With the Titans up by seven on Monday night and in position to burn up the clock and exit with a win, running back Derrick Henry broke a 72-yard touchdown run — giving Tennessee a 14-point victory.
Coincidentally, the Titans were favored by seven or 7.5 points to win, and the touchdown allowed them to cover the spread.
Henry came dangerously close to stepping out of bounds with a left foot, both at the Tennessee 44 and the Tennessee 49. A formal replay review never happened, and ESPN didn’t even mention the possibility that Henry had been out of bounds.
According to a league spokesman, it was determined that a closer look wasn’t necessary. Arguably, however, the game should have been stopped to ensure that Henry didn’t step out of bounds.
Apparently (and this didn’t come from the league but from someone familiar with how things work there), the standard for not ordering full replay review is the mirror image of the standard for overturning a ruling on the field. Basically, there must be clear and obvious evidence the ruling was correct to avoid an examination of whether there is clear and obvious evidence the ruling was not correct.
Discretion exists where the play will have no significant impact on the outcome of the game. In this case, however, the impact came not on the outcome of the game but on the outcome of the wagering on the game. With the NFL moving a team to Las Vegas and with a sense that legalized sports wagering is inevitable, the league needs to be cognizant of meaningless scores that actually are meaningful, and to ensure that they are valid and proper scoring plays.
It’s entire possible that Henry remained inbounds. But it was close enough to take a second look, and it definitely was close enough for any of the many ESPN employees who have eyes on the field to have noticed it and mentioned it to the guys in the booth.