At times, NFL needs to slow things down for “expedited review” to work

NFL: JAN 29 NFC Championship - 49ers at Eagles
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The opening drive of Sunday’s NFC Championship included an opening-drive fourth-down conversion that shouldn’t have been.

Receiver DeVonta Smith made what appeared to be a great catch on fourth and three from the San Francisco 35. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan could have challenged the play, but the key replay wasn’t immediately available.

Some have suggested that Shanahan should have realized from the manner in which the Eagles rushed to the line to snap the ball that something about the catch was amiss. Still, without seeing the play, the idea of burning a challenge on a hunch that early in the game made little sense.

Enter expedited review. As explained during the game, the NFL has the power to alter plays without a formal replay review. Under one of various specific categories in the rulebook (more on that in a later post), the replay assistant or the league office can intervene, if the ruling on the field was clearly and obviously wrong.

As to the Smith non-catch, the league office has access to all Fox camera angles, and more, in real time. The evidence was available to be seen, if someone had enough time to see it.

That’s where the longstanding habit of teams rushing to snap the ball becomes critical. As Chris Simms pointed out during Monday’s PFT Live, in what other sport is the action rushed forward to prevent a mistake from being fixed?

In this case, how hard would it be for the league office to instruct the referee to pause the action so that expedited review wouldn’t have to be quite so expedited?

Would it slow the game down by 10 or 20 seconds? Sure. But if the goal is to get things right, it’s time well spent.

It’s a case-by-case, know-it-when-you-see-it test. For the same reason Shanahan should have wondered whether a challenge flag may have been justified, the league office should have realized that the Eagles were trying to cut off any type of review process by getting the ball snapped.

Consider the difference in this case. Instead of the Eagles getting an ill-gotten first and goal that, two plays later, became a touchdown, the 49ers would have had a first and 10 from their own 35.

With or without the Brock Purdy injury (which may or may not have happened if the ensuing drive had begun at the 35 instead of the 25), things would have been very different as a result of the first drive of the game.

The league is fortunate that the catch and the touchdown it set up didn’t impact the outcome of the game. But the league should treat the situation as if it did, in order to spur the kind of change necessary to ensure that a team won’t short-circuit expedited review by getting the ball snapped and cutting off any chance to fix a clear and obvious mistake.

25 responses to “At times, NFL needs to slow things down for “expedited review” to work

  1. Then the team would do that all the time. Also couldnt the Bengals have called timeout? Its fourth down.

  2. Then you have the overcorrection we saw in the KC game where they gave kc 2 chances to convert 3rd and long (for the sake of saving a few mistakenly lost game seconds). At what point does common sense factor into officiating???

  3. Could not agree more with this. The “rushing” up to the line to get a play off is the dummest thing ever. Make the right call the first time.

  4. But the catch and touchdown did, in fact, impact the outcome of the game, just as you laid out. The Eagles score and Purdy ends up getting hurt, followed by Johnson, ultimately turning the game into a blowout. Who know what would have happened I’d they had gotten the call right? Eagles may well still have won (they were the favorites after all), but it probably would have been a very good game. We’ll never know, but butterfly effect and all…

  5. I’d be much more concerned with the do-over on 3rd and 9 that the Chiefs got. I’d be livid if I was Bengals fan.

  6. I have a run of the mill LG TV. It has a “live zoom” feature which allows me to zoom in on any part of the screen at will. I saw the non-catch immediately with only the original replay provided by FOX.
    I don’t understand how they didn’t see it as well. This TV was $600…

  7. I really don’t want the game slowed down more. I can accept a missed call at times, In this specific case, both coaches had the opportunity to challenge. The challenge should be on them, when coaches don’t have challenge flags, the league should be reviewing plays, but overkill is not needed.

    And the chiefs extra down should have just added 3 seconds to the game clock at the end of the play. They add seconds to the clock all the time. It was a simple fix. The refs are asked to do way too much at this point

  8. Hey! It looked good to everyone including the folks in tv…everyone was focused on the great one handed snag. It’s nobody’s fault it wasn’t reviewed except the 49ers hc. What was he saving his red revie flags for?!

  9. I’m surprised Davonta Smith’s repeated use of the hand signal didn’t tip off the Niners coaches. It did me and I even said it out loud. He (over) acted like he knew it likely wouldn’t hold up to replay. New signal for the next game for the Eagles, guaranteed. And little less subtle.

