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Week 11 “Official Review”: Never-ending game, 2 more errors on replay reviews



This week’s “Official Review” from the NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira has one less play under scrutiny than usual (three, rather than four). That doesn’t leave us shortchanged, as there are multiple levels of discussion on two plays (video, part 1 and part 2).

Unfortunately, for the second week in a row, Pereira admits that two additional errors were made in the administration of a replay review, upping the count to four in two weeks.

Under review this week:

  • For the final play, and the subsequent quarter-extending play, in the Browns–Lions game, Pereira reaffirmed that the pass interference call was correct, as the pass was in the air, as we reported. Also, we had explained the reason why Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was allowed to return after an injury timeout without sitting out a down.
  • In the Redskins–Cowboys game, we already reported on the league’s response to a review that should not have been called. Essentially, the Redskins gained 10 yards by the incorrect review, which didn’t have an impact on the score, as the Redskins missed a field goal on the next play. Periera explains:

Since we ruled the runner out of bounds, we essentially killed the play, and the play was over. So nothing that happens after that is relevant. If the receivers catch that pass and run it in for a touchdown, or the defenders intercept it, it’s a dead ball at that point [where the quarterback is] and can’t be reviewed.

So we really reviewed and reversed a play that wasn’t even reviewable.

  • In the Colts–Ravens game, a challenge flag by the Ravens was picked up by coach John Harbaugh with 2:16 remaining in the half. In the conference with the officials, Harbaugh apparently became aware that the officials ruled the receiver dragged a toe in the completion. With that information, Harbaugh changed his mind on the challenge, and the request to withdraw the challenge was granted by referee John Parry. Pereira said that he informed all of the referees this week that this is against the rules:

We want to make sure that [the officials] understand that if a coach throws the challenge flag for a play that is reviewable—a play like this that is reviewable—then we are going to go through with the challenge, even if he subsequently sees that the call on the field was going to be right. So they’ll end up, actually, getting charged with a challenge and a timeout, since they’re going to lose the challenge. Really, it’s the only fair thing to do.

Interestingly, in the conversation, NFL Network commentator Rich Eisen speculated that a defense might use a time-saving strategy from basketball to their advantage. The ubiquitous intentional foul used in basketball could be used by a defense to disrupt a quick snap by the offense on a potentially challengable play.

As we covered previously, a review can happen on the previous play until there is a legal snap. In case a pre-snap penalty administered, the ability to review the last play is not lost. However, if there is a reversal, the penalty is disregarded as if it never happened. Eisen correctly suggested that on a potentially challengeable play with the offense scrambling to snap the ball (to make a review of the previous play impossible), the defense might foul intentionally (except for a personal foul), just to delay a legal snap, and allowing the previous play to be reviewed. If the play is not overturned, the defense will still be penalized, but if it is overturned, the gamble pays off.

We will be watching carefully for an intentional foul on the defense creating a replay opportunity.