The play clock was mistakenly stopped when it should have continued running just before the two-minute warning of Sunday’s Rams-Lions game, but the NFL says the mistake was by the clock operator at Ford Field, not by the replacement officials.
“It was a mistake by the clock operator,” a league spokesman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He stopped the clock incorrectly. The officials did not signal for it to stop.”
The confusion started when Rams quarterback Sam Bradford ran for three yards and then slid out of bounds at the Lions’ 28-yard line with 2:38 left in the fourth quarter. Line judge Shannon Eastin correctly signaled that the clock should keep running because Bradford had gone down in bounds before his slide carried him out of bounds, but the clock operator mistakenly stopped the clock for a few seconds before re-starting it. While the game clock was stopped, the play clock kept running, and as a result the Rams had to call timeout before the two-minute warning, rather than letting the clock run all the way down to the two-minute warning.
After that timeout Bradford threw an incomplete pass on the last play before the two-minute warning, but Fisher said that if they had been allowed to run the clock all the way down to the two-minute warning, he would have called a run on the next play to force the Lions to use their last timeout. Fisher was clear, however, that the mistake was made by the clock operator — who is hired by the league and is not part of the officials’ union and therefore not affected by the officials’ lockout — rather than by Eastin.
“Miss Eastin came to her spot, she kept the play running,” Fisher said.
Still, the call was wrong, and while the clock operator is to blame, a more experienced head referee might have noticed the clock operator’s mistake and corrected it immediately. The replacement referee who worked the Rams-Lions game, Donovan Briggans, didn’t make this mistake. But he didn’t fix it either.