The Zach Pascal fumble triggered four mistakes in officiating

USA TODAY Sports

Facing fourth and 10 from his own 37 with 50 seconds left in Saturday’s Super Wild Card opener, Colts quarterback Philip Rivers found receiver Zach Pascal for a first down. When Pascal, who went to the ground to make the catch, got up and tried to run, things got interesting.

What happened next sparked four different mistakes by the NFL’s officiating function.

First, when Pascal got up (untouched) and tried to advance the ball, he fumbled it. Buffalo recovered, putting it two kneel-downs away from victory, since the Colts had no timeouts. The officials missed that Pascal had gotten up before he fumbled, ruling Pascal down by contact.

Second, the NFL’s in-house review function failed to realize that the play needed to be reviewed, forcing the Bills to take a timeout and hoping that executive V.P. of officiating Al Riveron would realize that the play should be reviewed and should be overturned.

Third, the ruling on the field should have been overturned, but it wasn’t overturned. How was it not overturned? It’s clear and obvious that Pascal wasn’t touched before he got up, it’s clear and obvious that the ball was out before he was tackled again, and it’s clear and obvious that the Bills recovered the fumble.

Fourth, the final explanation from referee Brad Allen — that the Bills won’t be charged a timeout because the replay review was activated by the league office — is simply incorrect. The league office buzzes and speaks to Allen. Allen would have known if he’d been contacted by the league before the Bills called a timeout.

The first three mistakes hurt the Bills. The fourth one helped them, allowing them to call a timeout later when they didn’t like the look they were getting from the Colts on second and 11 with 14 seconds left.

The NFL’s officiating department already has chimed in with an explanation that conveys the magic words but provides no real explanation: “[T]he ruling on the field is that the runner was down by contact. The was no clear and obvious visual evidence to overturn the ruling, so it stands.”

With all due respect, that’s incorrect. And if the Colts had managed to win the game, the league office would be dealing with the wrath of Buffalo fans for weeks if not months if not years to come.

32 responses to “The Zach Pascal fumble triggered four mistakes in officiating

  1. There was ZERO doubt that it was Buffalo ball after looking at the replay one time. After seeing it 4x it was unbelievable that there was any grounds for the call to stand.

  2. Lots of words for the one officiating error that was bang bang. No words for the awful officiating that handed Buffalo the game.

  3. sort of like 2 of the three earlier calls that were awarded to the Bills, because there was “insufficient evidence” to overturn the call. Let’s be honest…Bills didn’t play that well and will need to step their playoff football in order to make it through…..Colts offense had what….i think like 473 yards. Their defense WILL need to play better! Good Luck!

  4. I’m still amazed Riveron is head of officiating. Something other than his job performance keeps him there

  5. NFL sure dodged that lousy call. Bills fans thirsty for a win may have stormed league offices and s*at in Goodell’s chair.

  6. Arguably a worse call than the Saints one, as they had chance to look at this multiple times

  7. It almost seems like replay is now trying to look at plays through the lens of the officials’ eyes during real time rather than simply getting the call right.

  8. I think the defender’s hand hit his towel while his knee was on the ground, just before the same hand touched his back, which happened after the knee was back up. At least close enough that could make it inconclusive.

  9. The replay seemed to focus on about 3 frames of video, from two or three angles.

    Do they not have the technology to sync the frames between the different camera angles? Showing clearly, at xx:xx.xxxx time on Angle 1, and at the same exact time and frame, from Angle 2? They could show, side by side, that the receiver’s knee was up and the defender’s hand had yet to make contact. Boom, replay over, keep it moving.

    These replays take entirely too long, which I understand the broadcasters wanting to squeeze in an ad break. But when the viewers know what happened before the break, and after the break the official is still under the hood, and then they still get the call wrong… that doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in officiating.

  10. Hard to overturn the call on the field. But I don’t get the TO situation. That was sketchy. Good game Colts. Coach left points on the field. Why go for two? No purpose at all. And the going for it on fourth was fine except for the playcalling.

  11. I’ll add 3 more to your list:

    #5 It looked to me like the Bills’ first (then returned to them) timeout wasn’t called before the play anyway. The Colts had time to snap the ball, run a play and throw a pass before they whistled it dead.

    #6 On the last third down the receiver went out of bounds with about 19 seconds on the clock, they let the clock run down to 12 seconds, but then only added 2 seconds back to the time.

    #7 On the Bills’ last timeout you can see McDermott in the background calling for timeout a split second after the ball was snapped, yet they gave it to him.

    All in all, a terrible display officiating on that final drive.

