New replay rule dooms Redskins
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As if the season could get any worse for the Washington Redskins, they found another improbable way to lose. In this instance, the blunder came in overtime, when fullback Mike Sellers fumbled, and New Orleans recovered at the Redskins 36.
Seven plays later, place kicker Garrett Hartley's 18-yard field goal gave the Saints a 33-30 win. It was a stunning conclusion considering the Redskins led by 10 points with 4 minutes 44 seconds to play in regulation and had outplayed New Orleans virtually all game.
Initially officials said Sellers was down, meaning the Redskins would keep the ball. But before Washington could get off the next snap, Saints Coach Sean Payton called timeout. That stoppage allowed the replay official to review the sequence and, after a lengthy delay, determined Sellers had lost the ball before he was down.
Angry Redskins fans began flooding Internet message boards, including plenty of comments on washingtonpost.com, charging officials with a huge gaffe by awarding New Orleans the ball. Some posters even went so far as to say the game was fixed.
Those conspiracy theorists apparently thought since the play was blown dead, it was not reviewable by rule. They were wrong.
If Redskins fans want to blame the officiating, they have no gripe against referee Carl Cheffers and his crew, who made the right call on the Sellers fumble. They instead should curse Ed Hochuli, whose officiating mistake in a San Diego-Denver game in 2008 initiated a rule change for this season allowing video replays on loose balls or interceptions even if the play was whistled dead.
Officials in the Saints-Redskins game did make a puzzling call early in the second quarter when they whistled New Orleans tight end Jeremy Shockey for pass interference.
Replays showed no defenders near Shockey until he made the reception and was tackled from behind by safety LaRon Landry, who appeared to grasp Shockey's facemask. At the very least, Landry wrapped his hand around the side of Shockey's helmet, which also would warrant a penalty.
The apparent missed call on the Landry-Shockey play was another case of phantom pass interference. You've seen it many times. It's when an official inexplicably throws a flag for pass interference, yet from every replay angle, there's absolutely zero indication the infraction took place.
Perhaps the league should take that up during its next round of rules changes. No doubt coaches, players and fans alike would applaud the NFL if it considered making pass interference a challengeable call.
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