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Replay-challenged crew delays game to avoid 5-yard error



When I started this blog, the idea was to provide insights and analysis of the officiating crews in the National Football League. Since the Internet is chock full of finger-pointing and conspiracy theories against those in the monochromatic jerseys, I decided we would avoid becoming a contributing voice to that side of the spectrum. Afterall, each official is one of 15 people who is the best in his position in the country. Who am I to criticize from the comfort of my favorite chair?

The crew of Jeff Triplette have received a fair amount of criticism here. It is difficult to avoid, however, the consistent breakdown in replay mechanics which is nothing short of glaring. To date, we have counted four errors anchored in the replay system: incorrectly spotting the ball, not reseting time back to the clock, and beginning to allow two challenges that were not allowed by rule. Triplette’s boss even called him out (not by name) on NFL Network and, saying “I was shocked” about one mistake and that “we were wrong in not doing that” for another.

What you have read is the prelude to the fourth error in three weeks, fifth overall. While it was ultimately called correctly, a long delay ensued.

In the Jets–Patriots game, Tom Brady completed a pass to Wes Welker with less than two minutes to go in the first half. As the Patriots spiked the ball to stop the clock, replay official Bob Boylston buzzed the field for a review. Credit goes to Boylston to quickly call for a review when most of us were wondering what could be reviewable.

Triplette reversed the completion correctly, however the ball was respotted at the 35½ instead of the 30½. Just before the ball was snapped, line judge Michael Spanier blew his whistle and called out the error to Triplette. Triplette then conferred with Spanier and umpire Bruce Stritesky, held a conference with two other officials, then went to the sideline where an assistant at the replay equipment apparently relayed information from Boylston.

Triplette then announced the ball was to be placed at the 30½, narrowly averting a second referee-imposed loss on a team this season.

We will see if vice-president of officiating Mike Pereira has anything to say about the incident in this week’s “Official Review” video.

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)