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There’s still one unanswered question about last night’s Seahawks-Packers debacle: Could they have overturned the catch with instant replay?The refs botched the call on the field — calling a touchdown on a simultaneous catch when it should have been ruled an interception — but that’s what replay is for right?
Immediately after the play, ex-ref and current Monday Night Football referee analyst Gerry Austin said on ESPN that the play could not be overturned because simultaneous catches are unreviewable, by rule.
So there was no way they could have corrected the call with replay. When they went to the booth to “review” the play last night, they could only have called it a completion or an incompletion, not a completion or an interception.
This interpretation of the rules seems to be confirmed by Fox referee analyst Mike Pereira, who wrote about a similar play last year in Week 9:
“The rule regarding simultaneous possession states that joint possession of a loose ball belongs to the offensive team. But a simultaneous catch is not reviewable. Whomever the officials award the ball to is final.
This play was quickly reviewed, but the only thing that could be looked at by the replay official was whether the pass was incomplete. It was not incomplete; therefore, it had to remain as an interception.”
But today people are challenging that.
“Make no mistake about it. This one could have been overturned. Rule 15, Section 9 makes the question of whether a pass was ‘ruled complete/incomplete/intercepted’ subject to replay review, with no exception for questions of simultaneous possession.
Yeah, we know the ESPN call says simultaneous possession can’t be reviewed by replay. We disagree. If it wasn’t reviewable by replay, it wouldn’t have been reviewed by replay. It was, so it is.”
We went and looked at the instant replay section of the rulebook, and Florio is right, it never explicitly says that simultaneous catches can’t be reviewed, as far as we can tell.
The rulebook lists these plays under “non-reviewable:”
- Status of the clock
- Proper down
- Penalty administration
- Runner ruled down by defensive contact (not involving fumbles)
- Forward progress not relating to first down or goal line
- Recovery of a loose ball that does not involve a boundary line or the end zone
- Field-goal or Try attempts that cross above either upright without touching anything
- Inadvertent whistle
It doesn’t say simultaneous catch anywhere, although it does note that the list of non-reviewable plays
is “not limited” to these eight (confusing, right?). It also says nothing about reviewability in the simultaneous catch portion of the rulebook.
Look, we’re not officiating experts. Two very qualifying former refs who seemingly know every rule every — Pereira and Austin — say that simultaneous catch is unreviewable, so our every instinct is to defer to them.
But as of now we don’t see anything in the rulebook that says the play couldn’t have been reviewed.
Why does this matter?
Because the entire nature of the fiasco is dependent on the fact that they were legally prohibited from correcting the decision with instant replay.
In the era of instant replay, refs can only possibly screw up so much because there’s a safety net. Last night, we were told the safety net wasn’t in place, leaving the replacement refs to their own devices.
But today, we’re not so sure.
Now, as to the replay: Let’s be clear about what can and can’t be reviewed. Simultaneous possession between the goal lies cannot be reviewed. Simultaneous possession in the end zone can be reviewed. That’s an important distinction that many in the media have not made since Elliott went under the hood.
Again, we didn’t see that in the rulebook anywhere, but we’re not experts.
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