NFL defends last-second clock stoppage in Denver

Mike Florio
ProFootball Talk on NBC Sports

Broncos coach Vic Fangio thinks he got screwed twice on the last drive of what should have been his first career win. The league thinks he actually got screwed only once.

Although the NFL reportedly told G.M. John Elway that linebacker Bradley Chubb shouldn’t have been penalized for roughing the passer during what became the game-winning drive, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron chose to address the decision to give the Bears one final second on Riveron’s weekly officiating video for the media, which this week includes only three plays from 16 games of action.

“Immediately when the player hits the ground, he’s touched,” Riveron explains. “So he’s on the ground, he’s touched, there’s a coach on the sidelines already asking for a timeout. He was granted the timeout. The clock did run to zero, but the officials got together and they realized they had one second left on the clock when he was down and then he was touched, and at the same time the coach called timeout. So the clock was correctly reset to one second.”

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Some had speculated that a Chicago coach or player had informed the officials before the snap that the Bears wanted a timeout immediately upon conclusion of the play, which would better explain the decision to kill the clock the instant the receiver was down. Based on Riveron’s explanation, the player was down, the coach called timeout (that specific aspect of the play can’t actually be seen in the officiating video), the officials saw the coach calling for the timeout, and the officials called the timeout. All in one second.

As Peter King explained during Tuesday’s PFT Live, that kind of bang-bang-bang-bang action (even that takes longer than a second) would never happen during any other play in a game. So it shouldn’t happen on the last play of the game.

Of course, from the league’s perspective, it always makes sense to give the offense that one last second for one last play. Win or lose, a field goal attempt or a Hail Mary pass is always more exciting than a game ending via the innocuous passage of one second of time.

But if that’s the way it’s going to be, the league needs to make sure every team understands that it’s good enough to get a knee down with only one second left — and it needs to be called that way in every situation where the time is running out in the second quarter, the fourth quarter, or overtime.

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