Referee Ron Torbert signals a successful field goal attempt after Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butler split the uprights to beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship game Sunday at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. Photo by Kyle Rivas/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 30 (UPI) -- A clock operator failed to stop the time late in the Kansas City Chiefs' AFC title game win over the Cincinnati Bengals, which led to a highly criticized decision to replay a third down, referee Ron Torbert said.
Torbert spoke about the sequence in a pool report after the AFC Championship game Sunday in Kansas City, Mo. The error occurred about five minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs lined up for a second and 9 play from the 34-yard line with about 10:37 remaining. The game was tied 20-20, with the clock running. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes took the snap and threw a short pass to his left, but the attempt to running back Jerick McKinnon fell incomplete.
The clock operator then stopped the game time, but restarted the clock when referees blew the whistle to signal the next snap. An official on the far side of the field behind the Bengals defense ran out as Mahomes took the snap, trying to call the play dead, but none of the players stopped.
Mahomes threw a short pass to tight end Travis Kelce, who was tackled about 4 yards short of the first down marker. Bengals players celebrated the stop, as they thought they forced a Chiefs punt. Mahomes and other Chiefs offensive players went to the sideline, with punter Tommy Townsend running on the field to kick the ball back to the Bengals.
Torbert then stopped play and announced that the clock operator didn't stop the clock and the play had been blown dead. The Chiefs then were allowed to replay third down.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor called over the officials and yelled at them as he argued against their decision. The referee's decision and the overall performance of the officials also was highly criticized on social media.
Bengals defensive lineman B.J. Hill sacked Mahomes on the next play, but cornerback Eli Apple was called for holding. The penalty gave the Chiefs an automatic first down.
"On the previous play, there was an incomplete pass," Tobert said in the pool report. "We spotted the ball, but the line judge came in and respotted the ball because the spot was off.
"We reset the play clock and the game clock started running. It should not have started running because there was an incomplete pass on the previous play.
"The field judge noticed that the game clock was running. He was coming in to shut the play down so that we could get the clock fixed but nobody heard him, and the play was run.
"After the play was over, he came in and we discussed that he was trying to shut the play down before the ball had been snapped. So, we reset the game clock back to where it was before that snap and replayed third down."
Taylor said at his postgame news conference that a "whistle had blown somewhere" before the play, but he also didn't hear it.
Townsend went on to punt later in the drive. Quarterback Joe Burrow threw an interception on the resulting possession, but the Bengals defense forced another Chiefs punt.
The Bengals also punted on their final possession. Mahomes went on to lead the Chiefs to the Cincinnati 47-yard line on the next drive.
Bengals defensive end Joseph Ossai then committed a costly error, pushing Mahomes while he was already out of bounds, resulting in a late hit. That penalty gave the Chiefs the ball at the 27-yard line with just seconds remaining.
Kicker Harrison Butker then split the uprights for a game-winning 45-yard field goal to punch the Chiefs' ticket to Super Bowl LVII.
The Chiefs will take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes holds the Lamar Hunt Trophy after beating the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Championship Game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., on January 29, 2023. The Chiefs defeated the Bengals 23-20 to advance to the Super Bowl LVII. Photo by Kyle Rivas/UPI | License Photo