Nearly thirteen years ago, a controversial non-call of delay of game happened in a Ravens win over the Titans in the playoffs. It happened again on Sunday, and it benefited the Ravens, again.
On the play preceding the game-winning, 66-yard field goal from Justin Tucker, the play clock expired before quarterback Lamar Jackson got the snap. No flag was thrown.
After the game, referee Scott Novak explained the failure to call a delay-of-game foul to pool reporter Justin Rogers.
“As far as our mechanics, the back judge is looking at the play clock and if it were to hit zero, he sees the zero, and he then looks to see if the ball is being snapped,” Novak said. “If the ball is being snapped, we will let the play go. If it’s not moving, it’s delay of game. Those are the mechanics that we apply on that play.”
Those mechanics build in a second or two — or, as the case may be, 1.6 seconds — after the clock strikes zero.
Novak added that there was no reason to believe the back judge wasn’t in position. And there really is no reason to believe that. It’s the exact same explanation referee Terry McAulay provided after the Ravens-Titans playoff game in early 2009.
The problem isn’t the back judge, it’s the process. The NFL should use a loud buzzer, like basketball does with a play clock. That would remove all uncertainty. If the ball isn’t snapped when the buzzer goes off, it’s delay of game.
It would be fair. It would be objective. And it would completely remove any suggestion that something untoward occurred. Which is what always happens when something like this goes down.