Late fumble should have triggered a formal replay review

AP

The Texans got a gift last night from the game officials and the officiating department.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson clearly and obviously fumbled the ball with more than 1:40 remaining in the game. The two angles broadcast by FOX showed that the ball came out; the only question was whether Colts linebacker Darius Leonard had the ball in his possession when he hit the ground.

By the time the officials cleared the pile, the ball was determined to be in the possession of the Texans. With fewer than two minutes to play, the replay-review question fell within the province of the replay assistant in the stadium and/or NFL senior V.P. of officiating Al Riveron.

But no automatic review was ordered — even after the Texans inexplicably called a time out, giving the powers-that-be more time to exercise their power to engage in a full-blown review.

“There was no clear visual evidence of a recovery by the defense,” the league later announced via the NFL Officiating account on Twitter. While that very well may have been the answer to the question of whether, via replay review, the ruling on the field should have been upheld, whether a formal replay review will occur presents a different question.

There, the question isn’t whether there was clear visual evidence of a recovery by the defense. There, the question is whether there’s clear evidence that the ruling on the field was correct.

There was not. Which means that Riveron and/or the replay assistant should have stopped the game, given FOX time to scan all available camera feeds for an angle that may have shown Leonard in possession of the ball, and then announced an official and final ruling, after full and complete vetting of the visual evidence.

It’s possible that the officials determined that the offense retained possession because the ball was in the simultaneous possession of Watson and Leonard. But if Leonard had secured possession before Watson managed to get his hands on the ball at the same time, by rule the Colts would have had the ball.

Regardless, we don’t know whether Leonard had possession because Riveron and/or the replay assistant failed to call for a full replay review. Someone should have; it was a key moment in a close game and the outcome may have been changed if the Colts had gotten the ball back.

Besides, what’s the harm in doing it? Even if Colts fans (and/or those who picked the Colts to win, either for satisfaction or money) didn’t like the final outcome, they at least would have felt like the possibility of a fumble recovered by Leonard wasn’t given short shrift.

And that’s a very important aspect of persuading folks that there’s both competence and integrity in the broader officiating function.

54 responses to “Late fumble should have triggered a formal replay review

  1. Nothing the NFL says can justify what happened, everyone including them saw the fumble.

    The NFL, the leader in sports entertainment.

  2. It’s weird that they have a booth review every time a bug hiccups, but in a close game they decide not to review a critical play with first place hanging in the balance.
    Guess the review ref must have been late for a hot date or something.

  3. But that would have left less time at the end of the half-hour for us to see Joe Buck and whats-his-face Ache man preen in front of the camera and tell us how brilliant they both are. Things happen for a reason. In this case, failing to review was a good thing.

  4. Al Riveron shows weekly that he should’ve never been given the job and should fired. Its a sad day when you realize you miss Dean Blandino.

  5. I had no dog in the fight, but it was bizarre. Like the officials wanted to get the game over with, rather than get the call right.

    I do wonder whether the Colts LB would have been better off ripping the ball away from Watson, rather than taking one hand off the ball to point in the Colts’ direction. Might have lost the tug of war at that point.

  6. Besides, what’s the harm in doing it?
    ———
    Because endless replay is killing all excitement in the game? I have slowly transformed from being all for replay to just wanting it completely gone. I would settle for some common sense replay review (no slow motion, 30 seconds or less, by someone in the booth). But the league is never going to do take the common sense approach because they have no common sense. So I want it gone completely. That will never happen either.

  7. Vikings fans want an explanation. This is the kind of thing that ALWAYS goes against the Vikings in their 59 year history. If the Packers were playing in that game, their cumulative heads would explode.

  8. It sure appeared to me Leonard had the fumble. In a season with a myriad of bad calls this one seems worse than most. Under two minutes left and it most definitely could have changed the game outcome.

    This is why coaches should be able to challenge a call even if it is in the last two minutes. If they have challenges and at least one time out left, why not?

    Am I the only one that thinks Fox has the absolutely worst camera work of any network? They seem to only show replays if there was a penalty or it was a big play. They rarely seem to have good angles on their replays. They would rather show coaches or players on the side line versus replaying the last play.

  9. Camera angles, my Aunt Fanny.
    The home audience could see Leonard with the ball.
    Maybe that’s why there was no booth review.
    Because they knew they’d have to overturn the call and then they may not get the final result they wanted.

  10. surprising they wouldn’t at least take a peek at it. what’s the rule for having possession while you’re sitting on the turf? seemed the defender punched the ball out, had it in his hands briefly while on the ground and being touched by watson. is that not considered down by contact w possession?

  11. What would be even better than complaining about the lack of review is to get an answer to two questions: did they review it during the time out and can the public see all the footage now with all the angles?

  12. So they can review that play in a matter of seconds without slowing down the game, yet far more, less obvious plays, take 2-5 minutes to review???

    It’s hard to argue it’s not rigged when the NFL gives us reasons to think it is rigged.

    Or did they already meet their “commercial breaks“ quota?

    Inexcusable! You force replay on the game, then don’t do it when it’s clear and obvious…

  13. NFL is clueless and embarrassingly incompetent. Indy can’t blame the refs for losing the game because Indy played sloppy football but that play should have been reviewed. Also the fumble occurred at 1:40 and the clock ran to :48 before the Texans called timeout. Not only did the refs screw up the fumble but they let the clock run an extra 15-20 secs. The extra time was probably a non factor in the outcome but it just shows the extent of the incompetence.

  14. Makes you wonder if Riveron is making up for the missed PI against the Ravens? Or, the ridiculous, touchdown robbing “in the grasp” against the Colts last time they played?

