The Bengals were either busted or they got a bum rap.
Arizona’s Carson Palmer was about to spike the ball with a six seconds left, bringing Chandler Catanzaro on for a long field goal to break the 31-31 tie Sunday night when right guard Ted Larsen jumped out of his stance.
Because a false start would lead to a 10-second runoff, the Bengals thought they were headed for overtime, but the umpire immediately ran to the referee and told him Cincinnati’s Domato Peko had popped off, simulating the snap count.
According to umpire Bryan Neale, Peko was calling out offensive signals in an attempt to confuse the Cardinals and force a false start.
Peko protested that he was just calling out instructions to his teammates.
Neale, who had moved from the offensive backfield to the defensive backfield after the two-minute warning as per a new rule this year, was only a few steps away from Peko and flagged him for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The penalty moved the ball from the 28 to the 14, and Catanzaro nailed the 32-yarder with 2 seconds left.
“They were on the ball pretty quick and I am a big communicator on our defensive line,” Peko said. “Runs, passes. I am trying to communicate stuff. I was saying, ‘Get set, get set,’ because they were on the ball quick. They thought I said ‘hike’ or something.”
He added, “We were fighting the refs and the Cardinals.”
The penalty ruined what had been a late two score-comeback by Cincy.
“It’s disappointing to get back into the football game and then they drive down the field there. Who knows, they get the phantom call there at the end, it’s kind of ridiculous,” said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, a member of the NFL’s competition committee. “I trust what our player did and said. He’s alerting a run and not anything to do with what they’re saying.
“I don’t see how they make that call at that point in the game like that. I trust our guy to be honest with me.”
The Bengals were penalized 10 times for 108 yards, Arizona seven times for 40.
Over in Chicago, Gary Kubiak saw his Broncos penalized eight times for 118 yards, while the Bears drew not a single flag.
Yet, John Fox made one of the more debated decisions in the NFL in Week 11, when a spate of calls and non-calls by coaches, officials, players and even concussion spotters grabbed attention:
FOX OUTFOXES FOX: Often criticized for being too conservative in Denver — remember when he had Peyton Manning take a knee with three timeouts and 31 seconds left after Joe Flacco’s 70-yard TD toss in the playoffs? — Fox ditched his restrained roots Sunday. It came back to haunt him.
Fox’s new team was trailing his old team 17-9 with 10 minutes left at Soldier Field, with the Bears facing fourth-and-goal from the 4. Uncharacteristically, Fox went for it.
Jay Cutler never looked at the left side where he would have found Marc Mariani wide open, and instead overthrew Jeremy Langford in the end zone.
The decision proved crucial when the Bears’ 2-point conversion failed in the final minute of Chicago’s 17-15 loss.
“You know, the Broncos went for it on fourth down and didn’t convert, either,” Fox said.
On fourth-and-1 from the 2, Brock Osweiler handed off to Ronnie Hillman, but the 6-foot-8 quarterback’s size 17 shoes tripped up his running back. Hillman stumbled short of the first-down marker.
“I’ve got to get my big feet out of the way,” said Osweiler, who filled some big shoes in winning his first NFL start in place of an injured Manning.
CONCUSSED QB: The movie “Concussion” won’t be released until next month, but the St. Louis Rams gave everyone a preview Sunday.
Quarterback Case Keenum’s helmet slammed off the ground with a little more than a minute left in a tie game at Baltimore, and nobody did anything to see if he was OK.
Now, the league is investigating whether correct concussion protocol was followed.
An NFL spokesman said a review was begun after the game “to determine the facts of the injury … and why (Keenum) was not removed from the game for the necessary evaluation by a team physician or the unaffiliated neuro-trauma consultant, as required by our concussion protocols.”
That review is continuing Monday through discussions with the Rams and their medical staff, the spotter, game officials, NFL medical advisers and the players’ union.
Meanwhile, the NFL plans to reinforce the procedures for this week, with three games scheduled for Thanksgiving Day.
The back of Keenum’s helmet slammed into the ground. His hands immediately went toward his head. Lineman Garrett Reynolds tried to help him up but Keenum had a tough time getting to his feet, appearing staggered. But he stayed in the game.
Former NFL center Dan Koppen tweeted: “Keenum is still in the game how??? Why do we have concussion protocol then?”
Two plays later, Keenum fumbled, the Ravens recovered and kicked a last-second field goal for a 16-13 win.
RODGERS’ ROCKET: Green Bay had a six-point lead with third-and-9 at the Minnesota 27 as the fourth quarter began. Aaron Rodgers rolled right with the Vikings in pursuit and threw a vintage zinger into the end zone for James Jones to make a tiptoe catch as his momentum took him out of bounds.
There was little risk for Rodgers on the play because he put the ball along the sideline where Terence Newman could not have intercepted it. But there’s hardly another quarterback in the league who would’ve even tried. With a touchdown and a 2-point conversion, the Packers took a 27-13 lead instead of settling for a field goal that would’ve kept the Vikings in it.
“When I threw my hand up, I didn’t think he was going to be able to squeeze it in that corner, but I forget who’s on my team. I forget who I’m playing with sometimes,” Jones said. “He threw it so hard, so fast, Newman realized he couldn’t get to it and we were able to make a play.”
AP Pro Football Writer Dave Campbell and AP Sports Writers Bob Baum and Joe Kay contributed. AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL