The Jets were problem going to win anyway. Let’s get that out of the way, as it’s certainly not a game-losing call that was made. Cincinnati lost the game in the first 55 minutes, but the last couple were brutal for fans.
The Bengals already had one game-winning drive stalled with an 8-yard sack on Joe Burrow on 3rd & 11. With all his timeouts still in his pocket, Zac Taylor did what any coach would’ve done and punted it on 4th & 19, hoping for a stop and one more drive.
The Bengals almost got that stop, but defensive back Mike Hilton hit Jets’ running back Ty Johnson with a helmet-to-helmet blow.
No one is saying it wasn’t a helmet-to-helmet hit. The controversy comes with who initiated the contact as Johnson was clearly already putting his head down, ready to embrace contact.
Hilton was called for a game-sealing 15-yard unnecessary contact flag. After the game in a pool report, official Craig Wrolstad took questions. To no one’s surprise, this was brought up.
Here’s what he said.
“I’m not here to verse you on how to tackle properly, but the rule is that you cannot lower your head to initiate contact on a player with your helmet. So, he can hit him with his shoulder, I suppose,” Wrolstad said per The Athletic’s Jay Morrison.
That’s a pretty embarrassing and short explanation.
The pool report with referee Craig Wrolstad’s comments about the penalty called on Mike Hilton. pic.twitter.com/X6YCNKZgKL— Jay Morrison (@JayMorrisonATH) October 31, 2021
While he may not have given much light on the situation, CBS Sports Rules Expert Gene Steratore commented as a former NFL referee. Let’s just say he basically admitted it was hard to make the call “correctly” insinuating that the wrong call was made.
In #CINvsNYJ, the defender and offensive player are bracing themselves for contact.— Gene Steratore (@GeneSteratore) October 31, 2021
I'm not in favor of having even more reviews, but fouls involving the helmet are very difficult to rule correctly on in real-time. These are safety fouls and could benefit from being reviewable. pic.twitter.com/08rR2eV1lU
Again, amongst all the outrage, I think it’s easy to forget that the worst run defense abuse the Bengals and a quarterback making his first start went for over 400 yards. Both are unacceptable and more impactful reasons for the loss.
But, this play did seal the game for Cincinnati, halting what would’ve been a potential game-winning drive, especially since a no-call on the play would’ve resulted in a fourth-down punt.