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Titans coach rips referees, claims one call 'will go down in history'

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For Tennessee Titans coach Mike Mularkey, the officiating in the AFC divisional playoff game against New England was a big ol’ crock of his last name.

Mularkey was particularly furious at a call on fourth-and-5 from the Patriots’ 14-yard line in the second quarter, when the Titans were still very much in the game, down 14-7, and hoping to get the ball back with good field position.

Prior to the snap, the referees blew whistles and threw flags, indicating an apparent false start that would’ve put the Patriots back on their own 9-yard line and forced thems to punt out of their own end zone.

Trouble was, the flag was actually on the Titans’ Brynden Trawick for encroachment, a five-yard move in the opposite direction that handed the Patriots a first down and new life on a drive that ultimately ended in a touchdown, putting New England up 21-7.


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That seemed to set the rout in motion that ended with a 35-14 Patriots win and a trip to New England’s seventh consecutive AFC championship appearance.

Mularkey, asked whether he got an explanation from the referees for the call, said, “No, at that point, I got tired of the explanations I was getting. So no, I did not,”

Mularkey stated the obvious when asked if that call changed the complexion of the game.

“There was many things that changed that. But obviously they went down and scored a touchdown,” he said. “And so, I would say it was pretty big.”

Referee Ron Torbert explained to fans what he’d evidently not explained to Mularkey:

“The line judge saw a defensive lineman jump into the neutral zone, did not see the guard across from him move,” Torbert said. “The umpire saw the guard move and threw his flag for a false start, which is what we initially announced. When we got together and discussed it and pieced together that the defensive lineman across from the guard jumped in the neutral zone and caused the false start, that’s when we changed the ruling from a false start to a neutral zone infraction.”

That, of course, didn’t sit well with the conspiracy theorists on social media, who viewed the reversal of the call as a “how does this call best help the Patriots” type of scenario.

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And as if the false start-turned-offside weren’t bad enough, Tennessee had already been the victim of a dubious offensive pass interference call that also turned momentum away from the Titans.

On third-and-4 from their own 27 in the second quarter, with the game tied at 7, Eric Decker was penalized for contact against Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler for contact that should have been allowed since it happened within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

Of that call, Mularkey said everything by saying nothing.

“That one, I won’t even talk about,” he said. “That one goes down in history.”

Torbert again offered an explanation that didn’t sit right with many fans.

“In the judgment of the covering official, 87 (Decker) pushed off and created an advantage for himself that allowed him to create space to make the play,” Torbert said.

But if it’s within five yards from the line of scrimmage, it’s supposed to be legal. The fact that Butler got thrown like a ragdoll doesn’t make it pass interference.

Then again, Tennessee lost 35-14. Even two bad calls that severely impacted drives against one team don’t cause 21-point blowouts. As one fan pointed out, the refs were a red herring in a game the Patriots flat-out dominated.

New England gets the winner of Jacksonville-Pittsburgh in the AFC title game, and you can bet your last dollar that the biggest storyline won’t be the rise of Blake Bortles or the intense rivalry between two storied franchises in Pittsburgh and Foxboro depending on who wins.

It will be all about the referees. All the more so if Pittsburgh, still smarting from the call that cost them the game and the No. 1 seed in Week 15, comes calling to New England next week.

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Boston born and raised, Fox has been writing about sports since 2011. He covered ESPN Friday Night Fights shows for The Boxing Tribune before shifting focus and launching Pace and Space, the home of "Smart NBA Talk for Smart NBA Fans", in 2015. He can often be found advocating for various NBA teams to pack up and move to his adopted hometown of Seattle.
Boston born and raised, Fox has been writing about sports since 2011. He covered ESPN Friday Night Fights shows for The Boxing Tribune before shifting focus and launching Pace and Space, the home of "Smart NBA Talk for Smart NBA Fans", in 2015. He can often be found advocating for various NBA teams to pack up and move to his adopted hometown of Seattle.
Birthplace
Boston, Massachusetts
Education
Bachelor of Science in Accounting from University of Nevada-Reno
Location
Seattle, Washington
Languages Spoken
English
Topics of Expertise
Sports




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