The NFL's controversial replacement referees made their biggest mistake on the final play of Week 1.
NFL vice president of officiating Carl Johnson confirmed that the Oakland Raiders should have been given an "untimed" play at the end of their 22-14 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Monday night.
The play came after the Chargers punted to end the game, downing the ball at the Oakland 5-yard line. However, because the Chargers touched the ball first, Oakland was entitled to a final play under league rules.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email after he spoke to Johnson that: "Yes. If the Raiders elected to take it. The officials should have notified them that they could have one more play due to the 'first touching' violation."
The Raiders would have been able to run one final play from their own 5-yard line, needing to go 95 yards and then make a two-point conversion to send the game to overtime. While improbable, the mistake is nonetheless significant.
The gaffe was by far the biggest of a weekend that featured several awkward moments for the replacement officials, but no mistakes that appeared to have a direct impact on the outcome of a game. During the Arizona Cardinals' 20-16 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the replacement officials mistakenly granted Seattle a fourth timeout at the end of the game. Although Arizona ultimately won, the officials had to admit they did not know the league's rule on injury-caused timeouts in the final two minutes.
Likewise, the refs in the Denver Broncos' 31-19 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night mistakenly called for the two-minute warning with 1:58 remaining before Denver ran a point-after conversion play.
Other than those errors, the NFL replacement refs, who reportedly are now expected to work up to the first five weeks of the season, had a relatively quiet week. While there was criticism of many judgment calls, that is relatively typical of any week in an NFL season.
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However, the mistake in the San Diego-Oakland game is far more significant, even if the Raiders were unlikely to convert. In the past, the NFL has required teams to go back on the field for a last play in circumstances where it was required. In 1999, the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins were forced to go back on the field to run a final play after the game had seemingly ended when the league determined that the clock should not have run out.
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