The Cincinnati Bengals moved to 2-2 on Sunday by bettering the Buffalo Bills. The 23-20 win was as legit as they come. Buffalo had ample opportunities to end the game in their favor on and they didn’t.
That said, Bills fans will likely point to three pivotal officials calls during the game that helped tip the scales in Cincinnati’s favor; all three of which could have easily gone the other way.
Here’s a look at each:
The “Tuck Rule” Resurfaces: Staring down a 3rd-and-6 from his own 24-yard line with 12:22 remaining in the 2ndquarter, Bengals QB Andy Dalton is hit in the backfield and apparently fumbles. The ball rolls gingerly in away from a pile of players until Bills
DB Bryan Scott and returned for a touchdown. After a careful video review, the officials ruled that Dalton’s arm was moving forward at the time of the hit, and while he was clearly not attempting to throw the ball, the ruling was incomplete pass. This refs cited the “tuck rule” now remember in infamy from the 2002 Playoffs between Oakland and New England. The ruling wiped out a touchdown for Buffalo, and allowed the Bengals to punt the ball away.
Stevie Johnson-“Why So Serious?”: Many Bengals fans will remember Johnson lifting his jersey to display a t-shirt with those words from the Batman movie series after a touchdown in Buffalo’s come-from-behind win in 2010. This year, Johnson had the tables turned. With 8:49 seconds left in the game, Buffalo was looking at a 3rd-and-1 from their own 47 yard line. The Bills were trying to get a field goal that would have made it a 2-score game. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Johnson on a slant. Johnson appeared to catch the ball as Bengals DB Nate Clements fought for it as the two hit the ground. It was initially ruled a catch, but the back judge ran up and called the pass incomplete. Johnson got up furious with the call and Bills coach Chan Gailey challenged the ruling. While it appeared Johnson made the catch, there were only two angles available, and neither showed conclusive evidence so the call on the field was upheld and Buffalo was forced to punt. Somebody might call that Karma, Stevie.
The Dalton Dive: With 1:48 remaining in the game and the score tied at 20, Cincinnati got the ball for one final time at their own 19-yard line. Dalton engineered a quick drive, working to get the team into position for a game-winning field goal. Faced with a 3rd-and-3 from his own 43-yard line with just 53 seconds left in the game, Andy Dalton drops back to pass, is pressured and has to scramble towards the right sideline. As Buffalo defenders close in, he dives head-first for the first down marker and is initially ruled about a foot short on the measurement. The replay official upstairs (because it was inside of two minutes) initiates a review. The Referee confirms upon the replay review that the nose of the football touched the 46-yard line before Dalton was down, and thus the Bengals were awarded a first down. The Bengals would get 15 more yards on two Brian Leonard plays to kick the game winner.
None of these rulings, individually, won the game for the Bengals or lost it for the Bills. Buffalo had ample opportunities to win the game, and if you listen to the national media, it should have never been this close. The point being: Buffalo should blame themselves for not making enough plays, or simply congratulate the Bengals for making the most of theirs. At the end of the day, however, the Bills have been knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten, Cincinnati has pulled even with Cleveland and Pittsburgh in the division at 2-2, and Andy Dalton has earned his first fourth-quarter comeback victory as an NFL quarterback.
Meanwhile, all over Western New York, people are blaming the officials, and they’re not entirely wrong.