While quarterback Joe Burrow turned the ball over five times, and erasing any one of them could have changed the outcome of the game, it was the failure to challenge a late fourth-quarter goal line catch that may have cost them the win.
Here's how it went down. With 2:52 left in the game and on the Steelers 13-yard line, Burrow threw to Ja'Marr Chase on 2nd-and-10. Chase snagged the pass and his foot came down on the white line separating the end zone from the field. The referee called the pass complete, but just short of the goal. You can see him put the ball down at least a foot away from where Chase's foot actually landed, paying absolutely no attention to whether the ball actually broke the plane.
— Pro Football Culture (@proftblculture) September 11, 2022
Now, if you were an NFL coach, would you challenge that? "Well, maybe the ball didn't actually break the plane," someone might say. And that's a good point. So here's a blurry close-up of the catch. Decide for yourself.
— Tony Clements (@TonyCMKE) September 11, 2022
It's definitely fuzzy, but you can see Chase intentionally move the ball to his right so it can break the plane. Even if it didn't actually break the plane, isn't it worth a challenge? Down six with under three minutes left in the game, don't you think it's worth challenging that since it could win the Bengals the game?
Most people on Twitter thought it was.
How do the @Bengals not challenge that chase catch for a TD
— HawksNestGaming (@HawksSatx) September 11, 2022
Bengals don’t challenge clear game winning TD then vomit for 4 plays lmfao
— Stuckey (@Stuckey2) September 11, 2022
Bengals really gonna lose because they didn't challenge their own TD.
— Luke Easterling (@LukeEasterling) September 11, 2022
I can not believe the Bengals didn't challenge what was clearly a Ja'Marr Chase TD and they're on the verge of losing
— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) September 11, 2022
I think if my team, @Bengals, isn't going to challenge an obvious TD then I should be able to. What are those coaches in the boxes looking at anyway. We played awful!
— #1 Wildcat Fan (@bigbluedonna) September 11, 2022
this wasn’t called a touchdown and the bengals didn’t challenge..
Jamarr Chase was robbed 😭 pic.twitter.com/7RlsxmKfl5
— † (@onlytaron) September 11, 2022
Even Gene Steratore, former NFL referee and rules analyst for CBS Sports, thought it was nuts that Bengals head coach Zac Taylor didn't throw down the red challenge flag. On the broadcast, he said that it would have been a touchdown if it had been reviewed.
I am very surprised that the Bengals did not opt to challenge this play in #PITvsCIN. If ANY part of the ball crossed the goal line, that is a TD by Ja'Marr Chase and the @Bengals take the lead late in the fourth. pic.twitter.com/Jxoz02G42a
— Gene Steratore (@GeneSteratore) September 11, 2022
So why didn't Taylor challenge it? He said afterward that the Bengals initially didn't have a good angle to see whether the catch was indeed a touchdown.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor on not reviewing the Ja'Marr Chase catch that might have been a TD: "I didn't think there was a chance there was a touchdown there initially." Said it's the toughest part of the field to see, went tempo trying to rush it in for the TD.
— Ben Baby (@Ben_Baby) September 11, 2022
Regardless, the Bengals did manage to score the game-tying touchdown with two seconds left in the fourth quarter, but the game stayed tied at 20 when the extra point was blocked, and they went on to lose in overtime. If they'd challenged that non-touchdown call and it was reversed, the extra point might not have been blocked and they wouldn't have even needed overtime.
But now the game is over, and the Bengals were on the losing end. All they can do is wonder what might have been, and hope it doesn't come back to haunt them at the end of the season.