The St. Louis Rams picked up their first win of the season when an obscure NFL rule caused the last eight seconds to be automatically taken off the clock so the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost an opportunity to attempt a game-winning field goal.
The ruling came when the Bucs were attempting to get within field goal range in the final minute. With less than 20 seconds left on the clock, Bucs quarterback Josh McCown completed a long pass to Mike Evans which would have left the Bucs with about a 50-yard field goal attempt for the win.
But after catching the ball, Evans was hit hard and fell back to the ground unable to get up.
The problem for the Bucs is that they had no timeouts left. If the officials have to stop the clock, it will be deemed an injury timeout. Under the NFL rules that would require an automatic 10-second run-off from the clock.
McCown could be seen yelling at Evans to either get off the field or lineup so the team can spike the ball to stop the clock. But it was too late. The official closest to Evans was already signaling for the clock to be stopped.
Evans tried to get up and walk off the field but had trouble even standing up.
Eventually, two trainers came out, grabbed Evans by the shoulder pads and hurriedly tried to drag him off the field.
This is not a good look for a league that has been accused in the past of putting the game and profit margins ahead of the health of the players.
It didn’t matter.
The referee was already preparing to announce that with eight seconds on the clock, an automatic deduction of ten seconds would be made and the game was now over.
The Bucs never got a shot to win the game.
The rule was put in place to stop players from faking injuries to stop the clock and to that point the rule is working. We still see players fake injuries early in games when they are trying to slow down up-tempo teams like the Eagles but no longer at the end of games.
But at the same time, this is not good for player safety.
An obviously injured Evans has three choices as he is laying on the grass and none of them are good. The safe option is to stay on the ground and wait to be treated by trainers. However that means the game will be over.
The other options are to either try to get off the field or try to line up for the Bucs to spike the ball and stop the clock. Both of those options put his health at risk.
Changing the rule will almost certainly mean that some teams will fake injuries. But at some point that may be a risk the NFL will have to take.
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