Teams at mercy of network cameras for replays

Andy Reid hangs onto that red challenge flag more than any coach

in the NFL, so it’s no surprise he didn’t throw it following a

questionable interception during the Eagles’ 35-31 loss at Atlanta

last Sunday night.

Turns out the problem wasn’t Reid’s reluctance to lose a

precious timeout early in the third quarter. His staff simply

didn’t see a conclusive replay in time to tell him to challenge the

call because NBC’s cameras didn’t show quickly enough.

This wasn’t the first time this has happened to Philadelphia,

either.

On the Eagles’ first possession of the second half against the

Falcons, Michael Vick’s pass intended for Jason Avant was

intercepted by Kelvin Hayden near midfield. Hayden made a diving

grab, got up and ran two yards before he was tackled.

NBC showed three replays before the Falcons ran their next play,

but none made it clear the ball bounced before Hayden caught it.

Reid relies mostly on his assistants watching replays in the booth

to tell him to challenge if it’s not obvious. His staff didn’t have

reason to dispute Hayden’s grab based on the first three

replays.

The Falcons needed just two plays to score a touchdown to go up

21-10 on their way to the four-point victory.

During the commercial after the score, a producer watched a

fourth replay which showed Hayden didn’t make a clean catch. NBC

then showed that replay, even though it was too late to change the

result. NBC has more cameras for Sunday Night Football than any

other network has for a regular-season game. In this case, it

didn’t help the Eagles.

”There was no replay for us to look at, and I actually had the

people from the broadcast apologize, send me an e-mail and

apologize on that,” Reid explained. ”But listen, that’s hindsight

now.”

Avant had a field-level view of the play, and he ran off the

field protesting the interception. But Reid wanted confirmation

from his eyes in the booth.

”As a receiver, I catch balls in the dirt all the time,” Avant

said. ”One thing that you can tell by is how quickly the guy gets

up. If you catch it clean, you get up right away. But he was down

on the ground because he was fumbling around with it.”

The play proved to be a critical one, though other factors,

including Vick suffering a concussion, contributed to

Philadelphia’s loss.

Still, NBC producer Fred Gaudelli apologized to Reid, and issued

the following statement the next day.

”Unfortunately, it’s somewhat the nature of the replay

system,” Gaudelli said. ”Time just ran out. There were 40 seconds

in between the interception and the next play from scrimmage. We

were quickly able to show three replays during that span. We didn’t

have the fourth and conclusive replay until after the Falcons took

possession. Even though it could no longer be used for a challenge,

we showed that replay because it’s our job to get it right. After

the game I e-mailed the team because I felt bad that the conclusive

play wasn’t immediately available.”

This wasn’t the first time the Eagles were burned by slow

cameras.

Last December at New Meadowlands Stadium, DeSean Jackson fumbled

following a 30-yard catch and the Giants recovered at midfield.

That game was broadcast on Fox. Replays showed the ball came loose

after Jackson hit the ground, so it shouldn’t have been ruled a

fumble. Reid pulled the red flag out, held it in his right hand and

waited for an assistant in the booth to tell him to throw it. But

they didn’t see the conclusive replay quickly enough.

The Eagles rallied furiously to win that game, 38-31, so the

play didn’t affect the outcome. But this makes two incidents in the

last four regular-season games.

”If I have a good angle on it, I’ll make that call. And if I

get the support from somebody seeing a replay of it, then I’ll take

that,” Reid said. ”We’ve had a couple cases. I mentioned the one

last year against the Giants up there, there was no replay, and

this one here, there was no replay. And I didn’t have a great view

of either one. It was one of those things where you have to live

with it, man. It’s hindsight. So I’m not going to do anything about

it now, there’s nothing you can do.”

The networks say they understand teams rely on them to show the

replays, and they emphasize that they’re doing the best they

can.

”Our goal is to try to offer the definitive look at a key play

as quickly as we can provide it,” ESPN said in a statement.

Fox said the same.

”Our NFL game coverage is produced for the entertainment of

fans, and our goal with replays is to run the best angle we see

first and go from there given the time available,” Fox said in its

statement.

The Eagles have had fewer challenges than any other team since

Reid became head coach in 1999. Given their recent luck, perhaps

Reid should toss that red flag more often.

AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen in New York contributed to this

report.