Several years ago, the NFL opened up a real-time fiber line from the league office to every game site, in order to permit assistance and consultation with the replay review process. The league has since expanded the use of the pipeline to include matters relating to game administration.
Here’s the rule, as it’s currently written: “The Replay Official and designated members of the Officiating Department at the League office may consult with the on-field officials to provide information on the correct application of playing rules, including appropriate assessment of penalty yardage, proper down, and status of the game clock.”
On Thursday night, the game officials, the replay officials, and senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron failed to apply the proper when Steelers receiver Antonio Brown fumbled the ball forward from the 40 to the 31, where it was recovered by Steelers receiver Martavis Bryant. The ball should have been placed back at the 40. Four plays later, the Steelers extended their lead from 13-7 to 16-7 via a 50-yard field goal just before halftime.
During a Monday media briefing, NFL spokesman Michael Signora explained that the league office had “no disagreement” with the explanation provided during the NBC broadcast regarding the failure to spot the ball in the right place.
But to the extent that the game officials are catching the bulk of the blame for this, the truth is that the accountability extends more broadly. Yes, the officials should have noticed the situation and fixed it. The on-site replay official also should have noticed the situation and fixed it. And Riveron should have noticed the situation and fixed it.