National Football League
Officials get it right at crucial times
National Football League

Officials get it right at crucial times

Published Jan. 13, 2013 12:00 a.m. ET

The clock finally struck midnight late Sunday afternoon (how does that happen?) in Atlanta for the Cinderella Seahawks and their remarkable rookie quarterback Russell Wilson.

Then it didn't …

Then it did …

Call me crazy? Maybe, but let me explain.


Cinderella (aka Seattle) was going to the ball (the NFC Championship Game) in San Francisco. Had her reservations booked. Then Atlanta went all wicked stepmother on the Seahawks and stole the game back after blowing leads of 20-0 and 27-7 to defeat Seattle in a fairytale finish 30-28.

All thanks to a three-play, 41-yard drive that took quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons just 23 seconds to counter after the Seahawks took a 28-27 lead with just over 30 seconds left in the game.

First of all, it was a great game — well officiated and well played by both teams.

I want to talk about two plays, one at the end of the first half and one at the end of the game, both of which figured prominently in the outcome.

Let's start with the play as the first half was ending.


THE SITUATION: Seattle had the ball, third-and-goal from the 11-yard line with 20 seconds left in the half. Atlanta had the lead 20-0.

THE PLAY: Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson dropped back to pass and was sacked by Jonathan Babineaux. With Seattle out of timeouts, the Seahawks tried to scramble to get back to the line of scrimmage and get the ball snapped before time expired. On the 'FOX Box' score graphic up at the top of the screen, it looked like Wilson got the ball snapped with just a second left and he threw a pass to Sidney Rice, who walked into the end zone. But the scoreboard clock had expired and officials ruled that the half was over.

MY TAKE: After a rather easy first half to officiate, the last second of the second quarter provided the first hint of controversy. At the beginning of the second half, FOX superimposed the scoreboard game clock, which is the official clock and it did show that the clock hit double zero before the ball was snapped. The official clock and the ones shown graphically on the TV screen are not always in sync. It really wouldn't have a made a difference, since you could see the head linesman reaching for his flag to call a false start. All 11 Seahawks did not get set prior to the ball being snapped, which would have been called a false start . It also would have created a 10-second runoff. The half would have been over either way. By the way, the clock is never reviewable and can only be adjusted if there was a replay reversal for a reviewable play. It cost the Seahawks at the very least a shot at a potential field goal, which would have made a difference at the end.


THE SITUATION: Seattle had the ball, first-and-goal from the Atlanta 2-yard line with 34 seconds left in the game. Atlanta led 27-21.

THE PLAY: Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch carried the ball for two yards and as he approached the goal line he was hit by Atlanta's William Moore and the ball popped out. After a review, the officials confirmed that the ball broke the plane of the goal line, giving the Seahawks a touchdown.

MY TAKE: Excellent ruling by the officials and confirmed in replay. The interesting part of this play would have been if the ball had come loose before it broke the plane. In that case, it would have been reversed to a fumble. However, inside of two minutes, only the fumbling player can recover the ball in advance of the fumble spot. Therefore, the ball would have been returned to the spot of the fumble, but Seattle would have retained possession. It's also interesting to note that Seattle would have been assessed a 10-second runoff, since the reversal would have led to a running clock. Seattle could have used one of its timeouts to save the 10-second runoff.

Now we get San Francisco and Atlanta for the NFC title game. Seems like another fable in the making.

It just won't include Cinderella.

It almost did.

Then it didn't.


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