Did the refs take a last-second touchdown away from the Buccaneers?

Jay Busbee
Shutdown Corner

The most controversial call of Week 7 came in Tampa, when Mike Williams apparently caught a potential game-tying touchdown pass as time ran out, only to find that, nope, he hadn't scored after all.

The reason? Williams got shoved out of bounds just before making the catch. No touchdown, Saints win 35-28.

Wait ... WHAT?

Tampa Bay fans might be mad enough to have kittens, but this is actually the correct call. As Fox Sports ref ombudsman Mike Pereira explains, it's a three-part call:

-First, with time expiring, Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman gets out of the pocket while scrambling to find an open man.

-Second, Saints defender Patrick Robinson shoves Williams out of the back of the end zone. Because Freeman is out of the pocket, this is a legal move by Robinson.

-Third, Williams comes back in bounds and is the first one to touch the ball. That's not allowed, and the game ends because it's the offense's penalty.

From Rule 8, Section 1, Article 8 of the NFL's official rule book:

Illegal Touching of a Forward Pass. It is a foul for illegal touching if a forward pass (legal or illegal), thrown from behind the line of scrimmage:

(a) is first touched intentionally or is caught by an ineligible offensive player; or

(b) first touches or is caught by an eligible receiver who has gone out of bounds, either of his own volition or by being legally forced out of bounds, and has re-established himself inbounds.

So, yeah, you could say the Bucs got hosed, but it was all legal. Of course, Robinson probably wasn't exactly thinking that Freeman was out of the pocket, but the refs don't throw flags based on mind-reading. (They'd be scared for their lives if they did.) Bottom line: this one just didn't break the Bucs' way.

Of course, if they hadn't allowed Drew Brees to throw for four touchdowns in the first half, this wouldn't have been an issue. Just saying.

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