Replay played a huge role in Week 3 and because of it, officials were able to make the right calls every time.
I've been involved with NFL officiating for a long time and I don't think I've ever seen a play like this first one I'm going to break down. I literally could have made an entire training tape off of this one play.
Here are the five plays this week that are worthy of discussion.
THE GAME: Atlanta at New Orleans (Watch video above for Mike's breakdown of the entire call)
THE SITUATION: 2:32 left in the third quarter, New Orleans has the ball fourth-and-4 at its 20.
THE PLAY: Saints punter Thomas Morstead punts 39 yards to the Atlanta 41. That's when things got interesting. The ruling on the field was that the Saints' Jason Kyle had downed the ball at the 41. But the Saints challenged that Atlanta's Thomas DeCoud had touched the kick and that it was recovered by Jimmy Graham, who lateraled to Kyle at the Atlanta 42.
THE RESULT: Call was reversed, giving the Saints the ball.
MY TAKE: The actual challenge dealt with the kick being touched. Once referee Walt Anderson got under the hood, the fun began. Once the referee goes under the hood to review a play, everything becomes reviewable as long as it's in the category of instant replay. As it turned out, there were four things that needed to be reviewed. The first was the easiest and that was that DeCoud did touch the ball when it struck his foot in flight before his other foot touched out of bounds. That made it a free ball and either team could now recover. The referee then had to judge whether Graham was out of bounds when he lateraled the ball backward to Kyle. He wasn't, but if the lateral was forward, it would have been an illegal forward pass, which is also reviewable. The next judgment that needed to be made was whether Kyle had both feet down with possession at the sideline. Once it was concluded that he did, he then had to make sure that Kyle held onto the ball when he hit the ground. Just like a receiver catching a pass, a player recovering a loose ball must maintain possession when he hits the ground. When all was said and done, the call was correctly reversed and the ball was given to the Saints.
THE GAME: Indianapolis at Denver
THE SITUATION: Denver had the ball fourth-and-goal from the Indiapolis 1 with 4:26 left in the second quarter, trailing 13-0.
THE PLAY: Broncos running back Laurence Maroney went over left tackle for what was ruled a touchdown on the field. But Indianapolis challenged the runner broke the plane ruling.
THE RESULT: The play was reversed, giving the ball to the Colts at their 1-yard line, nullifying the Broncos TD.
MY TAKE: This is why the NFL has replay and it made a big difference at the time. The ball broke the plane and the official signaled touchdown. Indianapolis challenged that the runner's knee had touched the ground prior to the ball breaking the plane. Replay showed a great down the line shot, which clearly illustrated that Maroney's knee was down before the ball broke the plane. It took seven points off the board and changed the strategy down the stretch when the Broncos were battling from behind.
THE GAME: San Diego at Seattle
THE SITUATION: Seattle has the ball second-and-10 at the San Diego 42 with 2:26 left in the second quarter.
THE RESULT: After a booth review, it was ruled San Diego's Paul Oliver had knocked the ball out of Branch's hand at the 1-yard line and the ball went through the end zone for a touchback and the Chargers were awarded the ball, nullifying the Seattle touchdown.
MY TAKE: This was one of three reviews made inside of two minutes in this game. In replay, the goal-line plane is treated just like the ground. When the official ruled touchdown, his ruling essentially killed the play. However, the ruling is treated just like a ruling of down by contact. Since the ball was punched out before it broke the plane, it becomes a fumble and you ignore the touchdown signal. The fumble went through the end zone and therefore, San Diego was awarded the ball at their own 20 yard line as the result of a touchback.
THE GAMES: This next situation happened in two games: Cincinnati at Carolina and Tennessee at the New York Giants
THE SITUATION: Cincinnati had the ball third-and-6 at the Carolina 22 with six minutes left in the first quarter. In the New York-Tennessee game, the Giants had the ball first-and-10 at the Tennessee 22 with 6:05 left in the second quarter.
THE RESULT: In the Bengals-Panthers game, Carolina wanted to challenge that Owens had fumbled. In the Giants-Titans game, Tennessee wanted to challenge that Manning had fumbled.
MY TAKE: This is a rule in instant replay which coaches do not seem to understand. The officials on the field ruled that forward progress had been stopped. That is not reviewable. A ruling of down by contact is reviewable, but forward progress is not because it's purely a judgment call. Once forward progress is ruled, the play is over and anything that happens after that is irrelevent. Both of these rulings were correctly made by the offcials on the field and in each instance, the referee informed the coach that he would not be allowed to challenge. A coach isn't penalized or charged with a timeout when he challenges a play that is not reviewable, unless he attempts to challenge something that is completely outside the framework of the rule. He would be penalized if he attempts to challenge when he is out of timeouts or challenges.
THE GAME: Dallas at Houston
THE SITUATION: Neil Rackers had just kicked a 30-yard field goal with 11:57 left in the fourth quarter to give the Cowboys a 17-6 lead.
THE PLAY: Rackers then kicked off to Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, who took the kick 3 yards deep in the end zone and he returned it to the Dallas 26. However, there were three penalties called on the play. Unnecessary roughness was called on the Cowboys and the Texans. Dallas' L.P. Ladouceur was also called for offensive holding.
THE RESULT: The penalties offset, but Dallas kept the ball with a first down at the 26-yard line, which was the spot of its foul.
MY TAKE: Give me a minute ... just kidding. But that was what referee Carl Cheffers said as he tried to straighten out this tricky enforcement. It may turn out to be the funniest announcement of the season. But in the end, Cheffers got a very complex enforcement correct. This is called a double foul after a change of possession. The hold by Ladouceur occurred on Dallas' 26-yard line and the two personal fouls took place after the play was over. Since both teams fouled after the actual change of possession, the receiving team can keep the ball at the spot of their foul with no yardage being assessed. Essentially all the fouls offset and the ball is placed at the spot of the receiver's foul. It makes no difference that Dallas fouled twice and Houston only once or that the holding penalty was a live-ball foul and the personal fouls were dead-ball fouls, which combine to make a double foul. Although Dallas had two penatlies vs. Houston's one, only one foul can be used in an enforcement. Thus, a double foul after a change and the Cowboys correctly got the ball at their 26.