Seconds before Justin Tucker kicked his way into the NFL record books and sent the Ravens home happy with a 19-17 victory Sunday over the Lions in Detroit, controversy struck.
Only a record 66-yard field goal by “the GOAT” could erase the idea that maybe the play shouldn’t have happened at all.
After Sammy Watkins’ 36-yard catch on fourth-and-19 set up Baltimore at the Lions’ 48 and Lamar Jackson spiked the ball to stop the clock, Jackson took one more snap with seven seconds left to try and pick up a few more yards to get into (what was) Tucker’s range. But as the players exited the huddle and finally got into position, just three seconds remained on the play clock. Then two, then one, then none. Then another second went by. Then maybe another before Jackson finally got the shotgun snap and launched the ball out of bounds.
Watching the game on CBS, announcers Greg Gumbel and Adam Archuleta audibly counted down the play clock and wondered if the referees missed a delay of game, which would have been a 5-yard penalty and pushed Tucker’s attempt, potentially, to 71 yards.
On CBS’ postgame show, former NFL referee Gene Steratore was adamant the back judge should have called it a delay of game.
“In this case the back judge will be looking at the play clock and taking his eyes from the play clock back down to the ball. When he sees zero on the play clock, he will move his head directly down to the football. That snap needs to occur right at that time,” he said. “So is there an extra second built in there? Yeah, there is just because of the human element of play clock down to snap, that’s for sure. It does feel that’s a little longer than your normal progression from a zero on the clock.”
CBS analyst Boomer Esiason agreed.
“You can clearly see that is longer than the one-second lull coaches talk to you about. To me, this looks like the flag should have been thrown, this should have been delay of game, this should have been 5 yards against the Baltimore Ravens and therefore they would have had to run another offensive play — or the game would have been over,” he said.
Baltimore Ravens Insider
According to MLive.com, Baltimore got approximately 1.77 seconds of extra time to snap the football after the play clock on the TV broadcast had expired.
Referee Scott Novak, whose crew worked Sunday’s game at Ford Field, told the pool reporter after the game that he didn’t know if the play clock and the TV broadcast’s play clock were synced or not.
“But as far as our mechanics, the back judge is looking at the play clock and if it were to hit zero, he sees the zero, and he then looks to see if the ball is being snapped,” Novak said. “If the ball is being snapped, we will let the play go. If it’s not moving, it’s delay of game. Those are the mechanics that we apply on that play.”
To Ravens coach John Harbaugh, the no-call was obvious because “there’s always leeway on that.”
“That’s not going to be a delay of game because of the way they operate,” he said. “… It happens all the time when we’re on defense. There’s a mechanic that the officials go through. They look to see if the ball is up, then they go to the clock. So, it’s not like they’re looking at the clock and they can’t see both things at once. They’ve got a way that they do that, and the mechanic would not have made that a delay of game.”
Lions coach Dan Campbell chose his words carefully after their third straight loss to start the season but didn’t hide his feelings on the matter.
“Tomorrow you’ll get an apology and it doesn’t matter,” he said.