NFL: CIN-PIT game calls were off

Posted at 2:28 PM, Jan 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-16 21:41:01-05

CINCINNATI — Plenty of fans are still bitter over the Bengals' first round playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers — many signing petitions calling for a game investigation — and new statements made Friday by the NFL are twisting the knife.

The NFL's Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said Friday that an unbelievable touchdown catch made by the Steelers' Martavis Bryant was just that — too good to be true.

Blandino said, in his opinion, the Bryant catch should not have been a catch. He also said there was not enough on the instant replay to overturn the original ruling.

But Blandino also defended the decision to not call Ryan Shazier's hit on Giovanni Bernard illegal.

Bernard was knocked out after the hit, and slow replay video shows Shazier lowering his head before driving into Bernard's neck/head.

Blandino did acknowledge Shazier's head-lowering as a no-no, saying "we don’t want players to lower their head to initiate contact."

But he said, ultimately, the hit was clean because Bernard's feet touched the ground — establishing him as a runner — therefore he was not considered a defenseless receiver. Bernard and Shazier's routes 

"You have to line up your opponent, you have to lower your head, and you have to make forcible contact with the very top of the helmet," Blandino said, describing a definitive targeted hit. "The key issue here is the line up.... You have Bernard moving in this direction, Shazier moving in this direction, then we don’t have the line up. The theory being, when players are moving at angles, they don’t have as much opportunity to avoid that contact. That’s where the rule does not apply."

Shazier's actions after the hit — both on the field next to an unconscious Bernard and on the sideline — didn't warrant an unsportsmanlike conduct call, much to the dismay of some Cincinnati fans and players.

"It really wasn't the hit," Jeremy Hill told ESPN. "I was just more upset with seeing [Bernard] on the ground that they were still trying to celebrate. That just rubbed me the wrong way. I have Gio's back. I know Ryan, Ryan's a good friend of mine. I was just disappointed in Ryan. That's all I told him. I said, 'Ryan, I don't understand that. That's not football.'"

The NFL's other regrets over a lack of penalty calls can be easily derived from the hefty fines awarded to some players (and coaches) for actions during the game that didn't usher referee calls.

Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter wasn't penalized during the game for essentially baiting Adam "PacMan" Jones into a penalty, but he was fined $10,000 for being on the field when Jones drew his into his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the closing seconds.

READ MORE: Adam Jones may have been in the right when he blasted refs in profanity-filled tirade

In total, the game resulted in $83,665 in fines.

The only player to face game suspension is Vontaze Burfict, who was suspended for the first three games of the 2016 season due to "repeated safety violations." Burfict's agent told the NFL that he plans to appeal the suspension.