By Ben Austro, FootballZebras.com, special to NFP
Even karma in the NFL has parity.
After benefiting from an incorrect ruling on a touchdown, the Panthers had a touchdown scored against them that also should not have counted. Two weeks ago it was an inadvertent whistle; last week it was a case of “premature exuberation.”
On a punt return by the Broncos, Trindon Holliday crossed the goal line, raising his hands to celebrate. In the process, he lost control of the ball before he crossed the goal line. Replay official Bob Boylston, apparently only verifying that Holliday stayed in bounds, confirmed the touchdown call. In real speed Holliday’s drop seems to be a touchdown, and a key replay angle was not shown by CBS until after the commercial break (long after a review could have been called). But those mitigating circumstances do not matter.
US PRESSWIRETrindon Holliday got one passed the officials on Sunday.
“Boylston should have stopped the game to initiate an instant replay review,” a league spokesman said in a statement. “Had that occurred, [referee Alberto] Riveron would have had the indisputable visual evidence necessary to overturn the on-field ruling.”
Because the ruling would have been fumble in the field of play, with the loose ball going out of bounds in the end zone, it is a touchback. That would mean the Broncos not only would lose the seven points, but they also lose the ball to the Panthers.
Replay officials are graded the same as the on-field officials as it relates to their specific responsibilities. The grades are used to determine 11 playoff assignments from the 17 available officials.
Clock and spot are off in San Francisco
Referee Clete Blakeman runs a very neatly threaded crew that apparently just unraveled Sunday. In fact, I have had him at penciled in for a conference championship this year. (Blakeman is ineligible for a Super Bowl this season indirectly due his lack of seniority.)
While Blakeman was measuring for a first down, the stadium clock began to run. More than a minute elapsed from the clock before line judge Ron Marinucci and field judge Buddy Horton conferenced with Blakeman, who announced “we are checking the game clock for accuracy.”
The stadium clock is the official time of the game, run by a league-hired clock operator. The line judge has primary clock-watching duties, but, effectively all officials should be checking the clock regularly. In case the clock malfunctions, the line judge will take over the timing on the field, and the scoreboard clock must be turned off.
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When Blakeman made his announcement, Marinucci contacted the clock operator’s booth from a sideline phone. According to a statement by the league, “Marinucci … spoke directly to the clock operator from the sideline phone and was told that there was no issue with the game clock.” In a roundabout way, there was not a clock malfunction, but a case of slippery fingers on the operator. But the clock operator did have a duty to indicate that the clock ran during a stoppage, even if he had no idea what the correct time should be. The replay official cannot intervene in clock matters, except that if a play is already under replay review, a reversal will result in the clock being set to the time that applies to the new ruling.
Although it had little competitive impact on the game, happening well before time is a factor, the timing of the game is one of the basic bookkeeping duties of the game. A league spokesman said, “the clock procedures will be carefully reviewed this week with all game officials and clock operators to avoid further clock mistakes.”
Later in the same game, near the conclusion of overtime, the Rams got a first down with the clock running. At some point between the conclusion of that play and the snap of the next play, the ball was not correctly spotted. Coach Jeff Fisher, who was gesturing wildly to spike the ball to stop the clock, was not sure why the ball was in the wrong spot. “I haven’t talked to [the league] about that whether somebody kicked it or what happened.”
Whatever caused it, the Rams essentially were hit with a 10-second runoff, because they could not properly line up to stop the clock.
Even though they generally avoid contact through the game, it is still surprising that officials are not injured too often. The youngest officials are older than most, if not all, of the oldest players, and many senior officials are in their mid-60s. Despite that, they are able to stay stride-for-stride with players almost two generations removed. Contrast that to their replacement counterparts that worked during the union officials’ labor dispute at the beginning of the season. Despite the fact that the replacement crews were made up of many younger recruits, many seemed to struggle to keep up the pace of the game.
(Also contrast that to yours truly who grumbles about the stairs that are between the couch and the refrigerator.)
Two officials will be on injury leave this week: Head linesman Greg Hayward injured his calf during the Bills-Patriots game and had to leave in the third quarter. (There are no alternates in the regular season, so only six officials completed the game.) Also, back judge Kirk Dornan was being taped up for an injury on the Bengals sideline last week, but finished the game. Hayward is in his 22nd season, Dornan his 19th. Both are replaced on their crews in Week 11 with officials that were scheduled to have the week off.
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Ben Austro is the founder and editor of FootballZebras.com