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Packers say refs confused them in final seconds in loss to Steelers



Packers say officials told them to not snap ball before winding the clock (video)

The Steelers-Packers Week 16 game had its fill of controversial plays, but the last play didn’t seem controversial – until today. 

To set things up, the Packers were knocking on the door of a tying touchdown when the officials called a Packers’ lineman for a false start penaltyStopwatch, with 20 seconds left and the clock running.  The Packers didn’t have any timeouts left, and according to the rules, referee Carl Cheffers properly ordered 10 seconds run off the clock and clearly announced that the clock would start on his signal.  Then, according to the Packers, things got confusing.

The Packers say the officiating crew told them not to snap the ball before winding the clock.  According to the report,

I was watching the official spot the ball and all of a sudden I look up and I’m calling the snap count and the clock had already started,” quarterback Matt Flynn said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I guess we thought we’d be able to get those plays off.

“I don’t know what it was. We felt like we should have been able to get two plays off and I didn’t. I called the snap count as fast as I could …”

According to another report from Yahoo, the Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith said this sequence threw off the Packers play calling.

Well, let’s break it down by analyzing the video of the last play.  The Packers are on the line, ready to snap and ball, but the officials aren’t ready yet.  Referee Carl Cheffers stands at the line of scrimmage with quarterback Matt Flynn.  Cheffers then motions umpire Undrey Wash to stand over the ball.  Cheffers backpedals into his proper place and motions Wash away from the ball.  As Wash is backing up into his position (behind the defensive line) Cheffers then blows his whistle and signals the clock to start.  The clock is running while Flynn calls the cadence.  Cheffers appears to run up and yell something to Flynn.  Reports surmise that Cheffers was advising Flynn that the clock was running.  Flynn finishes calling the play and gets the snap with :03 on the clock and only gets one play off before time expires. 

I think the video shows that the officials did not interfere with the Packers from getting the snap off.  When I read the first media reports, I had visions of Wash standing with his foot on the ball and the clock running.  That did not happen.  Cheffers and Wash properly waited for both teams to get ready, and for the rest of the officials and chain gang to be set.  This is proper procedure.  The officials were well out of Dietrich-Smith’s and Flynn’s way before Cheffers blew his whistle and wound the clock.  Flynn was simply very deliberate in calling that last play.  There is no rule preventing Flynn from calling the play before Cheffers winds the clock — the Packers just couldn’t snap the ball.

While the Packers’ complaints are getting some play in the media, the team can’t hang it on Cheffers and Wash for only being able to run one play in 10 seconds.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"