The LA Rams lost a tough game to the Cincinnati Bengals on their first Monday Night Football appearance this season by a heartbreaking score of 19-16. It was a winnable road game, the type of contest that could have long-reaching implications over whether or not this is indeed a team worthy of the NFL Playoffs, or even a team that will end the season with a .500 or better record.
In losing their week 3 matchup, these LA Rams have fallen to an overall 1-2 record and have landed in third place in the NFC West Division standings. In doing so, the Rams suddenly looked like the team everyone expected them to look like in Week 1.
The Rams are lucky that the score was that close because it was clear that Bengals QB Joe Burrow was still not 100 percent healthy. If you did not know, Burrow was playing through a calf injury sustained before the season began. He was less accurate than he had been in his NFL career, which kept the Rams in the game long after they fell behind in the game.
There was plenty of blame to go around after the Rams lost this one, but fans should not rely upon blaming the refs. On one play, a timeout was called by Bengals Head Coach Zac Taylor before QB Matthew Stafford snapped the ball. That much is certain from the replay. We can argue whether the ref or not saw it all day, but Taylor had the "T" up before the snap.
Replaying the instant replays
I have rewatched the touchdown play by LA Rams WR Tutu Atwell, a score that was reversed after instant replay ruled that his heel did touch the out-of-bounds line before it came up off the field as he raced toward the end zone. Even with that ruling, the Rams offense had possession of that football with a first down and 10 yards to go at the Bengals' two-yard line. Had the Rams run it in, as had been their pattern in the first two games, the Rams would have placed a score on the board. But the Rams passed three consecutive times, the first resulted in a quarterback sack and a nine-yard loss, all but dictating two more passing plays.
In another controversial ruling, Cincinnati Bengals LB Logan Wilson did indeed maintain possession of the ball after intercepting Stafford, with his hand tucked under the football as he went to the ground. As long as the player maintains control of the football, it may touch the ground and still be ruled a catch. This is why the interception was upheld.
It's tough to lose a game, and even more difficult on plays that allow some level of subjective interpretation. Regardless of how you felt about the officiating, there is no reason the Rams should have kept the game that close for any of those calls to affect the outcome of the game in the first place. Instead, let us focus on what went wrong for them tonight that was completely under the Rams control.