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Muffed Punt Is Muffed Call


Atlanta Falcons Coach Mike Smith was incredulous, and who could blame him. His team was trailing Philadelphia by six points yesterday and had just stopped Pro Bowl running back Brian Westbrook on third down and one to force a punt. Then officials missed a call that dramatically altered the complexion of the game.

Falcons returner Adam Jennings was set to field the punt, but he backed away at the last moment. Eagles linebacker Akeem Jordan caught the ball on the bounce and ran it into the end zone, thinking the ball had grazed Jennings.

"I feel like I played the ball the right way because I did not touch it because I could not get to it," Jennings told reporters. "I backed off the punt."

Officials ruled the ball had in fact touched Jennings and awarded Philadelphia the ball at the 37-yard line. Replays appeared to show the ball did not touch Jennings, and that prompted Smith to pull out his red challenge flag. The Falcons, however, had no timeouts, and thus Smith was not permitted to challenge the call.

Smith continued to have a heated exchange with officials from the sidelines, and his ire no doubt grew after Westbrook scored on a 39-yard run on second down for a 27-14 lead that all but put away the game.

Smith had every reason to be enraged, but he had no recourse for what clearly was an officials' blunder.

"You can never say that there's one play in a football game that makes the difference," Smith said rather diplomatically during his post-game news conference.

Truth is, that one play made a world of difference in dropping Atlanta to 4-3 and keeping the Eagles in the hunt for the NFC East title.

By Gene Wang  |  October 27, 2008; 9:33 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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So, the Falcons are made because they didn't use their timeouts wisely?

Posted by: Roger | October 27, 2008 11:35 AM

And this is why the NFL replay rules are silly.

College rules make much more sense. Every play is reviewed, but play is only stopped if the guy in the review booth thinks something is suspicious. The game plays out normally, but every close or controversial call ends up being reviewed. The whole point of officiating is to enforce the rules, not add a secondary strategy of gaming the rules.

Posted by: Mike | October 27, 2008 11:39 AM

It is apparent that the NFL needs to review it's current rules. The problem is that it leaves a sour taste in the mouth of the fans when an Official makes a call on the field that re-play clearly showed as an incorrect call, and to have it continuously played time and time again before the next snap of the ball. I'm certain that an official in the booth could see clearly the instant re-play aswell as the officials who made the call on the field, and for certain the entire football watching nation, and since neither of those who had the authority to do what was right didn't step up-makes it appear as if something corrupt had accured.

Posted by: GNick | October 27, 2008 11:40 AM

Probably just the NFL making up for the Atlanta timekeppers clock management at the end of the Bears game. What comes around goes around. LOL

Posted by: mojo | October 27, 2008 11:46 AM

The NBA lost me as a viewer when the scandle came out about the REF blowing games for his, and others financial benefit. I'm not accusing the NFL Refs of doing that because he apparently followed the rules as they are written, but there should be some ability to correct a call made incorrectly even when all the Time-outs are gone... It was clearly apparent that the REF made a mistake after FOX continued playing it over and over before the next snap.

Posted by: GNICK | October 27, 2008 11:47 AM

It would thus behoove a coach to reserve their TOs and challenges until really needed.

Posted by: That's why we have the challenge system | October 27, 2008 11:48 AM

Balance for the bogus pass interference call that gave Atlanta a TD earlier.

Posted by: Yoink | October 27, 2008 11:51 AM

Replays would also show holding penalties on virtually every play. Human error, for better and worse, has always been part of the game.

Posted by: Hal | October 27, 2008 11:52 AM

Calls generally go both ways with rare exceptions. Yes, this was a missed call, but there was a total nonsense call in the first quarter when Ryan was sacked and a personal foul was called for a perfectly clean tackle. Who knows what would have happened from a scoring perspective if that call wasn't blown.

The only thing replay does is delay the game. It's not robots we're watching --- everyone out there is human.


Posted by: Harold | October 27, 2008 11:55 AM

go Eagles!

Posted by: Brandon | October 27, 2008 11:58 AM

It seems like this has been happening an awful lot these days. Ed Hochuli immediately knew he was wrong in the Denver-San Diego game and apologized. That's great and all, but maybe there should be some kind of recourse for wronged coaches and teams. It seems like the refs are having a little bit too much impact on the outcome of certain games.

And, I admit I'm biased, I was rooting hard for the Falcons (and Bucs and Steelers) and was appalled by that call. Hail to the Redskins!

