Saints at Falcons (video)
This was a downright sloppy play by Scott Green’s crew on Thursday night no matter how you look at it, even though the final ruling on the play was correct.
Falcons running back Michael Turner seemed to be stopped and then lost the ball. (This part is correct, even though it looks like they should have ruled Turner’s forward progress stopped. Because the Saints had not overpowered Turner, he was still moving laterally along the line, so the play is still considered live.) The Saints recovered the ball, and head linesman Tom Stabile was caught flat-footed as the Saints darted for their end zone. Hold on! Back at the point of recovery a whistle is so very clearly heard.
Whoever called the play dead (immediately after the Saints recovery) should have laid on his whistle to stop this runback that the Saints attempted after the recovery. No doubt there were Falcons who did not pursue. But this means we have another inadvertent whistle, and it was — again! — swept under the rug. It could have been the umpire, Bruce Stritesky, who is not seen in frame. Interestingly, I saw the back judge, Scott Helverson, jogging in on one of the replays and putting his hand (and whistle) up to his mouth, creating the situation that holding the whistle is supposed to prevent. After studying the video, there was no way to determine who it could have been, but it was not Stabile and very unlikely from referee Green.
If the call was ruled inadvertent whistle after the Saints recovery, the Saints would have two options: get the ball at the spot it was blown dead or replay the down. Obviously, they would not chose to replay the down.
Replay correctly ruled the ball down at the same point as the inadvertent whistle with the Saints in possession.