One of the craziest Sunday’s in NFL regular-season history included a controversial call that will be debated for decades to come in Pittsburgh.
In overtime of the Chiefs-Chargers game, the home team called a fake punt. The snap came to Eric Weddle, who ran up the middle for a first down.
But Weddle’s helmet came off and the ball came out and the Chiefs recovered it and returned it for an apparent touchdown.
The touchdown didn’t count. Referee Bill Leavy announced to the crowd that the yardage for a first down had been gained, with no explanation or elaboration as to the reason for the decision to wipe out the fumble and the return.
It wasn’t clear whether Leavy had determined that Weddle’s forward progress had been stopped, or that Weddle’s helmet came off before he fumbled, which would have killed the play. Forward progress isn’t reviewable; a helmet coming off is.
Per a league source, Leavy determined that Weddle’s forward progress had been stopped before the fumble. Right or wrong, the decision could not be reviewed.
Still, the question of whether Weddle had indeed reached the line to gain could have been reviewed, but for whatever reason it wasn’t. That’s the kind of glitch that will be avoided if/when (when) the replay function is moved to the league office.
And regardless of the nuts and bolts, Leavy should have explained the situation better. The decision removed a win from the Chiefs, and it removed the Steelers from the playoffs. Like Clete Blakeman’s perfunctory “game is over” message at the end of the Monday night game between the Patriots and Panthers, Leavy’s limited verbiage will do little to make Chiefs (and Steelers) fans believe they didn’t get screwed.