-- The Washington Redskins had a safety and two points for about five minutes Sunday afternoon until a challenge by the Denver Broncos and the reversal of the call by replay review erased those points. What Gregg Williams, Washington's assistant head coach-defense, later described as "the infamous tuck rule" went a long way toward sending the Redskins to their first loss of the season.
The final margin was 21-19, and a testy and thoroughly drenched Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said: "It was a big deal. At the end of the game, we're kicking an extra point to win the game."
Instead, the Redskins had to complete a two-point conversion to tie following their 13-play, 94-yard touchdown drive, culminating in an 11-yard pass from Mark Brunell to Chris Cooley with 69 seconds to play. On the ensuing conversion attempt, Denver linebacker Ian Gold tipped away a pass intended for wide-open wide receiver David Patten in the back of the end zone.
The tuck rule indicates if a quarterback appears to be tucking the ball back into his body after moving his arm forward in a passing motion, and the ball comes loose, it is ruled an incomplete pass.
On the field early in the third quarter, the Redskins thought Denver quarterback Jake Plummer had fumbled in his end zone. They believed Plummer thought so, too, when he jumped on the ball, trying to prevent the Redskins from recovering the ball and scoring a touchdown on the play.
"Just by [Plummer's] demeanor and his reaction, I thought it was fumble," said Redskins cornerback Ade Jimoh, who jumped on top of Plummer when the quarterback recovered the ball. "I thought it was a fumble, and he thought it was a fumble. Sometimes you get those calls, and sometimes you don't. There's just nothing you can do."
"I couldn't see them overturning that," Gibbs said of the replay review. "They called it, they reviewed it, and they reversed it. The way their team reacted, I thought it was a done deal. They didn't mention anything to me. They just reversed it."
Williams said he was told by a game official that the tuck rule was the reason for the reversal. "We were hoping they would keep it our way. They said [Plummer] was trying to put it away. Our guys in the [coaches] box thought there was a 50-50 chance it would be upheld [by the replay review]. But we had other opportunities. You can't say it was that one play."
Denver Coach Mike Shanahan said there was no doubt in his mind the officials had made the wrong call on the field.
"You could see it right away that it was the tuck rule," he said. "I didn't think the official had a real good angle because he wasn't looking at the quarterback, but the replay showed it right away."
The Redskins will replay a number of other critical plays that cost them dearly, most notably two long touchdown runs by Tatum Bell. Williams said afterward his players knew exactly what the play was on the first score, a 34-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, but missed tackles cost the Redskins.
On the second touchdown by Bell, a 55-yard cutback dash for a 21-10 lead midway through the third quarter, Williams said: "They saw our blitz and checked away from the blitz. He cut it back, and two guys missed the tackle. We've got to finish plays. We can't make that many mistakes and expect to win, especially on the road."
The Redskins also were playing most of the game without their two starting cornerbacks. Walt Harris was inactive for the second straight week with a calf injury, and Shawn Springs had to leave the game late in the first quarter when he made a tackle on a completion to Denver wide receiver Rod Smith. Springs had bruised a shin in practice earlier in the week, and the injury was too painful for him to continue when he aggravated it again on that play.
Still, the secondary held up fairly well. Plummer only completed 10 of 25 passes for 92 yards, but one of those completions was a five-yard scoring pass on a fade play to wide receiver Ashley Lelie. Lelie won what was basically a jump ball against Jimoh, who said afterward he knew the quarterback was going to Lelie, but couldn't do much about it.
"It was an excellent pass, an excellent catch," Jimoh said. "I was playing for it. I just needed to put myself in a better position to make the play. But I was expecting him to throw it there. They made the play, I didn't and that's all you can say about it."
Still, veteran safety Matt Bowen said both Jimoh and rookie Carlos Rogers, starting in place of Harris, did fine work for most of the day.
"It says a lot about both of them that they could step in there and do a great job for us," he said. "I thought our corners were fine. We've just got to tackle better. We were in good position, and we missed the tackles. We tackle [Bell], and we win the ballgame."