Officials blow whistle on call

They admit error in ruling play dead after Demps' third-quarter fumble recovery

Bengals 21 Ravens 9

Ravens Gameday


The officials admitted that at a crucial point in the Ravens' 21-9 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals yesterday, they blew it.

Both the whistle and the call.

Early in the third quarter, with the Ravens trailing 14-6 at M&T Bank Stadium, Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas knocked the ball loose from Bengals tight end Matt Schobel after a 12-yard completion along the left sideline.

Safety Will Demps immediately scooped up the ball at the Ravens' 42-yard line and zig-zagged his way into the Bengals' end zone for an apparent touchdown.

But the officials - after huddling - ruled the whistle had blown after Demps' recovery, bringing the ball back to where he had recovered it. After the game, referee Jeff Triplette said it was a mistake.

"The fumble took place and the recovery took place and then the whistle was blown," said Triplette, who did not say which official made the quick call.

"By rule, that is Baltimore's ball since they did have possession when the whistle was blown ... and it's a dead ball at that point"

"It was an error," the referee concluded. "And there was no rectifying it. By rule, there is nothing else we can do."

The Ravens failed to capitalize on the turnover, punting after gaining just 3 yards on three plays. Ravens coach Brian Billick said the officials conceded they made the wrong call.

"He was very apologetic about it, blowing it dead," Billick said. "Said he shouldn't, but he had to 'fess up to the fact that he blew it dead and felt bad about it."

Asked if he believed the call was a determining factor yesterday, the coach said: "It was a touchdown but who knows? ... The rest is supposition; there was a lot of football after that."

Ravens cornerback Chris McAlister was more pointed.

"It's hard to play against the refs, too. That's what it boils down to," said McAlister, who also felt he was fouled by Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson on a key 48-yard completion during a Cincinnati touchdown drive in the fourth quarter.

"Blowing the whistle early, them not seeing the ball come out [from Schobel] - I don't know how they didn't see the ball come out early," McAlister said. "It's been the saga of our season. It happens every time we step on the field."

The Ravens' problems with officials and penalties have been a continuing subplot this season. In their first eight games, they have had 77 penalties for 559 yards, compared to their opponents' 50 penalties for 363. The low point was in a loss to the Detroit Lions on Oct. 9 when two Ravens were ejected for making contact with officials while contesting calls.

Concerning the critical fumble yesterday, talking to the main characters was like getting disparate eyewitness accounts of a car wreck.

Schobel, who said he had the ball jarred loose while reaching for the first down, contended the whistle blew just as he was tackled and had possession.

"I thought he whistled it down the second I was going down," Schobel said. "He blew the whistle four or five times, so I thought they were saying I was down. And the guy picked up the ball and ran off. And none of us chased him because [the official] blew the whistle so many times."

Demps said he never heard a whistle.

"It's just one of those plays that you have to finish through," Demps said. "The ball came up, and I just kept going. I didn't hear a whistle."

The Ravens were stung badly in the loss to the Lions when they failed to react aggressively during an odd play. In that game, what looked like a pass to Lions running back Kevin Jones in the flat landed behind the plane between the quarterback and the receiver, making it a fumble and not an incomplete pass.

While almost everyone stopped in their tracks, believing the play was over, Jones grabbed the ball and carried it to the 2-yard line to set up a Detroit score.

Since then, the Ravens have been more attentive about stray footballs.

"I just kept running," Demps said. "It looked like an obvious fumble from my point of view, and I just kept going. In that situation, you really don't know if the whistle has blown; you just keep going."

The safety tried to be stoic about the blown call.

"You have to move on," he said. "We still had another two quarters to play. It hurt, but you have to move on to the next play."

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