Refs struggle as Travis Kelce ruled out after being injured on controversial play

The Titans had an ugly first half in Kansas City, but someone might have actually been worse and that's referee Jeff Triplette. 

Triplette doesn't exactly have a reputation for being a great ref, and when people found out on Saturday that he graded high enough to officiate a playoff game this year, there was genuine surprise across the internet. 

If Triplette's officiating a game, you can almost guarantee that there's going to be at least one controversial call, if not more, and we reached the "more" category when there were two controversial calls during a 20-second period over the final minutes of the first half in Kansas City. 

The first controversial call came on the final play before the two-minute warning when Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson annihilated Marcus Mariota

After the hit, the ball clearly came out and it looked to be an obvious fumble recovery for the Chiefs. However, Triplette ruled that Mariota's forward progress had been stopped, so there was no fumble. 

The problem with that is that Mariota was never pushed backward: He was hit, he fumbled and the ball came out. 

If you're scoring at home, that play ended up working out for the Titans because they probably should have lost a fumble. 

However, Triplette is an equal opportunity ref. Just 20 seconds later, there was a controversial call that went against the Titans. On a second-and-18 play for the Chiefs, Alex Smith hit Travis Kelce for a 12-yard gain. 

On the play, Kelce took a crushing hit from from Johnathan Cyprien and appeared to fumble after the hit. However, the refs didn't seem to notice the possible fumble because they were paying attention to Kelce, who was extremely wobbly on his way back to the huddle and had to be removed from the game. The Chiefs' tight end was later ruled out with a concussion. 

Obviously, they need to pay attention to Kelce, but they also need to pay attention to what happened in the game, and what happened in the game appeared to be a Kelce fumble. 

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This potential fumble didn't even get reviewed by officials.  ESPN/NFL

As you can see above, when Kelce's knee hits the ground, the ball is already out. 

The worst part about the play is that it didn't even get reviewed. If it had been ruled that Kelce fumbled, the Titans would've taken over on Kansas City's 25-yard line. Instead, the play wasn't reviewed and the Chiefs went straight down the field to score a touchdown right before halftime that gave them a 21-3 lead. 

That's a huge swing because if the fumble counts, the halftime score is likely 14-6 at worst. 

Just for good measure, a play in the game was finally reviewed late in the first half when the refs decided to review an obvious catch by Demarcus Robinson

So can the Titans come back from a 21-3 halftime deficit?

To keep tabs on the Titans-Chiefs wild card showdown, you can click here and follow along in our live blog or click here and check out our CBSSports.com GameTracker

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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