GLENDALE, Ariz. — Bengals coach Marvin Lews emphatically disputed a penalty that gave the Cardinals a 32-yard field goal to win Sunday night instead of a 47-yard kick, saying it was a “phantom call” he thought was “kind of ridiculous.”
With six seconds left in Arizona’s 34-31 win, Cincinnati defensive tackle Domata Peko was flagged 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. Head official Terry McAulay announced Peko had been simulating a snap call, causing Cardinals offensive linemen to move early.
“I trust what our player did and said,” Lewis 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.”
Peko, a 10-year veteran who has spent his entire career in Cincinnati with Lewis as his head coach, said he had no idea what the Cardinals were planning on doing on the play. But he wanted to get off the line quickly and into the backfield, he said.
“We were still running back from our prior play, and I was just saying, ‘Get set, get set, get set,’ ” Peko said.
Peko said his hope on the play was to dive quickly to the ground to figure out a way to disrupt Palmer’s potential spike, or to get to him quickly had he tried to kneel down.
“I don’t know if ‘set’ sounds like ‘hike’ to them,” Peko said. “I don’t know if it was the way I said it quicker like, ‘Get set!’ with the bass in my voice or whatever. I don’t know.”
Two prominent Cardinals contended Peko did shout their snap counts and should have been penalized.
“It was real obvious,” Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said of Peko’s penalty. “The ref was right there. They obviously said the snap count, and that’s a 15-yarder.”
Added receiver Larry Fitzgerald: “I’m just glad it went in our favor because if it had been a false start and a 10-second run-off, it could have been a different outcome.”
On the play, the Cardinals were trying to snap the ball to spike it before rushing the field goal unit on the field for a game-winning 47-yard try.
That attempt instead turned into a 32-yard chip shot, which Chandler Catanzaro made.
“I don’t think I have ever seen that call, ever since I have been in the NFL,” Peko said. “We had way too many penalties. That was the name of the game. We were fighting the refs and the Cardinals.”
Cincinnati collected 10 penalties for 108 yards.
With a 10-second run-off, the clock would have ticked to all zeroes, and the teams would have gone to overtime without Catanzaro’s field goal being attempted.
Fitzgerald said that play wasn’t the first time Peko and others called out the Cardinals’ offensive cadences. He indicated the Bengals had been calling out the Cardinals’ snap counts at other points in the game.
“When I was down in the bunch [formation], they were very loud and demonstrative with their shifts,” Fitzgerald said. “The line shifts like that, it sounded like a cadence. I’m just glad that they finally caught it later in the game. Peko is a veteran. He has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.”