Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack made a sensational play in the AFC Championship Game when he ran down Patriots running back Dion Lewis, forced a fumble and recovered it. But did the officials rob Jack of an even more sensational play?
After recovering the ball on the ground, Jack got up and started sprinting down the field, appearing to have a clear path to the end zone. The officials immediately blew the play dead, however, ruling Jack down by contact as soon as he recovered.
The question is whether Jack actually had made contact with Lewis after he recovered the fumble. And replays indicate that he may not have: Jack was still grasping for the ball as he rolled over and away from Lewis and didn’t appear to have possession of the ball until he was free of Lewis and not near any other Patriots. Jack clearly didn’t think he was down, which is why he got up and started sprinting for what could have been a touchdown.
The play was reviewed, but only as to the question of whether it was a fumble and whether the Jaguars recovered. It clearly was a fumble and Jack clearly did recover. But there could be no review of whether Jack was down by contact after recovering the ball because the officials had blown the play dead. Once a play is blown dead, nothing that happens after that can be changed in instant replay.
If the officials had allowed the play to continue, Jack may very well have run for a touchdown that would have given the Jaguars a 27-10 lead with less than 14 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. It’s possible the Patriots still could have come back and won, but it would have been a whole lot harder if they were behind by three possessions instead of two.
The official who blew the play dead may have had a better view than the TV cameras of where Jack and Lewis were at the time Jack recovered the fumble, or he may have just assumed Jack was touched down because he saw Jack and Lewis going to the ground right next to each other. If the officials would err on the side of letting a play go, it would allow replay to fix any mistakes. But when asked about the play, the league office told PFT that officials are supposed to call what they see, and not let a play go just because they might get corrected on replay.
“The ruling on the field was a fumble, recovered by the defense. Because a whistle was blown, there could be no advance of the fumble, and that ended the play,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora told PFT via email. “Replay was used to determine if in fact it was a fumble and/or if the player was down by contact, but no advance of the fumble could be added at this point. The officials are instructed to officiate as to what they see on the field, not to replay.”
This play was blown dead, and it may have cost the Jaguars a touchdown that could have been the difference between a loss and a trip to the Super Bowl.