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NFL: Broncos TD should have been reversed on premature celebration

Week 10: Panthers at Broncos

One week ago, it was the Panthers who scored a touchdown that, according to the rules, should not have been granted due to an inadvertent whistle. This time, it was the Panthers who gave up a touchdown when it should not have counted.

On a punt return by the Broncos, Trindon Holliday crossed the goal line, raising his hands to celebrate (video). In the process, he lost control of the ball before he crossed the goal line. Replay official Bob Boylston, apparently only verifying that Holliday stayed in bounds, confirmed the touchdown call. In real speed Holliday’s drop seems to be a touchdown, and a key replay angle was not shown by CBS until after the commercial break (long after a review could have been called). But those mitigating circumstances do not matter.

“Boylston should have stopped the game to initiate an instant replay review,” a league spokesman said in a statement. “Had that occurred, [referee Alberto] Riveron would have had the indisputable visual evidence necessary to overturn the on-field ruling.”

Because the ruling would have been fumble in the field of play, with the loose ball going out of bounds in the end zone, it is a touchback. That would mean the Broncos not only would lose the seven points, but they also lose the ball to the Panthers.

Much like the inadvertent whistle from last week, the NFL is fine with naming names of the guilty parties, which has generally not been their practice in the past. (And, it’s not like we won’t find out, anyway.) Not mentioned was that head linesman Julian Mapp should have gotten to the pylon before Holliday. Admittedly, it was a long-distance play in two directions, but maybe the correct call could be made if Mapp is watching the goal line.

Replay officials are graded the same as the on-field officials as it relates to their specific responsibilities. The grades are used to determine 11 playoff assignments from 17 officials.

NFL statement on Holliday touchdown

With 14:40 remaining in the second quarter of Sunday’s game between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, Broncos punt returner Trindon Holliday scored on a 76-yard punt return-touchdown.

Replay official Bob Boylston confirmed the touchdown and, as a result, referee Alberto Riveron did not stop the game for an instant replay review.

Rule 15, Section 9 (page 89) of the NFL Rulebook states:

Replay Official’s Request for Review. After all scoring plays, interceptions, fumbles and backward passes that are recovered by an opponent or go out of bounds through an opponent’s end zone, muffed scrimmage kicks recovered by the kicking team, after the two-minute warning of each half, and throughout any overtime period, any Replay Review will be initiated by a Replay Official.

Because the video showed that Holliday lost possession of the ball before it broke the plane of the goal line, Boylston should have stopped the game to initiate an instant replay review.

Had that occurred, Riveron would have had the indisputable visual evidence necessary to overturn the on-field ruling.

The result of the play should have been a touchback – not a touchdown – with Carolina gaining possession at the 20-yard line.

Ben Austro
Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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One thought on “NFL: Broncos TD should have been reversed on premature celebration

  1. In the Browns / Cowboys game today you say the pass to Austin was a “play killing call” meaning what ?……That the referree blew his whistle ? That happens all the time and they still overturn it. Also, with 12 seconds to go in regulation Cowboys have a delay of game penalty. Shouldn’t they have ran off 10 seconds ?

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