  12. The Bills player touched Pascal on the back before his knee was completely off of the ground. Then the Chargers CLEARLY snaped the ball before the refs ran in and stopped the play for the Bills time-out, it was to late the play should have been let run, they aren’t allowed to stop a play in progress which is exactly what they did, so giving the ball back to the Chargers was the correct thing to do regardless if it was a fumble or not, even if the refs missed the call that’s on them and it isn’t the first call the refs ever missed and it damn sure won’t be the last, they’re famous for missing calls!

  13. No point in having replay if you are not going to make the correct call from it. That was a 100% fumble and game over.

  14. In my opinion, the officials are way too attached to the call on the field.

    The call on the field should only be the default if they literally cannot see the play on replay (if, for example, an official/player is obscuring the view of the play), otherwise just make the call based on what you see on replay and forget the call on the field.

    I agree that it was clearly and obviously a fumble on replay.

  15. No one is talking about the bad calls in the first half when both receivers catches were clearly out of bounds, Even on replay you could see it so what’s up with that. Refs gave us one (but his knee was on the ground) but gave them 2.

  16. Steve Cunningham says:
    January 9, 2021 at 7:01 pm
    The Bills player touched Pascal on the back before his knee was completely off of the ground. Then the Chargers CLEARLY snaped the ball…
    ————-
    Oh sweet lord, this is the best! No one near touching the receiver AND this guy is watching a Chargers game somehow! What a classic. Must be a huge Colts fan… or… something.

  17. The refs went against Buffalo that whole game. There were 4 delay of game penalties that were never called against Indy. There was a face mask on a Buffalo punt return that was clearly ignored. Then, in the crucial minutes of the game, that fumble by Pascal. The Bills didn’t bring their A game today, but going against Indy and the refs are wasn’t fair. I hope this officiating crew doesn’t call another game this year, a playoff game shouldn’t be decided by bias officiating.

  18. Bad calls/non-calls against both teams this game, with the obvious fumble being the most egregious. Pretty much the same in every game I watch though, so not sure I can say I’m surprised.

    I get that its easy to miss something on the field in real time with 22 players all moving at once, but it is inexcusable that replay misses so many obvious calls time and time again.

    I seriously think a 100 random fans with a yes / no button to vote on TV replays could consistently do a better job, and faster, than what the current officials come up with after 5 minutes under the hood.

  19. If the Bills timeout didn’t count – because they were going to review the fumble anyway – there should have been a 10 sec runoff because the clock was running. They missed that.

  20. Steve Cunningham says:
    January 9, 2021 at 7:01 pm
    The Bills player touched Pascal on the back before his knee was completely off of the ground. Then the Chargers CLEARLY snaped the ball before the refs ran in and stopped the play for the Bills time-out, it was to late the play should have been let run, they aren’t allowed to stop a play in progress which is exactly what they did, so giving the ball back to the Chargers was the correct thing to do regardless if it was a fumble or not, even if the refs missed the call that’s on them and it isn’t the first call the refs ever missed and it damn sure won’t be the last, they’re famous for missing calls!

    5 34 Rate This
    _____________
    Buffalo got their timeout back because they shouldn’t have had to call one in the first place. The replay ref in New York must have been sleeping that he didn’t chime in and had the play reviewed. Indy tried to hurry and get a play in…as the commentator said early in the game, you can hustle the other team.. You can’t hustle the refs.

  21. No way on earth there was “clear and obvious” evidence to overturn the call on the field, no idea what would make you think they should have overturned it??

  22. I love the way the Bills defense projected confidence and character after that play and through the finish. They do seem to soften up every time the Bills get a sizeable lead. Too many time the opponent puts up a quick score after a lead. That is when you gotta bring IT.

  23. The referee giving the Bills their timeout felt a lot like he strenuously disagreed with the Riveron and was trying to balance the books as well as he could.

  24. McDermott was shouting at the official for a timeout for 3 seconds before he blew the whistle, and the official definitely began the motion to signal the timeout before the ball was snapped. They got that right.

    On the 19 seconds to 12 seconds play, the ball was fumbled backwards and ultimately OB. They got that right as well.

    The broadcast froze it from two directions. Dude’s knees were off the frund before he was touched. Clearly. Incontrovertibly. Up. Fumble. Felt a LOT like the end of the Bills Patriots game that convinced Ralph Wilson to vote for Instant Replay 25ish years ago. (Troy Brown caught a ball flying sideways when no part of his body was inbounds – officials said give ut to him, followed by Hail Mary where officials called pass interference with no time left, giving Patriots ball at one. Yeah. Similar feel.)

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