Posted by: Amy | October 27, 2008 12:08 PM

The time it took for THAT punted football to rebound off of the ground and bounce past Jennings helmet was so small that the human eye couldn't possibly have seen it. I give the entire ref crew that fact.
The bad calls stand because there is no mechanism for doublechecking split-second, possession changing, plays without a challenge until after the 2 minute warning.
Give the Ref responsible for making the call the option to review it.
Then give him the same applause for "getting it right" as we give the injured athlete as he's helped off the field.

Posted by: Mel | October 27, 2008 12:17 PM

Matt Ryan was known for bringing his team back in the last couple minutes of games when he was at Boston college, so I was excited to see what might happen...but then the bad call. You can't blame the Falcons for using time outs prior to the situation, that is plain nonsense. It is a shame the system does not allow a review. That call certainly impacted the outcome of the game.

Posted by: F | October 27, 2008 12:39 PM

Mojo, you are a moron. Don't you know timekeepers are NFL employees and not team employees? Get a clue.

Posted by: Iowahorse | October 27, 2008 1:07 PM

Kudos to Coach Smith on his comment about 1 play never makes an entire game. This was a bad call, which kept ATL from a *possible* scoring drive, and allowed PHI to continue into another touchdown.

However, there were at least two bad calls made against PHI previously - one which allowed ATL a 1st down that ultimately ended in a touchdown.

If you were to completely erase human error from the referee's, it would've been a different situation leading to the final quarter anyway.

I think the rookie QB played well, despite the constant pressure applied from Jim Johnson's D. However, the true victors of the day walked away with the win regardless of bad referee calls.

Posted by: IronEagles | October 27, 2008 2:10 PM

It is ridiculous to suggest a team must preserve their timeouts in order to have them on-hand in the event a ref crew 'muffs' a call. In this particular instance, the "they didn't use their timeouts wisely" comment made here and by the "armchair coaching" televison commentators for that game is idiotic.

My analysis of this game was that there were bad calls (and no calls) throughout the game for both sides. Then again, I have grown to expect officiating to be about as good as the has-been announcers that are always on the winning team's bandwagon.

I personally like the way replay is done for college games. It's not perfect, but it's a better way of handling things than currently in place.

Posted by: Andrew | October 27, 2008 2:37 PM

Once again an indication that these so-called "pro" sports are becoming more like "pro" wrestling everyday. "Pro" wrestling also has "refs" to enforce the rules but everyone knows the winner is determined before the fake match. Makes you wonder doesn't it? Looks like the NFL is getting closer to the WWF everyday! Pretty soon the super bowl champs will get championship belts instead of rings!

Posted by: Jimbo | October 27, 2008 2:57 PM

Once again an indication that these so-called "pro" sports are becoming more like "pro" wrestling everyday. "Pro" wrestling also has "refs" to enforce the rules but everyone knows the winner is determined before the fake match. Makes you wonder doesn't it? Looks like the NFL is getting closer to the WWF everyday! Pretty soon the super bowl champs will get championship belts instead of rings!

Posted by: Jimbo | October 27, 2008 2:57 PM

when in doubt give the upper hand to the team that needs it the most, in this case give the Falcons a chance...

I agree with JIMBO, the NFL is becoming more and more like pro wrestling. Ever see the movie Idiocracy?

Posted by: JB | October 27, 2008 3:10 PM

Shouldn't Time Outs be used to... take time out? And maybe a challenge can be used to... challenge a call?

Saying someone needs to save the times used to give players a breather or formulate a new strategy needs to be omitted just in case a bad call is made destroys the points of having a time out.

Why not have challenges other than timeouts? Or perhaps just have all challenges reviewed (more frequently) from the booth.

Posted by: Section 506 (Before moving) | October 27, 2008 3:25 PM

There were a number of muffed calls in that game, not the least of which was Trent Cole's alleged roughing the passer. These things tend to even themselves out in the end, just ask Jamie Moyer.

Posted by: Emil | October 27, 2008 4:30 PM

You guys that are saying that the coach should have purposely saved a timeout are ignorant. They used their timeouts wisely to save as much time as they could. It obviously worked. They were down 13. They were able to drive and score to cut it to 6. And then they were going to get the ball back with well over 2 minutes remaining in order to try to win the game. The Falcons clearly got screwed. All close plays should be reviewed....period.

