The Washington Redskins had a chance to win Sunday’s game with less than two minutes left, but a controversial call sealed the door on a possible comeback against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins was sacked by Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham as he attempted a pass with a minute and 38 seconds left. The ball was knocked loose by Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham and recovered by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, who returned it 20 yards for the game-clinching touchdown as the Redskins fell, 30-17, in the season opener at FedEx Field.
It was ruled a fumble on the field, allowing the play to continue during a pivotal moment in the game. Referee Brad Allen said he called a fumble because of “lack of control in the hand.” He said he saw an empty hand as Cousins’s arm went forward, and there was not enough evidence to overturn the call following video review.
“There was nothing conclusive that would overturn the ruling on the field,” Allen said. “All the views we had were inconclusive, so we have to stay with the ruling on the field.”
When asked what made him comfortable enough to call it a fumble in real time, Allen said, “I just have to go with my gut. And my gut said fumble.”
Cousins said he immediately looked back at the ref, flicked his hand forward and told the ref he thought his arm was going forward. Both Cousins and Cox were on the field when Allen announced that the call stood after review. Cox appeared surprised by the ruling, as he quickly ran off the field, while Cousins threw his hands up in disappointment.
“I don’t know if that was a gift, because I thought it was going to be overturned,” Graham said. “I’m sitting there like, ‘Dang.’ Like, [Cousins] was throwing it. Next thing you know, they said the play stands. … I’m just happy because we just needed something like this to spark us.”
It was a difficult call to make in real-time, and Cousins acknowledged that it’s even tough for him to decisively say that the ball went forward. He said he has been in those situations before where he confidently believed the wrong call was made on the field, but later realized he was wrong once he re-watched the game.
“But, they have time to look at it and get it right, and they made the call they made,” Cousins said. “I’m not going to lose sleep over that. It’s the plays that led up to that where you say those are the ones I want back.”
It was one of Cousins’s three turnovers in the game. He was also picked off in the red zone by safety Jalen Mills early in the fourth quarter on a drive that would have given Washington the lead with a field goal. Cox also recorded a sack-fumble on Washington’s second offensive possession.
Cousins finished 23 of 40 for 240 yards, one touchdown and a 72.9 passer rating.
“[Cousins] said [the referees] couldn’t tell if the ball ever left his hand or not, so they couldn’t … I guess they called a fumble on the field and they couldn’t overturn it because they didn’t have a good view,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said. “It sounded like it was rejected — blocked — but then I don’t know. I only go by what they call.”
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