I don’t normally like to be that guy complaining that the referees swayed the outcome of a game, but after dissecting the Indianapolis Colts‘ 42-28 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday in Paul Brown Stadium, I’m starting to wonder. When I saw the transcript on ESPN of head referee Jeff Tripplette‘s explanation to why he overturned that controversial goal line call to a touchdown late in the second quarter, I began to wonder how much he had wagered on the game.
I don’t think anyone in this world can say that Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis scored on that play in the second quarter. Colts defensive tackle Josh Chapman clearly tripped up Green-Ellis in the backfield as he fell short of the goal line giving the Colts the ball back as it was fourth down. There was clear video evidence supporting that.
The call on the field was he was down by contact and it was the Colts’ ball. By being inside of two minutes left of the half, it was an automatic booth review. The announcers on CBS even said this was a no-brainer. Then Tripplette insulted everyone’s intelligence saying he wasn’t touched and gave the Bengals a touchdown leaving the Colts with a 14-0 deficit.
According to the rules, there needs to be clear video evidence to overturn a call. We all saw Chapman’s hand trip Green-Ellis’ right foot causing him to trip and fall. Where was the evidence that Chapman didn’t touch him? According to Tripplette, he didn’t even look at that.
That wasn’t the last blown call either.
In the second half with the Colts trailing but some momentum on their side, once again the crew called a phantom pass interference penalty on Darius Butler in the end zone. Replays showed little to no contact between Butler and the Bengals’ receiver which gave Cincinnati a new set of downs instead of a third down. I’m not saying the Colts would have stopped them on third down or even what would ensue after, but three points or no points at all is different than handing them seven.
Again, that wasn’t the last questionable call.
In the fourth quarter with the Colts down seven and the Bengals tackled for a deep loss, they were facing third and very long deep in their zone. Yes, Colts linebacker Kelvin Sheppard was jawing a little bit after his tackle, but again the refs threw a quick flag and penalized the Colts 15 yards which gave Cincinnati a first down. That demoralized Indianapolis ending their momentum and allowed Cincinnati to go down for another score. That was an awfully quick flag and usually a situation where they don’t throw one there.
That too wasn’t the last blown call.
The refs again clearly missed a big intentional grounding penalty against Andy Dalton in the second half. It was second down and Dalton was clearly in the pocket throwing to literally nobody. The ball landed near the first down marker, but Tripplette said he was not only in the pocket but the ball didn’t reach the line of scrimmage.
Luckily, this didn’t cost the Colts like the others as they stopped Cincinnati on third down the next play, but it was more evidence to go into why the refs swayed this game.
Finally, the last play where the refs cost Indianapolis the game was on the last punt return. I counted three block in the backs on the return, but this time no flag was thrown. Cincinnati was in field goal range from there and scored the decisive touchdown.
Now, I know Indianapolis’ defense could have stopped Cincinnati on these, but those calls or lack thereof put them in tough situations with different plays being called as a result. This game seems very fishy as I don’t think the crew wanted the Colts to win. I’m not calling Tripplette a cheater, but I’ll be interested to see how this plays out in the NFL offices. It looked pretty fixed to me and I don’t normally say that.
Eric Smith is the Colts Beat Writer for Rant Sports. He’s covered the team the past four seasons and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by the Colts. Follow him on Twitter @ericsportsguru.