The Cincinnati Bengals executed a play with 2:54 remaining in regulation that would ordinarily have resulted in a touchdown on the field. The officials did not rule it a touchdown initially, however; nor did Bengals head coach Zac Taylor challenge the ruling. Indeed, he rushed into the next play, not even giving the booth crew time to review the play and potentially consider an on-field correction.
While we don’t know how the game would have unfolded after that, it certainly makes you wonder. After all, the Bengals did score another touchdown at the end of regulation, and only a blocked extra point attempt prevented them from winning. They also had all of the overtime period to muster up a single point and failed to do so. But coming away with zero points on first and goal from the one surely wasn’t easy. So why didn’t Taylor challenge the ruling?
“Part of it was that that’s the hardest place for us to see in the entire field is that spot. I didn’t think there was a chance there was a touchdown there initially”, he told reporters after the game, via transcript. “So, we got on the ball to run it in quickly. It’s hard with all the craziness in that moment, all the communication to get that ‘Stop, stop. Let’s evaluate this’”.
“We just couldn’t get it done fast enough by the time we’d seen a replay and realized ‘Oh shoot, he might have gotten in there’”, he added. “We’ve just got to learn from those. It’s a fine line — when you get the ball on the inch, you just want to punch it in real quick. In hindsight, maybe he was in and we could have given ourselves a chance”.
Only about 20 seconds elapsed in real time between the end of the play in question—a 12-yard completion to Ja’Marr Chase down to the one-yard line at the left sideline—and the subsequent play Taylor chose to run, which resulted in a two-yard loss with Joe Mixon being stuffed in the backfield. The Bengals ended up turning the ball over on downs.
It was said even during the broadcast by former official Gene Steratore that the play would have been a touchdown had he challenged it. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk also spoke to several sources after the game who also confirmed that a review of the play would have resulted in the play being overturned and being ruled a touchdown.
In the end, this is neither here nor there, of course. Cincinnati did end up scoring again, as mentioned, and they would still have needed to make the extra point to surpass Pittsburgh’s score. Then again, they could have scored two touchdowns. But it’s impossible to predict without fail exactly how the game would have played out when you change a variable.
Either way, this should be a learning experience for Taylor. When it comes to either putting points on the board or taking them off, it might be worth slowing down your thought processes and giving yourself and your crew—and the game crew—and opportunity to take a second look.