NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said Tuesday night that referee Ronald Torbert didn't see offensive lineman John Urschel declare himself eligible before his 6-yard catch in the first quarter of the Ravens' 26-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night.
That resulted in the Ravens being flagged for an illegal formation call despite what was a legal formation.
"Mechanically, we're looking for players, especially ineligible players who are going to report as eligible, they are going to come into the game like you saw Urschel do and they are going to basically wave their hands over their chest to signal to the referee that 'I'm reporting as eligible,'" Blandino said during his weekly "Official Review" segment on NFL Network.
"It's important that the referee recognizes that, it's important that the player gets a visual signal. You'll see [Urschel], he is signaling to the referee. What the referee was actually doing at that moment, he was correcting a number from a foul on the previous play, and he just didn't recognize [Urschel] signaling to him. … We didn't recognize that he reported and that's why the penalty was called."
According to league rules, an offensive player wearing the number of an ineligible pass receiver (50–79 and 90–99) is permitted to line up in the position of an eligible pass receiver (1–49 and 80–89) … provided that he immediately reports the change in his eligibility status to the referee, who will inform the defensive team.
Replays showed that Urschel jogged on the field and motioned to Torbert several times that he was eligible. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco also pointed it out to the referee. Urschel's catch should have created a second-and-4 on the Cardinals' 7-yard line. Instead, the play was called back and the Ravens settled for a field goal by Justin Tucker later in the drive that gave them a 3-0 lead.
That was just one of the calls that the Ravens had issues with during the game. Asked to review the performance of Torbert's crew, Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. said, "Two stars, that's what I would review this one on my Yelp. Two stars."
The Ravens also weren't pleased that the officating crew didn't rule that Cardinals running back Chris Johnson's progress had been stopped on his 62-yard run in the second quarter.
Johnson was corralled into Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams' lap, but he did not hit the ground. So when no whistle blew, Johnson got up and ran even as several offensive and defensive players had stopped, believing the play was over.
The Ravens also said after the game that the communication system on their sideline was down during the final drive of the game, preventing offensive coordinator Marc Trestman from calling in plays to Flacco. The league reviews any reported issues, but on-site representatives said they were not alerted to any problems the Ravens were having Monday night.