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Bengals vs Steelers: NFL got its story and #KneeGate is here

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The referees’ inability to recognize when a Bengals player’s knee was touching the ground will likely be a storyline the NFL runs into the ground until Cincinnati’s next matchup with the Steelers.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

“The knee was down.”

#KneeGate is in full effect, as two Bengals players were seemingly jobbed by the referees’ inability to understand whether a knee was touching the ground, or not.

The first occurrence came on what looked like a touchdown grab by C.J. Uzomah, as the tight end reeled in a pass in the back of the end zone. The referees, however, ruled the play an incompletion, with the belief that the tight end was out of bounds. The blame should go both on the referees and whoever the Bengals have in their booth who didn’t instruct Marvin Lewis to challenge the play, as it appeared to be a clear touchdown catch.

The second instance of a knee-related missed call came on the Bengals’ final possession, as wide receiver Tyler Boyd reeled in a catch before dropping the ball. The ruling on the field was a fumble. The announcers, and everyone else, including Steelers fans, pointed out that the wide receiver’s knee was obviously down before the ball came loose, but the referees still called a fumble upon further review.

In addition to these two calls, the referees missed plenty of calls on both sides of the ball in both the Bengals’ and Steelers’ favor. But ultimately, the NFL will likely saturate the media with #KneeGate hot takes about its own employees — the referees — not doing their job, just as the NFL repeatedly showed highlights of controversial plays from the Bengals-Steelers Wild Card matchup throughout the offseason rather than the great plays made by both teams throughout the game.

This matchup could end up being extremely significant in the Bengals’ 2016 success, but it could just as easily be insignificant. Even if Boyd’s play was not ruled a fumble, the Bengals still would’ve needed to march down the field, score a touchdown and execute a two-point conversion. It’s only Week 2; there’s still a chance both the Bengals and Steelers end up taking a drastic lead over their division rival in the standings. There’s also a chance, though narrow, that one or both of these two teams collapses and miss the playoffs entirely.

But if the NFL makes #KneeGate a trending topic, this will further exemplify the hypocrisy of the league, which glorifies poor officiating and/or violence between teams despite its insistence that the NFL is behind its officials and opposed to conflict between teams.

While the call on Boyd’s catch wouldn’t have given the Bengals the win, or even a score, Boyd’s catch, was a catch. Calling it a fumble ended what could have been, or maybe not, a Bengals comeback.

It seems like a pretty familiar feeling to realize the referees just ended another Bengals-Steelers game, doesn’t it?