Posted by: willie | October 27, 2008 4:33 PM

The NFL used to have a replay all plays system and it slowed the game down. The current system makes sense. Mike Smith used his timeouts very wisely and gave his team and rookie phenom QB a chance to win the game. His punt returner unwisely backed off fielding a punt and misjudged the play. The officials misjudged the call. Two men, making two mistakes. It happens.

The Falcons will be in this thing. Their division isn't that strong, and they will be a contender for the division title and a home playoff game.

Posted by: P | October 27, 2008 5:41 PM

Hey Philly fans are you seriously complaining. You won and when the whole world nows the falcons got screwed over by the muffed call you go and complain about the roughing the passer which turned into zero points, and the pass interference that turned into zero points. Shut up you know we got screwed over and yet you still complain and you wonder why you are known as classless fans.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 27, 2008 10:38 PM

"Ryan was sacked and a personal foul was called for a perfectly clean tackle. Who knows what would have happened from a scoring perspective if that call wasn't blown."

Uh..we do know. It resulted in no points for the Falcons.

Bottom line is a muffed call like this should never stand. It was a great game until then. There are always multiple variables in a close game like this, but this was just rediculous.

Posted by: David | October 28, 2008 10:33 AM

The idiots that keep saying that Coach Smith should have saved his last timeout are forgetting one key thing. If he did not call the last timeout with 2:28 left, the Eagles would have run the clock down to the two minute warning before punting. And is the same thing happens and the ref blows the call, it would have been an automatic booth review since inside two minutes. And at this point, the last timeout has zero bearing on being able to challange a call. Coach Smith used his timeouts properly. This blown call happened because the NFL does not give the officials to option to review replay if they are not sure. The NFL does not want the officials to get every call right. It makes no sense that the NFL has the replay resources at every game, but do not let the officials use these resources to get calls right. Escpecially posession calls.

Posted by: Joe | October 28, 2008 11:36 AM

Eagles fans are blind and disgusting if they think game changing calls by the ref are the same as any other penalties during the game.

I agree that it was a clean hit on Ryan, but seriously, do you think it is THE SAME as a loss of possession ruling? I'll trade you 15 yards for the possession of the ball later in the game any day.

Put yourself in the others' shoes and you wouldn't like it.

The ruling affected the game adversely. Many Eagles fans over here can't even gloat about the win, because of that. It wasn't a "clean" win for the Eagles.

But it could have been 21-20 in the last few seconds of the game and Eagles kick a field goal to win it. I would have been fine with that.

It's not the loss. It's how it became a loss due to a Ref.

Posted by: Seriously? | October 28, 2008 12:36 PM

Ryan was not sacked eagles fans, he threw the ball away, the penalty was for the late hit

Posted by: me | October 28, 2008 1:43 PM

Hey Yoink, Talking about interference calls, Dawkins should be labeled a molestor after his obvious handplay sunday, that is when he wasn't being scramjetted by Roddy White. I can only hope we see Phillie again down the road.

Posted by: dsmalls15 | October 28, 2008 1:47 PM

If the NFL wants to keep the challenge-based system, they could change the rules to allow a challenge in this situation. If the team challenging is out of time-outs and loses the challenge, charge that team with a 5 yard delay of game penalty. That way, the risk/reward coaching strategy is preserved while allowing replay to serve its purpose, namely to prevent a blown call from deciding the game. And if 5 yards isn't enough, make it 10 or 15.

Posted by: JTP | October 28, 2008 8:42 PM

I think officialls should review plays like that, because if they would have od course the falcons would have got ball and have more than likely scored ans possibly win the game. the fact is that the falcons got screwed by a bad call

Posted by: f | October 28, 2008 10:39 PM

Overall, the refs did a terrible job in that game. The roughing the passer penalty against the Eagles was laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Then, Donovan McNabb took a helmet-to-helmet shot way after he had thrown the ball that wasn't called. The muffed punt was a terrible call. But in the general scope of the game, it was par for the course.

Posted by: jsb | October 29, 2008 7:01 PM

this week @ the titans, the packers were screwed out of the game when aaron rodgers threw a long ball to donald driver, there was no pass interference called when clearly the defenders arms were around driver's arm and waist, eventually screwing them out of the 3 or 7 points that would've ensued, which would result in the packers winning in regulation

Posted by: refssuck | November 2, 2008 4:27 PM

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