The AFC Championship was nearly marred by a bizarre decision to wipe out a failed Kansas City third down in the fourth quarter. The drive eventually ended in a punt, not a score, making the moment less controversial.
It still was a mess.
After the game, referee Ron Torbert explained the decision that gave the Chiefs a do-over on third and nine.
“On the previous play, there was an incomplete pass,” Torbert told Ben Baby of ESPN.com. “We spotted the ball, but the line judge came in and re-spotted the ball because the spot was off. We reset the play clock and the game clock started running. It should not have started running because there was an incomplete pass on the previous play. The field judge noticed that the game clock was running. He was coming in to shut the play down so that we could get the clock fixed but nobody heard him, and the play was run. After the play was over, he came in and we discussed that he was trying to shut the play down before the ball had been snapped. So we reset the game clock back to where it was before that snap and replayed third down.”
Torbert went on to explain that this is the normal protocol for situations like this.
Basically, the clock operator screwed up. But the mistake could have been rectified after the fact, using video evidence to add the time back to the clock that was lost by the clock error.
Prediction? Someone will be reporting in the coming days that the league will look at this specific rule in the offseason, in order to come up with a better way to replace the lost seconds after the next play has begun. Mulligans should be used only as a last resort, to avoid something that can’t be fixed.
Like when a punt hits a Skycam cable. (Oh, wait.)