Controversy overshadowed a significant part of the 4th quarter in the AFC championship game between Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs. Referee Ron Torbert’s team annulled a failed 3rd down attempt by the Chiefs and allowed a redo.
Referee Torbert stated (as per the game report), that a field judge tried to signal the cancellation of the initial 3rd down play due to a mistake made by the game clock operator, as reported by Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic.
“On the previous play, there was an incomplete pass. We spotted the ball, but the line judge came in and re-spotted the ball because the spot was off. We reset the play clock and the game clock started running. It should not have started running because there was an incomplete pass on the previous play. The field judge noticed that the game clock was running. He was coming in to shut the play down so that we could get the clock fixed but nobody heard him, and the play was run. After the play was over, he came in and we discussed that he was trying to shut the play down before the ball had been snapped. So we reset the game clock back to where it was before that snap and replayed third down.”
This explanation won’t comfort the Bengals or the majority of viewers. The Bengals faced a penalty that prolonged the drive, but ultimately forced a punt. The inability of officials to control play stoppage while the home team had possession is a concern.
The league is likely to review and make changes to its protocol for similar situations. However, it was the Bengals who had to endure the uncommon, public criticism for the exposed apparent oversight.