Trailing 20-17 with 1:48 left to play in Thursday night’s game against the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard swears he made a play that could have changed the outcome of the game.
Leonard stripped Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of the football on a 6-yard quarterback sweep. Whether the on-field officials saw the ball came loose at all or just assumed that it remained in the possession of Watson, the Texans maintained possessions of the ball and managed to drain the remaining seconds off the clock to get the victory.
But Leonard is absolutely convinced he had the ball.
“I punched it out,” Leonard said, via Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. “I punched for it, got it out. I had it, and after that, they said it wasn’t a fumble.”
The play wasn’t formally reviewed with a stoppage of play, though it was looked at by the league officiating office in New York. Houston called a time out after the play that gave even more time for the play to be reviewed. However, the league office said there wasn’t evidence of a turnover on the footage they saw.
“In #INDvsHOU, officials on the field ruled a fumble recovered by the offense,” the NFL Officiating Twitter account stated. “There was no clear visual evidence of a recovery by the defense.”
If there was clear visual evidence that Leonard had sole possession of the football, the play could have been overturned via replay. However, both Leonard and Watson remained grasping at the ball after it came loose.
Leonard’s view of what happened after Watson lost possession was clear.
“We were fighting for it,” Leonard said. “I got it.”
If Leonard had been ruled to have recovered the fumble, the Colts would have had around a minute and a half to move from their own 35-yard line into field goal range with no timeouts remaining. Instead, they never got that chance and the Texans now hold sole possession of first place in the AFC South.