By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
After reviewing replays of several controversial calls from Sunday's 36-35 loss to Tampa Bay, Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said yesterday that officials erred in several instances, including on the Buccaneers' game-winning, two-point conversion in the final minute of play. Gibbs said he planned to submit video from the play that indicates Tampa Bay fullback Mike Alstott had not crossed the goal line, as well as several other clips, to NFL officials.
Gibbs said he believes that an offside penalty against the Redskins that negated a blocked extra point and caused the ball to be moved from the 2-yard line to the 1 and preceded Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden's decision to go for the two-point conversion also was incorrect. And he said that there should have been a defensive penalty on a first-half play in which Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell threw an interception.
There is no recourse for Gibbs, but he has routinely interacted with NFL officials on such matters and will eventually be informed if the league agrees with his assessment. "It's going to come back that we either missed it or we didn't," Gibbs said. "That's what they're going to say." Gibbs did not share the images he sent to the league with members of the media.
Gruden called for a handoff to fullback Mike Alstott, who had scored twice from close range earlier in the game, on the two-point attempt. Alstott opted to plow through the pile of players on the play rather than hurtle himself over it as he had done on the two touchdowns. Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington jumped, anticipating Alstott would dive, and flew over the ballcarrier instead. "I was like, 'Jeez, I'm about to hit him face-to-face,' " Arrington said he thought to himself before falling to the turf.
Safety Ryan Clark hit Alstott, spinning his back to the goal line, but Alstott bulled forward as linebacker Khary Campbell tried to wrap both arms around him. Soon thereafter Alstott's elbow hit the ground, and officials ruled that the conversion was successful.
Redskins players objected and the NFL's on-site review assistant stopped play for a video review. Referee Bill Vinovich reviewed the tapes on the sidelines, then ruled the conversion was good as Gibbs reacted by waving his arm dejectedly.
Gibbs, who was fined $10,000 by the league for comments he made about the officiating after the team's loss last month at Denver, raised the issue of the replay decision in comments immediately after the game. Yesterday, he examined tapes of the play from various angles, finding one he said meets the league's standard of "indisputable visual evidence," to prompt a reversal of the on-field call.
"We have a very clear film shot of the ballcarrier on the ground about six inches short," Gibbs said. "It's the same thing as everybody else saw. So we'll turn it in. I don't know what else you can do."
Moments before that conversion, the Redskins blocked Matt Bryant's extra-point attempt, which appeared to clinch a 35-34 win for Washington. But officials ruled the Redskins were offside on the play, and they were penalized half the distance to the goal line. Gibbs said he is unsure if cornerback Shawn Springs or cornerback Walt Harris got his hand on the ball, but maintains that no players were across the line before the ball was snapped.
Special teams coach Danny Smith worked with players on blocking kicks in practice last week after studying film of Tampa Bay, finding a tendency he thought would work in Washington's favor. Gibbs agreed with that aggressive mentality, even in a critical situation, and said that Tampa Bay long snapper Dave Moore lifted the ball before snapping it.
"The center picked the ball up a little bit and we felt like we got it off right when he picked it up," Gibbs said. "We probably looked at it 30 times in there with Danny and I'd say we kind of got right off on it. That could have won it for us."
As for the decision to go for a block when the extra point would have tied the game with 58 seconds left, giving Washington's offense another shot in regulation in a game in which it was moving the ball well, Gibbs said, "If you have a chance to win the game, you're going to try to go for the game."
Gibbs said he planned to submit a copy of Tampa Bay wide receiver Joey Galloway's 34-yard reception, which went to the 3 and set up the Buccaneers' first touchdown, to the NFL as well. Galloway had just one foot in bounds on the play, but officials ruled that safety Pierson Prioleau had pushed Galloway out, making it a completion. Gibbs said film indicates Prioleau never made contact. That play is not subject to a coach's challenge during the game.
Gibbs also said Tampa Bay cornerback Juran Bolden pulled wide receiver Santana Moss's jersey before making an interception, which would be an illegal contact penalty.
Numerous Redskins players maintained that the game should have never come down to the final conversion, however, attributing the loss to Washington's three turnovers, a failure to get a first down in the final minutes to run out the clock, an inability to stop Tampa Bay's offense on key third downs and a propensity to allow big plays on defense. The Redskins (5-4) have dropped four of their last six games and have the NFL's second-worst turnover differential (minus-11).
"You can't put the onus on the officials when you lose ballgames because there are too many plays left out there we could have made," safety Matt Bowen said.
"It should have never come down to being that close, that's the bottom line," Arrington said. "I'm not even going to criticize them one way or the other. It's always going to be a biased opinion, depending which way the call goes."
Tackle Jon Jansen said: "If we get a first down the game is over. It's pretty easy to state and you can't always count on those things [replay decisions] to go your way."
Gibbs stopped short of sharing those exact sentiments. "You'd like to say, 'Well, we don't want it to come down to that,' " he said. "But to be quite truthful, up here it can come down to that."
However, the Hall of Fame coach said he supports the replay system. Coaches did not have the option to challenge plays during Gibbs's initial tenure with the team -- the replay review system began in 1999 -- and he feels it is a beneficial tool.
"Certainly if we didn't have it, I'd really be concerned because at least this way if there's something that's obvious, anyway, we're going to get an overturn on it," Gibbs said. "So I feel pretty good about the fact we can do those things."