The Tennessee Titans benefited from a pair of whistles for what was announced as “forward progress” from the officiating crew in their 22-21 victory over the Chiefs in Saturday’s AFC Wild Card playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium.
In the second quarter, blitzing linebacker Derrick Johnson sacked Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota for a 9-yard loss. Mariota lost the ball during the hit, and linebacker Justin Houston picked it up.
But the officials ruled the Mariota’s forward progress had been stopped.
“The ruling was forward progress, so therefore it’s not reviewable in that situation,” referee Jeff Triplette told pool reporter Terez Paylor of The Kansas City Star.
Johnson strongly disagreed.
“I don’t know how you call a guy down or blow the whistle when he didn’t hit the ground yet, especially on a sack,” Johnson said.
The second call also perplexed the Chiefs.
With 6:10 remaining in the game, Mariota fired a 22-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker to give the Titans a 22-21 lead. Tennessee went for two, and the Chiefs pressured Mariota.
Safety Daniel Sorenson had Mariota in his grasp when the ball came loose. Linebacker Frank Zombo scooped up the fumble and ran it back to the end zone. A return of a failed two-point conversion is worth two points to the defensive team, and had the play stood the Chiefs would have led.
But again officials ruled that Mariota’s forward progress had been stopped.
“Again, forward progress,” Triplette said. “(Sorensen) turned him around once, he turned him around a second time and he kept driving him back. You just rule forward progress at that point. (At that point), the play is over.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid held his tongue when asked about the calls.
“I don’t really have anything good to say there, so I’m going to kind of stay away from any comments on those guys,” Reid said. “I don’t want to get fined or whatever. it’s not worth it.”