The conversation about the Redskins’ trip to Seattle would be quite different this week if veteran safety DeAngelo Hall hadn’t managed to knock the ball away from Seahawks wide receiver Tanner McEvoy on the Seahawks’ Hail Mary as time expired. For one thing, there would be a lot more talk — and likely some profanity-laced yelling from the Redskins’ camp — about the fact that the game might’ve ended one play before Seattle’s desperation heave if not for a mistake by the clock operator.
With Seattle trailing 17-14 and out of timeouts on its final drive, Russell Wilson completed a 26-yard pass to Paul Richardson, who was tackled at the Washington 38-yard line. The Seahawks hustled to the line and snapped the ball with 15 seconds remaining, and Wilson was sacked for an eight-yard loss by Terrell McClain. Officials ruled Wilson down by contact before he released the ball, meaning the clock should’ve continued to run. Instead, it was erroneously stopped with 11 seconds remaining. A replay official later buzzed an official on the field to review the play several seconds after the clock would’ve expired had it continued to run.
“Really, should Seattle have had a chance to throw the Hail Mary and possibly win the game? I don’t think so, because you had a clock error,” Fox NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira said Monday, while breaking down the final seconds of the game with fellow rules analyst and former NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino. “You had an error in the clock. You had 12 seconds when Russell Wilson went down on a knee. A whistle was blown, ending the play. The clock operator stopped the clock, so he stopped the clock with essentially 11 seconds to go. Seventeen seconds later, 17 second later on a clock that was not supposed to stop, they’re up to the line of scrimmage and spiked the ball, and the buzz came from replay right as the ball was snapped. So they went to review it. That’s another story. My issue with this is that the clock should never have stopped. I think it’s reasonable to say that Seattle may not have gotten off another play without this clock erroneously stopping.”
“May not [have],” Blandino replied. “I think what happens here is you’ve got a situation where the quarterback is potentially down, or does he throw an incomplete pass? Now, the referee, Ron Torbert, was ruling down and pointing to the ground. The clock operator, in confusion, not knowing if it was incomplete or down, stopped the game clock. Now, we don’t know if the clock had continued to run, would Seattle have had more of a sense of urgency and gotten lined up with 11 seconds. Maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t. We don’t know that, so we don’t know if they would have gotten another play. I think the other issue is the ruling on the field, which was correct, is that he was down by contact. Replay really can’t do anything with that. We both said as it was happening, ‘Why is replay stopping the game here?’ They did confirm that he was down, but there was nothing they could have done. They couldn’t make it an incomplete pass, because once the player’s ruled down, the only thing you can do is make it a fumble. So it was really an unnecessary stop. … It was just a weird, funky ending to the game.”
Seeing that the clock was stopped, the Seahawks didn’t rush to the line with the same urgency that they probably would’ve had it continued to run. It’s impossible to say whether 11 seconds was enough time for Seattle to get everyone on the line for one more play. As Blandino noted, clock operators are often current or former college officials, and they’re hired and trained by the league.
“Well, I’m in the camp that says they wouldn’t have gotten the snap off, because that ball hits another lineman and bounces back into the offensive backfield, and you had wide receivers that had run down deep,” Pereira said. “If they get that ball snapped in 11 seconds after that, I just don’t think it happens. Obviously there’s a mistake made. Who’s accountable? I mean, you have a suspension in 2015 in the San Diego-Pittsburgh game on a play that had no consequence at the end, because 18 seconds ran off a clock on a kickoff. To me, the league is pretty damn lucky that that pass was incomplete in the end zone, and not a touchdown by Seattle, because then there would have been a ton of discussion.”
“Sure, there would be an outcry, but better to be lucky than good,” Blandino said.
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