There was a sour ending to the Sunday Night Football match up between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. The officiating crew weren’t on the same page in signaling whether it was a first down or not. On the sideline they believed it was first down according to the official and the down box. Referee Jeff Triplette said it was actually third down and that stopping play to correct the mistake would’ve given the Redskins an unfair advantage.
“We signaled third down on the field,” Triplette said, via Pro Football Talk. “The stakes were moved incorrectly. After that play, we said it was still third down. We had signaled third down prior to the play starting. The stakes just got moved incorrectly.”
“[T]here are no timeouts in this situation,” Triplette said. “We just didn’t shut it down in that situation because that would have given an unfair advantage.”
NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said that the play should have been stopped.
Here is the statement in full, via NFL.com:
“With 2:00 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game between the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, Washington faced a second-and-5 from its own 41-yard line with no timeouts remaining. Quarterback Robert Griffin III completed a pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon for four yards. The ball was correctly spotted shy of the Washington 46, bringing up third down,” Blandino said in the statement.
“Referee Jeff Triplette signaled third down but the head linesman — with Washington in a ‘hurry-up’ situation — incorrectly motioned for the chain crew to advance the chains, which caused the down boxes to read first down.
“Following a Washington incomplete pass, the chains were moved back and the down boxes correctly reset to fourth down.
“In this situation where there is obvious confusion as to the status of the down, play should have been stopped prior to third down and the correct down communicated to both clubs. This should have occurred regardless of the fact that Washington had no timeouts and it was inside two minutes.
“Only the referee can rule and signal a first down. The official nearest to the down markers and chain crew, the head linesman, must wait for the first down signal from the referee before moving the chains.
“Instant Replay did not become involved in this situation because the replay official determined that the ball on Garcon’s catch was correctly spotted short of the line to gain for a first down.”