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Seahawks granted 4th timeout in error



Seahawks at Cardinals

4th qtr | :31 | AZ 20-16 | SEA ball | 2nd & goal @ 5  | video

In the waning seconds of the game with the Seahawks trailing, a complete misapplication of the rules by the replacement officials nearly reversed the result of the game.

If an injury occurs in the final two minutes of the half, his team is charged a timeout. There are three exceptions to the rule:

  • the player is injured as a result of a foul
  • there is a change of possession, a successful field goal, or extra-point conversion attempt
  • the other team calls timeout

In all situations, the status of the clock is irrelevant. The charging of the timeout, in effect, is because the starting of the play clock is delayed by the injury. Even if the clock is stopped between plays, a team an leverage an advantage by having an injury and having more time to formulate the next play call.

Incidentally, there is no penalty for a coach to request a fourth timeout. Officials are supposed to ignore the request. (One exception: on a field goal or extra-point attempt, a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty is assessed after the play is allowed to continue.) If there was, say, a 15-yard penalty for excess timeout assessed as a dead-ball foul, a coach might strategically weigh the yardage against the advantage of stopping the clock during the penalty. (Injury timeouts after the three timeouts are expended can carry yardage and 10-second runoff penalties in certain cirumstances.)

Referee Bruce Hermansen incorrectly ruled that an injury following an incomplete pass was not a charged timeout because the clock was not running. The Seahawks had one timeout at that time, and they were supposed to be charged for it.

The Seahawks were given second life, but ultimately did not prevail in their last-second heroics.

(Incidentally, this did happen with the “real” referees when an additional timeout was granted. It lead to Mike Pereira, who was the vice-president of officiating, to institute a new mechanic midseason for timeout administration.)

Update. Hermansen explained the error to a pool reporter.

It was my error. We gave them [the Seahawks] the additional timeout because of the incomplete pass stopping the clock before the injury occurred, when in effect, the clock has no bearing on the play at all. Whether it’s stopped or running, we should not have given them the additional timeout.

Update. We added a paragraph to clarify that there is no penalty for excessive timeouts when requested by the coach during a normal scrimmage down.

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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