A compelling case has been made by the San Diego faithful that there was an incorrect spot after an incomplete pass that factored in on its final full drive of the game.
On second down, the ball appears to be spotted on the 18-yard line with a yard to go for the first down. After an incomplete pass on second down, the Chargers took a timeout. The third down spot appears to be on the 19, nearly a full yard away. CBS announcer Adam Archuleta even said, “This is a long 3rd-and-1.”
The Chargers gained a yard on third down — which is argued would have been enough for the first down if spotted at the 18 — and botched the snap on the game-typing field goal attempt, dealing another crushing fourth-quarter blow to the Chargers this season.
San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Tom Krasovic pointed out the 1-yard discrepancy on Monday, saying the officials incorrectly spotted the ball a yard short on third down. NFL spokesman Michael Signora told Krasovic the spot was “possibly a half yard off,” and added:
It’s unclear from the video if the center moved the ball back to that spot or if it was placed there by the officials after the incomplete pass.
Even though the center is not seen on the live shot scootching up the ball, we can still piece the parts of the puzzle together. The second-down play, in the above image, shows the down boxman on the near sideline. That is the official spot of the ball. Notice to the right of the boxman is the 18-yard sideline hash mark. The ball was not spotted on the 18, but about a yard short of it. When the TV crew established the down and distance graphics, the Chargers were in formation, and the ball was moved by the center to the 18.
On the third-down play, the boxman has not moved, so the spot that was at the 19-yard line was consistent with the second down spot. Not seen before both downs on television, but visible to the coaches, was the umpire standing over the ball once it is placed as ready for play. The coaches would be aware of the proper distance at that time to make the proper play call.
Sorry, San Diego fans, but there was no error in spotting the ball on third down. We good?
Reasonable theory. Except when you slo-mo and freeze the first-down play, the WR is down at 18, where official is headed.
— Tom Krasovic (@SDUTKrasovic) October 11, 2016
By the way, the first-down play arguably could have gained an extra fraction of a yard if it was a reviewable play. It appears the head linesman had receiver Travis Benjamin down when his helmet appeared to touch the ground from his angle. Another angle shows that Benjamin’s helmet did not touch the ground. However, it is not possible to conclusively rule he was not down at that point, as it looks like his hair was touching the ground. Yes, the hair is a body part that can put a player down — only the hand, wrist, feet, and ankle are not considered when ruling a player down by contact.
But the consolation to Chargers fans is that I will be scraping the frost off my car, while you get to live in San Diego.
Image: CBS Sports/NFL by Football Zebras