Sport Referee explains questionable calls vs. Titans in New England

13:20  14 january  2018
13:20  14 january  2018 Source:   Titans Wire

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Referee explains questionable calls vs. Titans in New England: FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 13: Eric Decker #87 of the Tennessee Titans catches a pass as he is defended by Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots in the second quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.© Getty Images FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 13: Eric Decker #87 of the Tennessee Titans catches a pass as he is defended by Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots in the second quarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Gillette Stadium on January 13, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

To say the officiating Saturday night at Gillette Stadium was the reason for the Titans' 35-14 loss to the Patriots would be simplifying a much more complex set of problems for Tennessee. However, there were some undeniably questionable calls that didn't go its way. A couple altered important drives in the game.

Titans fans weren't the only ones who noticed, either.

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There had to be some explanation for some of these calls, and referee Ron Torbert answered questions about two of them after the game.

The first borderline call was on the Titans' third series.

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The Patriots just tied the game 7-7, and the Titans were looking to answer. On third-and-4, Marcus Mariota hit Eric Decker on an out route for 13 yards and a first down. It was called back for offensive pass interference on Decker. Replays showed Decker did make contact with cornerback Malcolm Butler, who fell down on the play. The contact was minimal and unlikely caused Butler's slip that freed up the Decker. Torbert and his crew disagreed.

"In the judgment of the covering official, No. 87 pushed off and created an advantage for himself that allowed him to create space to make the play," Torbert said in a report posted by Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com.

The second borderline call was much more impactful. The Titans, trailing 14-7 with 6:32 to play in the second quarter, forced the Patriots to punt on fourth-and-5 from their own 14-yard line. It was a key stop for the Titans that would've gotten them the ball back in good field position and a chance to tie the game late in the half.

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As the Patriots snapped the punt, a flag flew for what was originally called a false start on New England. After they backed up, the officiating crew decided it was actually a neutral zone infraction by the Titans. The penalty gave the Pats a first down. They went on to score a backbreaking touchdown.

Torbert told the pool reporter that the original call was a simple miscommunication among his crew.

"The line judge saw a defensive lineman jump into the neutral zone, did not see the guard across from him move. The umpire saw the guard moves and threw his flag for a false start, which is what we initially announced," he said in the pool report.

"When we got together and discussed it and pieced together that the defensive lineman across from the guard jumped in the neutral zone and caused the false start, that's when we changed the ruling from a false start to a neutral zone infraction."

That's strange, and how they pieced that together objectively is hard to say. Surely other officials saw movement and figured out a rough timeline. However, a replay shows movement by the center as well that caused Trawick to jump. The right guard moves almost simultaneously to the Titans' special teamer. It was an extremely borderline call that not only went the Titans way but directly impacted that touchdown drive for the Patriots.

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There were other questionable officiating decisions, but those two in particular stood out as major swings in the game.

Ultimately, blaming the officials for the Titans' loss is cherrypicking one of a slew of problems that led to the defeat. Did those plays impact the game? Yes. But Tennessee did so many other things wrong that allowed the Patriots to cruise to a victory. A perfectly officiated game probably would've still resulted in a Titans loss. On the other hand, it's hard not to wonder what might've been had the Titans had those close calls land in their favor.

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