In a game in which the Bengals were blowing out a more popular team on the national stage, was it really surprising that there was controversy with the refs in a moment that sparked a slight comeback for Cincinnati’s opponent?
With 1:02 left in the first-half, the Ravens trailed the Bengals 28-7 and had the ball at their own 19 yard-line. Following a dropped interception by cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick way downfield, the Ravens marched down the field in just three plays and found themselves at the Bengals’ 31 yard-line with 30 seconds remaining until half-time.
On their fourth-first down play of the drive, quarterback Joe Flacco decided to test Kirkpatrick deep once again against wide receiver John Brown, this time down the right sideline. The pass ended incomplete in the back corner of the end zone. It looked like good coverage from Kirkpatrick.
But alas, a flag was thrown.
Walt Anderson’s crew of referees called Kirkpatrick for defensive pass interference due to Kirkpatrick slightly grabbing of the back of Brown’s jersey in coverage. This is something that isn’t penalized unless it’s deemed that the grabbing prohibited the receiver from catching up to the pass. Unfortunately for the Bengals, this was deemed the case, and the call was upheld. The ball was placed at the goal-line, and a Ravens touchdown came three plays later.
All of the sudden, the Bengals’ lead was down to 14, and the Ravens had some momentum entering the locker room.
Ultimately, the penalty didn’t matter in the end, as the Bengals won 34-23, but should it have been called at all? Terry McAulay, Sunday Night Football’s rules expert and a former NFL referee didn’t think so.
Little tug with no material restriction. This is not a foul.— Terry McAulay (@SNFRules) September 14, 2018
McAulay completely encapsulates what most of us thought in two sentences. Was there a grab from Kirkpatrick? Yes. There almost always is from a corner trailing a deep route. Brown played his part and sold being slowed down and immediately looked for the flag when the ball hit the ground. In a blowout, the circumstances aligned for a call that probably shouldn’t have been made.
Again, contact from the corner is legal, as long as it doesn’t completely prohibit the receiver from making a play on the ball. Brown couldn’t catch the pass from Flacco even if Kirkpatrick didn’t have a grasp on him. And it’s up to the receiver to fight through the contact and make a play on his own.
This had all the workings of tacky flag from the refs, and shockingly, it swung the direction of how the game would go for the second-half. But Kirkpatrick seems to have moved past it just fine.
“Yep — we’re 2-0! (Heck) yeah, we’re special. 2-0. That’s all that matters to me.” Kirkpatrick said after the game when asked if there was something special brewing the team. “It’s a team effort. No individual is putting themselves before the team. I’m loving it, man. I’m loving it.”
The feeling’s mutual, Dre.