Bengals cornerback Mike Hilton was flagged for lowering his helmet to initiate contact on Jets running back Ty Johnson late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game and the penalty helped the Jets run out the clock on a 34-31 win.
The call generated much criticism from those watching the game who noted the timing of the rarely called penalty and Johnson lowering his head among their complaints. Hilton appeared to ask what he’s supposed to do while speaking to officials on the field and referee Craig Wrolstad got the same question from a pool reporter after the game. Wrolstad said he’s “not here to verse you on how to tackle properly, but the rule is that you cannot lower your head to initiate contact on a player with your helmet” and that officials never considered throwing a flag on Johnson as well.
Hilton wrote on Twitter after the game that “I just don’t know what a tackle is anymore.” Safety Jessie Bates said the team was told not to discuss the play, but noted that exact play goes uncalled all the time and it “obviously sucks” that it wasn’t the case this time. Bates also said the Bengals can’t let things get to that point and head coach Zac Taylor made the same point.
“It shouldn’t have to come down to those plays. We should just play better to not be in a position for that stuff to matter,” Taylor said.
The Bengals can’t control what officials decide to call or when they decide to throw flags, but they can control giving up 34 points and more than 500 yards to a Mike White-led offense and their failure to do that on Sunday really cost them.