At the end of the Giants' win against the Redskins on Sunday night, there was a big controversy involving the officials that, though it didn't cause Washington to lose, didn't help the coaching staff as it tried to call plays that would get the ball down the field quickly on the last-minute drive.
After a 4-yard gain should have given the Redskins a third-and-1, one official told coach Mike Shanahan that it was first down and the chain gang moved into first-down position. Meanwhile, referee Jeff Triplette, the one who was keeping the official count, signaled twice that it was third down.
As footballzebras.com points out, the down box (which showed first down after the 4-yard gain before it inexplicably went to fourth down) is not official. Only Triplette's call is.
After the game, Triplette told a pool reporter that the chains should not have moved.
"I feel like we signaled third down," Triplette told pool reporter Zac Boyer of the Washington Times. "The stakes just got moved incorrectly."
The NFL, meanwhile, released a statement Monday afternoon in which it acknowledged the head linesman incorrectly directed the chain crew to advance the chains but also said play should have been halted.
"In this situation where there is obvious confusion as to the status of the down, play should have been stopped prior to third down and the correct down communicated to both clubs," Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, said in a statement. "This should have occurred regardless of the fact that Washington had no timeouts and it was inside two minutes.
"Only the referee can rule and signal a first down. The official nearest to the down markers and chain crew, the head linesman, must wait for the first down signal from the referee before moving the chains.
Instant Replay did not become involved in this situation because the replay official determined that the ball on Garcon's catch was correctly spotted short of the line to gain for a first down.
Here's the entire exchange between Triplette and Boyer, via footballzebras.com:
Q: Jeff, can you take me through the sequence of events on that last drive for the Redskins, where it was called a first down after the incomplete pass to Fred Davis, and then suddenly now became a third down/fourth down situation. Davis did not catch the pass over the middle. He was told it would be a second down. You announced on the speakers that that was a third-down play and that the following play would be fourth down. Can you take me through what happened there?
Triplette: There was a second down, moved to third. It was complete there at the sideline but not a first down. We signaled third down on the field. The stakes were moved incorrectly. After that play, we said it was still third down. We had signaled third down prior to the play starting. The stakes just got moved incorrectly.
Q: What is the typical procedure in that situation where the stakes are moved incorrectly?
Triplette: Normally, if it's outside the two, we would shut the play down in that situation, but there are no timeouts in this situation. We just didn't shut it down in that situation because that would have given an unfair advantage.
Q: Now, specially, Mike Shanahan just said that one of the officials told him it was first down, or he was going to ask for the measurement. He then said that after it was announced as being a fourth-down play [and that the previous play was a] third-down play, he said, "Hey, you told me that was a first-down play. What's going on here?" That official then just didn't give him a response and continued walking.
Triplette: I can't respond to that. I don't know what happened. I just know that we had signaled third down on the play at the sideline, made it third down.
Q: Do you feel that was adequately communicated to the coaches?
Triplette: I feel like we signaled third down. The stakes just got moved incorrectly.
I understand Triplette's explanation, but you can understand why the Redskins were upset at the time. Even if it didn't directly cause Washington to lose the game.
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