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NFL says Bobby Hart’s “hands to the face” penalty vs. Falcons was “not a foul”

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The NFL Senior VP of Officiating posted a video explaining that Hart did not commit a foul and that A.J. Green’s fourth quarter touchdown against the Falcons should have stood.

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The Bengals, playing against a Falcons team that possesses one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL, knew going into the matchup that they needed to score every point possible. So it didn’t help when the Bengals got a touchdown taken off the board thanks to a “hands to the face” call on right tackle Bobby Hart.

While, yes, Hart did put his hands on Brooks Reed, the contact didn’t seem strong enough to warrant a flag. Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron confirmed that in a video that the NFL posted on Friday afternoon. He says the contact was “not a foul,” using that phrase three times to describe the play, which occurred in the fourth quarter and should have resulted in an Andy Dalton to A.J. Green nine-yard touchdown.

Riveron explains the play in question three minutes and 12 seconds into the video.

Here’s what he says:

“[Hart] is going to make contact to the head area of [Reed]. However this is not a foul. This is not forcible contact, nor does he pin his head to the side or to the back. This is not forcible contact. This is not a foul. This is considered incidental contact, not a foul.”

Riveron could not have been more emphatic. His comments were consistent with the way fouls like this are usually called. Typically, calls like this are only made when a player’s head is pushed back. If a player’s face is just grazed, like Reed’s was on this play, the flags stay in the officials’ pockets.

Thankfully, the Bengals won nonetheless and the bad call didn’t change the outcome. The Bengals ended up settling for a field goal on that drive, so the call ended up costing the Bengals at least three points, likely four. But Green got his touchdown back with only a few seconds left on the clock on a score that was more spectacular than his first.

While the late heroics were entertaining, it would have been nice if the touchdown had stood and the come from behind victory wasn’t necessary in the first place.

All things said, the NFL might need a replay system for flags... Especially costly and inaccurate ones like this.