Philadelphia cornerback Herman Edwards insisted today there was "absolutely no way" Wallace Francis should have been given possession of the 49-yard, fourth-quarter pass that helped the Atlanta Falcon rally for a 14-13 victory over the Eagles.
This catch that led to Atlanta's first touchdown was described by Falcon Coach Leeman Bennett as the turning point. "Wallace made a great play because it appeared the ball might be intercepted."
Edwards, the defender on the play, said it was intercepted.
"I caught the ball even before he got there," Edwards said. "He never had the football. I think the refs were kind of intimidated by the crowd.
"Even before I caught the ball, he pushed me, and I still caught it. When I fell down, he fell right on top of me and we started wresting for it. But I had it the whole way. There's no doubt in my mind.
"If there's any king of replay in the world, you'll see it. But right now, that's neither here nor there. That play gave them the momentum, and that's that. It's a tough way to end a season."
I know definitely that I did not push him off," Francis said. "I was just hustling for the ball, and so was he."
"It's not who has the ball either. We both grabbed it at the same time and when we hit the ground I had it. But there was no contact before the catch, I know that.
"In the fight for the ball, either I was a little stronger or maybe I just wanted it more. I definitely thought they made the right call."
Francis also was the target on the game-tying touchdown, a 37-yard pass from Steve Bartkowski with 1:39 left in the game, followed by Tim Mazzetti's winning conversion.
Earlier in the series, Francis told Bartkoswki he could get open on what the Falcons call an 82 pattern. If the Eagles were in man-for-man coverage, he was supposed to go deep over the middle. If they were in a zone, the route was 14-yard curl pattern to the sideline.
"It was single coverage and I just gave the safety a move to the inside and he went for it," Francis said, "That was (Eagle safety) Randy Logan. I had given him the same pattern earlier in the game and caught a curl pass. This time he bit, and I was wide open."
Francis and the rest of his teammate were squirming on the sidelines after his touchdown catch as the Eagles drove in the final minute in a desperate attempt to score again.
They managed to get it to the 17 before kicker Mike Michel came on to attempt a 34-yard field goa.Bennett called a timeout to try and rattle the Eagle kicker, who had not attempted a field goal in two NFL seasons until he missed a 42-yard attempt in the third period. He also used the timeout to change some strategy.
"We started to rush everybody on the field goal," Bennett said, "but then we thought they might fake it. We then decided to rush only part of the team and keep the remainder alert for the fake."