best plays he's ever seen.— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) October 27, 2014
The Ravens' SB Nation site, Baltimore Beatdown (@BMoreBeatdown) retweeted this:
Baltimore just got robbed.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) October 26, 2014
On the same play, Robert Geathers started out at RDE. He stunted to the inside, against LG Kelechi Osemele and got really close to sacking Flacco:
As Flacco drifted to his right, Geathers tried to pursue, and Osemele blatantly held him:
Here are a couple close-up shots from NFL Films. Geathers comes very close to sacking Flacco, and Osemele holds Geathers' jersey to prevent that:
So there you have it. For the minority that believes that Smith's apparent grabbing and pushing of Iloka should have been a no-call, there was a hold by Osemele on Geathers which lasted for about 2 seconds, which would have nullified the play anyway and still pushed the Ravens further back near their end zone.
I suggest Marvin Lewis to send the tape of this to John Harbaugh, and inquire if Harbaugh can forward it to the league office.