December 14, 2008
Pittsburgh had the ball on the Ravens' 4-yard line, down by three points with 43 seconds left in the game. On a third-and-goal, Ben Roethlisberger threw a bullet to Santonio Holmes who caught the ball while standing in the end zone. However, Holmes reached across the goal line to catch the ball, leading officials to rule that it was to be spotted six inches from the end zone. After reviewing the replay, however, referee Walt Coleman awarded the touchdown to Pittsburgh, giving the following explanation:
"After reviewing the play, the receiver had two feet down in the end zone with possession of the ball, we have a touchdown."
I'm no referee, but I'm pretty sure that having two feet down in the end zone makes not a touchdown. According to the official NFL Rulebook, a touchdown occurs "when any part of the ball, legally in possession of a player inbounds, breaks the plane of the opponent's goal line, provided it is not a touchback." The ball, in this case, didn't cross the plane of the opponent's goal line. Thus, it isn't a touchdown. That Walt Coleman didn't even mention a ball or a plane in his explanation is baffling.
Take a look at the picture. This is the first frame in which Holmes has clear possession of the ball. And that ball isn't in the end zone.
Who knows whether Mike Tomlin would have gone for the fourth-and-inches, but in a defensive battle like this game was, it's likely that he'd have kicked the field goal and the Ravens and Steelers would have gone to overtime.
Ravens fans, you have every right to be upset. And somewhere, Ed Hochuli is glad he wasn't assigned to work this game.
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