The NFL’s challenge system provides that you only get two of them, unless you get both challenges right. You better make them count in the playoffs, where a key play can swing the outcome. Sure, the new rule this year that provides automatic scoring plays provides some leeway on the amount of challenges necessary, but still, you don’t want to just give them away.
In the first quarter, Marvin Lewis challenged the spot at his own 30, following a second down play. This challenge was so ridiculous for several reasons. You challenge plays when (a) your chance of success is really high, and/or (b) the situation is very high leverage. For example, now that scoring plays are excluded, a turnover is about as high leverage as it gets. A third down catch/non-catch, particularly one that gains a lot of yards, would be pretty high leverage, as it results in change in possession.
Here, a spot of the ball is almost universally a poor challenge. They have to see clear evidence, and it rarely happens on a spot, and usually only if it was clearly wrong and the player was at least a half yard past the mark. Add in that this is in the first quarter, and it was going to be 3rd and inches, and it was a dreadful playoff challenge. The challenge had a small chance of succeeding, and the Bengals were probably at least 75% to convert that given the short distance anyway. (Dalton did pick it up on a sneak on the next play).
Later in the second quarter, Lewis challenged a catch call. Owen Daniels went to the ground while catching it, and the Bengals defender battled him and after much wrangling pulled the ball out. It was ruled a catch. In a vacuum here, the challenge was not as bad as the first. However, knowing that it is the final challenge, in the second quarter, on a play where the odds of success were still less than 50%, and where it was a short third down conversion, probably dictated eating the challenge flag there.
Now, the Bengals have to survive a whole half without a questionable call that would be ripe for a challenge, such as a fumble ruling.
[photo via Getty]