As the Chiefs moved toward what became the game-winning touchdown in Super Bowl LIV, things got very interesting. Facing third and goal from the five, questions already were swirling regarding the possibility that the Chiefs would opt to tie the game at 20 with a field goal or to go for the touchdown on fourth down.
Thanks to a catch and run from running back Damien Williams, the fourth-down dilemma became moot. Making it moot was the decision by the officials that Williams had gotten the ball to the front of the end zone before stepping out of bounds.
Replay evidence was inconclusive as to whether the ball broke the plane before or after Williams stepped out of bounds. Thus, whatever the ruling on the field, it wouldn’t have been overturned by replay review.
But is that the best way to make decisions like this? Appearing last week on PFT Live as an ambassador of Zebra Technologies, Saints coach Sean Payton mentioned the things that can be done to make questions like whether the ball crossed the plane before the foot landed out of bounds objective and undeniable. In our view, the only question is whether and when the NFL will spend the money to fully and completely embrace these opportunities.
As said every week during the opening of The Six Million Dollar Man (yeah, I’m old), “We have the technology.” And with that technology the NFL can rebuild an officiating function that still relies excessively on the frailties of the naked eye and two poles and 10 yards of chain link.