October 18, 2009
Ben Roethlisberger(notes) attempted a quarterback sneak on 4th and 1 against the Browns late in the second quarter of Sunday's game, and in the jumble of arms, legs and sweaty torsos, it was hard to tell if he got the required distance.
The play was close enough to warrant a measurement, and the picture above is a screenshot of that measurement. The guy pulled the big first down stick, the ball wasn't quite there, so no first down, correct?
Incorrect, as it turns out. The official, Walt Anderson, looked at what you're seeing above, and he ruled that it was a first down. The Steelers ended up getting a field goal out of it.
Odd. I would use a stronger word, but the Steelers were going to beat the Browns, regardless of that first down or the ensuing field goal. It didn't affect the outcome.
For whatever it's worth, here was how Anderson explained it, via Tony Grossi at the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
Anderson told a pool reporter that the tip of the ball penetrated the plane of the marker's stake. He said the angle of the camera shot on TV might not have shown it, but he's sticking to his call.
I guess I can't completely rule out camera trickery, but that would have to be one seriously cockeyed angle. From what I see above, that appears to be a pretty straight-on shot of the football. Maybe it's a few degrees off of center, but it doesn't seem to be by much.
I know that officials aren't going to get every call right, and that's fine. The ones where you're provided with a handy stick for measuring purposes, though ... those, you should probably get right. You don't have to decide anything on those. You just have to look.
And that does not look like a first down to me.
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