  10. expedited review is unfair. how come reid had to use a challenge to get the first down but taylor did not have to use it for the one the league reviewed for him for free

  11. What does one mean when it didnt impact the outcome of the game? What happens if the other team scores because it was a 4th down play and they get good field position. Now the other team might not risk 4th downs again and the other team is the one playing from behind. Yes as a general rule a bad call or a bad play early doesnt effect the outcome of the game – but the same as a long 3rd down pass into the other teams end where it is intercepted and acts the same as a punt – but it is a turnover and teams who lose turnovers lose the game – just a statistic – this one is more meaningful than others IMO. Maybe add an officials review if they think that something might have been missed – just like the punt that probably hit the game camera wire.

  12. And while you’re at it you can look at the play by the 9ers that threw an Eagles player to the ground but the Eagles get called for a 15 yard penalty that pushed them back to the 15.

  13. As I have said before – get rid of the expedited review team in New York and the challenge team in New York and put an additional referee in the stands and a mike in the referees ear. Two way contact to advise the on the field official of an aggregious missed call and a review team with all the camera angles – much quicker and while they are at it put an assistant in the booth with a mike in the ear of the lines judge and he simply states – ZERO and the linesperson can throw the flag if the ball isnt snapped – this look here and look back is plane and simple amateur hour.

  14. “The idea of burning a challenge on a hunch that early in the game made little sense.”

    I usually agree with you, Mike, but REALLY? It made little sense to look at the way Smith rushed them to the line instead of celebrating his catch and decide to risk a first half timeout and one of two challenges that are devalued anyway with the new expedited replay? Hard disagree. I was yelling challenge at the time. Absolute no brainer.

  15. A “hunch” isn’t some wild, out of the blue, reaction. It’s a “data driven” decision based on your collective experience. It absolutely was worth it there. That was a game flipping play – if it wasn’t a catch, the Niners take over on downs. This is precisely why they red challenge flag was created. If you Sue it for only the most obvious of plays, you’re using it wrong.

    Even without the benefit of a more definitive replay, the actions of the Eagles’ players, and particularly Smith, should have been more than enough to clue Kyle into what happened. He should have immediately started thinking “something is up here”. But hey, he also helped choke away a 28-3 lead because he didn’t know how to run a running play.

  16. before the lawyers started running the league, everyone knew what a catch was. thus the need for a process that would still undoubtedly miss a lot of potential bad calls would be obviated.

    the game absolutely does not need more refereeing. anyone watching yesterday’s games should have a recent reminder. they call the personal foul on mahomes last run but completely ignore the holding on the same play. how does that get fixed?

  17. Let’s stop trying to cover for Shanahan’s screw up.

    Let’s review what happened.
    1 – the guy “makes” a catch that is a once in 10 or 20 attempts? A very low probability that it was complete.
    2 – it was very important in the scheme of the game up to that point.
    3 – the receiver got up and started waiving his team to the line to run a play so replay can’t see it.

    All Shanahan had to do was call timeout to assess better whether to challenge. He ended up carrying a timeout into half time.

    Shanahan is a terrible coach for game awareness unless it’s on offense.

  18. Bottom line is the refs have to get that call right. It was an obvious incompletion.

    You could say Hufanga should have made a bigger deal to Shanahan about challenging. He was right there and had the perfect view. But the refs still have to get that call right.

  19. I love the way everyone here knows exactly what should have been done, of course you all know what happened so you got the advantage. If that would have happened and SF called a time out of a challenge and it was a catch then everyone here that is saying they shouldn’t have challenged will be say what where they thinking. They never should have challenged that. You see how this works with 20/20 hindsight. If you want to make a rule about not rushing to the line try to tell that to the D when there is 30 seconds left and the other team is rushing to the line then.

  20. The game was lost the instant Shanny failed to call a TO after the game changing 4th and 3, full stop. Clearly was NOT a catch and instead niners going down 7-0, they get the ball on their 30. Game likely starts with niners up 7-0 and the fluke injury to Purdy never happens as the subsequent sequence of plays would have changed. Eagles deserve the win due to inferior coaching by the niners. Same guy who blew a 25 point lead in the SB when he had an 8 point lead late in the 4th qtr on the Pats 29 (easy FG for the win) and instead of milking the clock with two simple run plays for the win, he ends up punting for the loss. Pathetic.

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