Refs Robbed the Bengals Late In The Game — Twice

Sunday’s Super Bowl epitomized the NFL season, with a dramatic finish, poor offensive line play and shady officiating.

The refs helped decide the Super Bowl with a shameful defensive holding penalty on a play that negated what should have led to a 4th and 8 with the game on the line.

This “holding” penalty gave the Rams a fresh set of downs, all but guaranteeing them a touchdown: 


Not only is the call incredibly weak, but it’s inconsistent with how the refs had called the contest to that point. The officials had allowed defenders on both sides to get away with an aggressive style all game long.

Teams and players don’t ask the officials for perfection — they ask for consistency and competence. Sadly, the NFL’s refs are neither consistent nor competent.

Even worse, the Bengals never should have drawn a flag because that play never should have happened. On the same play, the officiating crew allowed the entire Rams’ offensive line to get away with the football equivalent of armed robbery. Take a look:

Had the refs done their job properly, the Rams would have had to replay third down five yards farther back because of the false start. Instead, the officials handed the Rams a first down at half the distance. 

There were other bad calls in the game, including a missed facemask on Tee Higgins. However, the late-game blunders are horrific and consequential.

We waited all year for bum refs to decide the game-winning drive of the Super Bowl. Inexcusable.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.


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  1. Right, and the horrendous no-call on the Higgins TD had no impact on the game.

    The holding call was very Ticky-tack but it appeared to me that the LB grabbed with his right hand. Regardless, blaming the refs here is very weak

    • Obvious missed face mask on a TD and obvious false start by entire line on a key play at the end of the game. The holding call was a weak call as well, and all of these came from the officiating crew that I assume graded out as the NFL’s best! How many game-changing calls are needed before it’s ok for either team to blame the refs?

    • A no call that directly results in a touchdown has no impact on a 23-20 game? Absurd take.

      Poor officiating, happens in almost every game. You can only hope that it doesn’t screw your team directly.

      And the Bengals weren’t holding the Rams line either…….🙄 I don’t believe they were called for holding the entire game. I admit that I haven’t reviewed the tape, but I don’t see how that realistically happens given the number of sacks in the game and how many they have given up all year.

    • “Right, and the horrendous no-call on the Higgins TD had no impact on the game.”

      Just as Ramsey’s hold on Higgins at the goal line in the 1st quarter wasn’t called. We can play this game all day. The refs called a hold on 3rd and goal that they hadn’t called for the first 58 minutes and 30 seconds. Then decided to call that, and 2 more just in case. Pretty lame. But expected from NFL refs.

  2. The non-call on Higgins when he grabbed Ramsey’s facemask is the most egregious call/non-call in the game. That was a 75 yard TD, if the right call is made it’s 1st and 20 at the 15(i think). Not likely the Bengals score on the Ram’s D. The Bengals did nothing in the 2nd half against the Rams. You brush off those 7 points, in a three point game, like it was inconsequential. There would be no need for the late game whining if the officials properly wipe off that earlier TD.

    As to your points: the first penalty on the LB could have been let go, the 2nd was not a bad call, it was clear holding Kupp, the best player in the game.

  3. The Kupp Pi at the goal line was legit, but the two defensive holding calls leading up before were ticky tack. Those calls were clearly a sudden complete shift from how the refs had called the entire game up until that point. Did I mention $100 billion was bet on this game?

    • Not to sound conspiracy minded but LA winning helps the league in LA. A city with 2 franchises. How many fans showed up for regular season games? Playoffs? Weren’t they afraid SF would have more fans for the NFC Championship? SB champs helps marketing. Just sayin’.

  4. The great thing about the first 58 minutes of the game was that we forgot there were refs. DB’s NEVER get calls on jump balls, so no whining on the Higgins play.

    The refs completely took over the last drive, especially the last 5 or 6 plays. Completely made me forget about the previous 58 minutes. Ruined what had been a well played battle. Oh well. Par for the course for high stakes NFL football.

    Glad to see Matthew Stafford win. Mcvay, not so much. Cincinnati had no business having any time on the clock at the end of the game. Was really hoping that strategic blunder would blow up in his face. Definently not the genius he’s made out to be.

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