What happened in San Francisco during the Rams-49ers game was truly the definition of wild.
I guess I should start with the final score: San Francisco 24, St. Louis 24. That alone makes it a little strange. It’s the first tie in the NFL since Cincinnati and Philadelphia played to a 13-13 tie in 2008.
But it gets better.
Let’s start with the overtime. Here was the situation: The Rams had first possession and this play took place on first-and-10 from the St. Louis 18-yard line.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford completed an 80-yard pass to Danny Amendola, who was knocked out of bounds at the 2-yard line. Remember, if a team scores a touchdown on the first possession the game is over.
But, and this is a BIG but, the Rams’ left tackle Rodger Saffold was called for illegal substitution for failure to report as an eligible player.
However, it was really an illegal formation that was caused by wide receiver Brandon Gibson. Gibson was supposed to be lined up on the line of scrimmage, but he was actually in the backfield.
That put Saffold on the end of the line and the only way he could be there legally with the No. 76 on his jersey would have been to report as a numbering exception. Even if he had reported, the formation is illegal because Gibson lined up in the backfield and the Rams only had six players on the line of scrimmage.
In the NFL, you must have seven on the line. The head linesman delayed his call because he wanted to check with the referee to see if Saffold had reported. In the end, it didn’t make a difference as it was a foul either way. The referees got this one right.
Now about the one the officials got wrong …
As the Rolling Stones once said, time waits for no one. But in this game, it should have.
There were 72 seconds that ticked off the clock during the second quarter and no one caught it.
It might be time to make some changes in the NFL regarding the operation of the clock and who oversees it.
Here was the situation: San Francisco had the ball, third-and-15 from the St. Louis 48-yard line with 13:40 left in the second quarter. St. Louis led 14-0.
San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith completed a 14-yard pass to Michael Crabtree and he was tackled out of bounds by Craig Dahl and Cortland Finnegan.
The clock stopped at 13:32. However, when the officials were measuring to see if the 49ers got a first down, the clock started to run. It didn’t stop until 12:20.
The officials re-spotted the ball after the measurement and the referee wound the clock properly for the next play. The officials then stopped the clock with 12:13 remaining to see if there was a clock error. Referee Clete Blakeman announced, ”we’re checking the game clock for accuracy.” After another delay, Blakeman came back and said: ”the clock was correct and it’s fourth and short.”
Who the heck did he check with?
Obviously, it was somebody who didn’t know what they were talking about.
So who is responsible?
Rule 4, Section 1, Article 4 states: ”The stadium electric clock shall be the official time. The game clock operator shall start and stop the clock upon the signal of any official in accordance with the rules. The Line Judge shall supervise timing of the game, and in case the stadium clock becomes inoperable, or if it is not being operated correctly, he shall take over official timing on the field. Note: Game officials can correct the game clock only before the next legal snap or kick, including an untimed down or try.”
In the end, eight people were responsible. Why the clock operator started the clock is beyond me. And how the line judge, who also keeps the time on the field as a backup, didn’t catch this was also a surprise. In reality, we used to say in the NFL that there were ”seven line judges” on the field. That meant all seven officials must be aware of the status of the clock.
One minute and 12 seconds is a lot of time in a football game. It’s unacceptable for this to happen in the NFL.
Perhaps the league needs to look at how they employ and train the 32 game clock operators in the NFL. The league does hire the clock operators, but they are local people with the exception of playoff games. Clock operators from neutral sites are then brought in.
FOX announcer Tim Ryan mentioned during the broadcast that Rams coach Jeff Fisher has voiced his concerned about clock operators in the past and as a member of the competition committee, he will likely bring this up again.