The NFL acknowledged Monday that neither Elvis Dumervil's 15-yard face mask penalty nor kicker Jason Myers' 53-yard game-winning field goal in the Jacksonville Jaguars' 22-20 victory over the Ravens should have happened.
According to the league, Sunday's game at M&T Bank Stadium should have ended with the Ravens winning, 20-19.
League spokesman Michael Signora said that referee Pete Morelli's crew should have called a false start on Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles' snap with one second remaining. League rules require offensive players to come to a complete stop and be in a set position simultaneously for at least one second prior to the snap. The league reviewed the tape from the game and determined that Jaguars left tackle Luke Joeckel was not set for the requisite time.
"Inside of one minute remaining of either half, with the game clock running, when the offense is not set simultaneously prior to the snap, it's a false start. This results in a 10-second runoff, which can only be avoided if a team has a timeout remaining," Signora said. "The correct call in this case would have been to penalize the offense for a false start because all 11 players were not set, and whistle to stop the play. The ensuing 10-second runoff should have ended the game."
Several players from both teams stopped on the play and at least one Raven, strong-side linebacker Courtney Upshaw, started walking toward the sideline with his hands in the air in celebration and his back to the play. Dumervil, however, kept rushing Bortles and eventually yanked the quarterback's facemask while bringing him to the ground.
The penalty moved the ball to the Ravens' 35-yard line, gave the Jaguars an untimed down and allowed Myers to attempt the game-winning field goal. The loss left the Ravens with a 2-7 record and trying to digest what coach John Harbaugh called "about as tough of [a loss] as it gets."
Harbaugh spoke to Dean Blandino, the league's vice president of officiating, on Monday about the final seconds of Sunday's game. He declined to comment on whether Blandino acknowledged that the NFL missed the call, saying only, "The league has looked at it and they know it.
"If you saw it on tape, it's pretty obvious what happened as far as them not being set," Harbaugh said. "When you come up to snap the ball, we understood the timing of the thing. If they caught the ball in play more than 10 yards down the field, they weren't going to be able to get the snap off with everybody set. We knew the timing of it. We do a lot of studies on that, we understood that. With that amount of time left, they didn't get the snap off in the sense that they didn't get everybody set."
The Ravens didn't comment after the NFL's public admission of the officiating error, but Harbaugh said Monday afternoon that the team was moving on. They face the St. Louis Rams Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.
"There's nothing we can do about it now," Harbaugh said. "It's unfortunate, it's disappointing, it's gut-wrenching, it's just the way it goes. In the end, we have to overcome all that stuff. I don't care about officiating. I don't care about the field conditions. I don't care about our opponent. That's the way our guys look at it. It does not matter. You've got to find a way to overcome everything. That's just what we've got to do."
The Ravens have had several highly-publicized gripes about the officiating this year. They were particularly incensed about a couple of calls in a 26-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Oct. 26.
In that game, guard John Urschel was flagged for an illegal formation penalty despite repeatedly motioning to referee Ron Torbert that he was eligible on the play. Torbert's crew also ruled that Cardinals running back Chris Johnson's progress was not stopped despite Johnson being held in the lap of nose tackle Brandon Williams before getting up and completing a 62-yard run. The league acknowledged it erred on the Urschel penalty but said that the Johnson run was a judgment call.
Several Ravens were clearly angered by the officiating on Sunday, but they stopped short of publicly criticizing Morelli's crew after the game.
"It was a ton of anger, frustration," cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "You're not allowed to say anything about the refs, so nothing can be said. We feel like the game was … it got taken out of my hands. At the same time, it was in our hands. We should have completed that last play and came up with a pick or finished the game off, and we didn't do it."
Two plays before Bortles' disputed final snap, Ravens safety Kendrick Lewis dropped what would have been a game-securing interception. It was one of at least four drops of potential interceptions on the day.
The Ravens also turned the ball over four times — all in the second half — and committed nine penalties for 121 yards. Five of the penalties were of the 15-yard variety. They had plenty of opportunities to not allow the game to come down to the final seconds and a referee's call. However, as has been the case all season, the Ravens hurt themselves with a flurry of mistakes.
Harbaugh's opening statement at his day-after news conference lasted more than six minutes and much of it was spent focusing on what the Ravens need to do better.
"It's just one of those years. When you make a mistake, you pay for it. The ball bounces a certain way. We've had a number of times we've knocked balls loose on special teams and they've bounced right into the returner's hands. It's just been one of those seasons," Harbaugh said."… What it is is an opportunity to acknowledge where you need to get better, to prove, to knock the rough edges off, just to become a better player and to deal with the adversity as best as you can.
"I know we've been saying that week after week here and for it to continue to kind of go that way is just the way it goes."
The Ravens have lost their seven games by a total of 32 points. Still, that's little solace to a team that had Super Bowl aspirations, but is now just a half-game out of last place in the AFC North and is quickly heading toward the first losing season in Harbaugh's eight years as coach.
"We still believe we can win every game going forward," Harbaugh said. "We're not going to let that go, because we know the kind of football team we can be, and I believe in these guys. I believe in their abilities."