New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - The NFL admitted Monday that there was a critical officiating error late in Sunday night's Giants-Redskins game.
The mistake took place just after the two-minute warning. On 2nd-and-5 from the Washington 41, Robert Griffin III completed a pass to the 45, very close to a first down. Referee Jeff Triplette signaled third down. But the head linesman, with Washington in a hurry-up offense, incorrectly motioned for the crew to advance the chains, which caused the down boxes to read first down.
Thinking it was first down, Redskins coach Mike Shanahan called a long pass to tight end Fred Davis -- which Davis dropped. On fourth down, Pierre Garcon caught a pass that would have been good for a fresh set of downs, but Giants safety Will Hill ripped the ball away, effectively ending the game.
NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino went further in a statement obtained by NFL.com on Monday:
"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."