The best teams make it to the postseason. Ditto for the best officials. This weekend, however, the men in black and white are at times playing more like the Bengals, Lions, and/or Falcons.
During Sunday’s game between the Steelers and Broncos, referee Ron Winter’s crew incorrectly determined a lateral pass that was not caught (and thus fumbled) to be a forward pass. A Broncos defender clearly recovered the loose ball.
Broncos coach John Fox wanted to challenge the ruling on the field, in the hopes that the officials would determine that: (1) it was a lateral and thus fumble; and (2) possession belongs to the Broncos. Winter eventually explained that the Broncos opted not to challenge the play, because a successful review would have resulted in the play being over at the point where it hit the ground.
But that’s similar to the situation the league addressed when modifying the replay rules after the Ed Hochuli debacle in 2008, when former Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler clearly lost the ball, Hochuli inexplicably deemed it to be a forward pass, the Chargers clearly recovered, but on review possession remained with the Broncos at the spot where the ball hit the ground.
After the 2008 season, the rules changed to allow possession to be given to the defense via replay.
Former V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira, who ultimately presided over the Hochuli call and the ensuing adjustment to the replay rules, said via Twitter that possession could not have been given to the Broncos.
We’re trying to get an explanation from Pereira, and we’ll contact the league office for more after this one ends. Regardless of the manner in which the replay rules apply, Winter and company should have gotten it right in real time. If they had, the Steelers wouldn’t have finished that drive with a touchdown.
UPDATE 7:58 p.m. ET: We’ve spoken to Pereira. Here’s his explanation.