The Bengals are now 0-11 for the first time in franchise history. One of the biggest plays that set that into motion was Tyler Boyd’s fumble in fourth quarter inside the Steelers’ 10 yard line.
There is no doubt that play changed everything. The Bengals were down by three with roughly nine minutes left, and had Boyd been tackled without fumbling, he would have probably ended up on Pittsburgh’s five-yard line. It is hard to say whether the Bengals’ would’ve been able to score a touchdown, but had they even just tied the game with a field goal, it could’ve changed the entire outlook of the game.
Had Cincinnati tied or taken the lead, Pittsburgh wouldn’t have been able to just run the ball. they would’ve been forced to throw it a little bit more. Also, had the ball come back to the Bengals, the offense would’ve been more open than blatantly having to throw the ball with Ryan Finley struggling.
There was some doubt over whether that fumble was called correctly, so we can go step by step to see if it was right.
First question, did Boyd make a football move after catching the pass?
This one is hard to debate. Some people like to simplify it by saying the wide receiver needs to take three steps since “making a football move” is pretty broad. No matter how you look at it, Boyd not only took three to four steps with the ball secured, he also turned around and tried fighting off the defender. Simply put, the ball was out.
Did Minkah Fitzpatrick recover the ball in bounds?
This was probably the most debated aspect by fans. That is probably because they only saw the initial view which was questionable. In order for a defender to recover a fumble, he needs to establish possession with two feet in bounds. It is clear on some of the secondary views that there was green between Fitzpatrick’s shoes and the sideline. The fumble was recovered.
Did Fitzpatrick step out of bounds on the return?
Following Fitzpatrick’s recovery, he tiptoed along the sideline for a few steps. He ultimately ran the ball back to around Pittsburgh’s 40 yard line. The step in question was his last before really getting up to speed in bounds. It looked like his heel may have come down out of bounds, or even the side of his foot hit the sideline.
You may wonder why this was important. Well, if he was ruled out of bounds, the Steelers would’ve started their drive on their own 10 yard line rather than near midfield. Ultimately, it was rule that the return stood (not confirmed). That means there was some doubt, but there was no concrete evidence to overturn the call.
It seems like everything was called correctly, and the only thing that was in doubt was noted as such. It is just unfortunate that there wasn’t a better angle to really see if he stepped out of bounds on the return.
Boyd can’t shoulder the blame for the loss though. After all, he was the reason they were even in the game to begin with. The Bengals also had two more drives to take the lead that they did absolutely with. It just was an ugly offensive game all around for the Bengals.