One of the stranger plays from Thursday night’s Kansas City Chiefs victory over the Oakland Raiders came with about nine minutes left and the Raiders down one score and struggling offensively.
Once-MVP candidate Derek Carr had been having a brutal night throwing the football, and his receivers were faring just as poorly catching it. Carr’s throws were often high and off target, but when they were on the money his receivers were dropping some easy ones. This play can’t go down as a drop — but it most certainly can’t be called a bad throw, either.
Carr was pressured by the Chiefs, who were in a single-high safety look, on third-and-7 from the Oakland 28-yard line. He stepped up in the dissolving pocket and threw a rainbow to a streaking Amari Cooper, who had beaten the man coverage of cornerback Marcus Peters and appeared to have a good angle to beat safety Eric Berry — the last man deep — for what could have been a 72-yard touchdown and a chance to tie the game midway through the fourth quarter.
But Cooper just missed the thing.
The Raiders would punt for the eighth time in the game. They’d get the ball once more and drive to the Kansas City 14-yard line on their next possession but come up short on fourth down inside the final two minutes.
Let’s go back to Carr-to-Cooper for a minute. The flight of the ball can’t be tracked by the NBC game broadcast because it goes out of frame for a second. But somewhere in that time, the ball’s trajectory and spin change. Cooper stumbled and appeared to have no idea where the ball was. Some speculated he lost it in the lights, or that the heavy wind affected Carr’s high throw. If you watch the video — several times, I suggest — it’s clear that something changed the flight of the pass.
Conspiracy theory alert: Did, as several fans on Twitter suggest, Carr’s pass hit the NBC camera wire that goes over the width of the field?
“That’s why it looked like I might have stumbled,” Cooper said, via ESPN.com. “I was running in the right direction and it kind of moved inside at the last minute and I didn’t have time to get it.”
It’s an interesting theory. But without much more evidence, it’s impossible to prove. Based on where the Skycam/Spidercam wires are typically located, it could have been in that spot, even though NBC denied this in a strange, conflicting statement.
“The overhead camera is positioned behind the line of scrimmage, so the cables would not be in play,” NBC Sports spokesman Dan Masonson said.
This appears to be incorrect reasoning. Even though the camera would be behind the ball at that point, the wires are connected from all four quadrants of the stadium (in a standard configuration, pictured here) and will always be in the sphere of play, in theory. The camera is not a drone; it does not hover on its own. So a punt or pass could hit any of the wires that criss-cross the field, feasibly, at any time during a game even though they are extremely thin.
So what’s supposed to happen in that situation? Dead ball. Third down should have been replayed, and the Raiders would have had another shot. NFL rules read:
The problem here? No one appeared to see that occur, with all apologies to the good folks on Reddit threads. If there was video proof, or a player said he suspected this of happening, we’d be more apt to buy into this.
But as of now, it stands alone as a fascinating theory without much more to go on. NBC probably is right about it not hitting a wire, even though their reasoning feels shaky.
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