The NFL acknowledged that referees erred in not penalizing the San Diego Chargers for an illegal formation on a missed 41-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Succop of the Kansas City Chiefs with 4 seconds left in regulation on Sunday.
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Succop was wide right on the kick, and the Chargers went on to win 27-24 in overtime to claim the AFC’s final playoff spot. The Pittsburgh Steelers would have been in the postseason had Kansas City won the game.
San Diego lined up with seven men on one side of the snapper, and NFL rules state no more than six players can be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper.
The NFL said in a statement Monday that the penalty should have been called by referee Bill Leavy’s crew, moving the ball 5 yards closer to the end zone and giving Succop another attempt at the game-winning field goal. Succop was 15 of 16 this season from within 40 yards.
The NFL did not say whether Leavy’s crew would be disciplined.
”We misaligned on it. I’m not going to deny it,” Chargers rookie coach Mike McCoy said Monday. ”But hey, those calls all balance themselves out over the year. They’re part of the game. We’re all human. … Things happen for a reason. We didn’t do it on purpose, I can tell you that.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid actually called his final timeout after the missed field goal and tried to convince the officiating crew of the illegal formation. But because illegal formations are not reviewable, Reid had no other recourse and the play stood.
”I called a timeout right there. That was for a reason,” Reid said. ”I couldn’t challenge, all I had was a timeout, so maybe they’d take a peek and read through the timeout and see what took place, but listen, human error. … There’s not much more you can say.”
The outcome of the game didn’t have any bearing on the Chiefs, who rested most of their starters. Kansas City was already assured of the No. 5 seed in the AFC playoffs and will head to Indianapolis on Saturday for a rematch of a game won two weeks ago by the Colts.
The result had significant repercussions for the Chargers and Steelers, though.
San Diego (9-7) earned the final AFC playoff spot when Nick Novak kicked a 36-yard field goal in overtime to win the game. The Chargers will visit Cincinnati in the wild-card round Sunday.
The Steelers (8-8), meanwhile, would have claimed the playoff spot through a series of tiebreakers had Kansas City won, and Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin even said Monday he knew the Chargers were lined up illegally before the field goal attempt.
”What transpired yesterday was unfortunate for our hopes moving forward. We’ll have to find a way to accept that and move forward,” Tomlin said. ”I’m not going to lose any sleep over something that happened in a stadium that we weren’t even in.”