    Nah, that would take too much thought process by the powers that be!

  15. I have to echo what others have said. I watch a lot of football for a long time, and i could not believe that there was no review. Not a Colts fan by any means either. It had the potential to be the biggest play in the game and they just ignored it. However, they’ll stop the game for twenty minutes to determine whether a player gained three yards or four.

  16. No replay……despite league rules that replay is automatic in that circumstance. Thats called a Texas home field advantage. They make their own rules in Texas.

  17. Riveron has been a hot mess since he took the position. I’m betting he’s gone by next season. For all his blathering over “The integrity of the game”, and punishment of players “who tarnish the shield”, Goodell allows questionable officiating to undermine the credibility of this sport week after week…

  18. The NFL has lost a lot of integrity this season. This is just another item to pile on the clear mistakes that refs make that change the outcome of games.
    Disgraceful.

    The games are in the hands of old refs way too often. There is zero accountability and really no consistency.

    G’del is damaging the NFL more than he is helping it. The growth would have come with anyone leading the way.

    The NFL prospers in spite of G’del , not because of him.

  19. “So I want it gone completely. That will never happen either.”

    No, replay is not going away. The problem is even if the league did eliminate it, you have millions of people with DVRs at home who can replay any play in ultra slow motion with the result that the NFL would still have people replaying any controversial play and claiming to see the result they wanted.

  20. The league will probably try to gloss it over by issuing one of their famous “letters of apology”, as if it that’s worth anything.

  21. I’m confused. I didn’t see the play, but this article seems to imply that there was not clear evidence that the Colts would have gotten the ball. So, this article is complaining that they didn’t stop the game, to have the exact same results that actually happened? So if you have seen the replay, should the Colts have been given the ball. If not, who cares?

  22. [Updated]
    Bob Papa and Charlie Weis this morning said the play was whistled dead prematurely. Once that happened, there is no clear fumble recovery so the ball stays with Houston.

    There is no review since the play was whistled dead without a turnover.

  23. conormacleod says:
    November 22, 2019 at 10:41 am
    I’m confused. I didn’t see the play, but this article seems to imply that there was not clear evidence that the Colts would have gotten the ball. So, this article is complaining that they didn’t stop the game, to have the exact same results that actually happened? So if you have seen the replay, should the Colts have been given the ball. If not, who cares?
    ——————
    Your confusion makes sense! The article is critical of the officials not conducting a full review to confirm exactly who had possession. However, the few replays shown by FOX don’t provide a clear answer so based on that and the call on the field, the Texans should have retained possession. I may have just confused myself…

  24. If the league was trying to “help” Houston, they would have called PI last week in Baltimore and not ” missed ” that illegal pick play that put the Ravens up 14-0.

  25. I had no dog in the fight, but it was bizarre. Like the officials wanted to get the game over with, rather than get the call right.
    —————————————————-
    not a colts fan, but the officials clearly wanted the Texans to win. I could tell that the game was rigged in the first quarter when Jacoby slid down after a run and immediately took a head-to-head shot. No call.

  26. Riveron lost a bunch of money on that late TD in the 49ers game. He couldn’t afford to have this game go against him, too.

  27. “There was no clear visual evidence of a recovery by the defense,” says the people who didn’t review it to check for any clear visual evidence of a recovery by the defense. They treat us like we’re all stupid.

  28. This issue of blown official calls has been going on since pro football started. Now, however, we have tons of camera angles, NFL films, audio, overhead shots, replays, social media, mic’d up players, a guy in NY to look at these plays…and they *still* can’t get it right often.

    If anything, it’s *worse* since the Saints-Rams fiasco. They are going to cost a team a championship and that will be bad for business.

  29. It was clearly a fumble and unclear who recovered. This is how all replays should be handled rather than stopping everything for the referee to watch replays on a tiny screen while asking someone else to control playback.

  30. It was clearly a fumble and unclear who recovered. This is how all replays should be handled rather than stopping everything for the referee to watch replays on a tiny screen while asking someone else to control playback.

    Normally I would agree with you, but any potential change of possession, especially that late in the 4th quarter in a close game HAS to be reviewed! I hate replay, and I hate how long it takes, but in that scenario you must get the call right. Isn’t that the whole point of having replay? To get the call right? If you aren’t even going to use the damn thing just trash the whole system

  31. Just another in a long list of games I didn’t watch this season and the biggest thing is I don’t really care when I miss one! The NFL is absolutely horrible this year between the piss poor product they’re putting on the field to all of the terrible calls they either won’t reverse or they just miss the call totally.

  32. More proof of bad officiating, that does not just in Packer games.

    They will never be perfect, but with TNF SNF and MNF more games get th3 spotlight, along with the calls that are or arent made

  33. Normally I would agree with you, but any potential change of possession, especially that late in the 4th quarter in a close game HAS to be reviewed! I hate replay, and I hate how long it takes, but in that scenario you must get the call right. Isn’t that the whole point of having replay? To get the call right? If you aren’t even going to use the damn thing just trash the whole system

    —-

    I think it was reviewed in the booth. I don’t think replay should take long at all from someone with direct access to the feeds. Review take so long because they go through the referee.

  34. Less obvious than the pass interference on Hopkins last week or the pick on McKinney on the Ingram TD, so we’ll call it a push.

  35. I think it was reviewed in the booth. I don’t think replay should take long at all from someone with direct access to the feeds. Review take so long because they go through the referees

    YES! Thank you! No refs, no coaches. All reviews are done by a team of nerds somewhere. And it’s much quicker.

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