Replay reversals make mark on long game
e_SDLqI don’t get into that business. I mean, the refs are human. ... You just have to play the game. You can’t leave it in their hands.” Will Smith, Saints defensive end
NEW ORLEANS — Pierre Thomas had it.
At least, he thought he did.
Sunday afternoon, before the Saints collapsed in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Thomas made what appeared to be a highlight-worthy play — diving, tipping and catching a pass from quarterback Drew Brees before he hit the turf inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Quickly realizing that no defender had touched him, Thomas got up and coasted into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown during the second quarter.
It would’ve given the Saints an 11-point lead.
The problem was, it didn’t stand.
In one of five instant-replay reversals during Sunday’s game, referee Donald King — yes, he’s a replacement official — judged that the football touched the ground before Thomas gained control.
That call proved to have a big impact.
On the next play, Brees took an 11-yard sack. Place-kicker Garrett Hartley then missed a 38-yard field-goal attempt.
Instead of leading 17-6 at halftime, New Orleans was ahead by only four points, 10-6.
And by the end of regulation, the Saints surely could’ve used those extra seven points.
So, did the officials get it right? Was it a catch?
“I thought it was,” Thomas said. “But, hey, I can’t argue with that. If they said it wasn’t, it wasn’t. I thought it was. Everybody on the sideline thought it was.
“But if it wasn’t — hey, it’s not a catch, and it’s not a touchdown.”
Of course, Thomas’ play wasn’t the only one in question.
In fact, thanks to all those replays, King spent more time under a hood than Mr. Goodwrench.
The five reversals helped lengthen a game that lasted 3 hours, 54 minutes.
“I think for guys that have been doing it long enough, you find yourself in games like that all the time,” linebacker Scott Shanle said. “Some games are more smooth than others, but it’s about remaining calm and not letting yourself get too high or too low.”
Among the reversals:
- Late in the first quarter, after Saints tight end Jimmy Graham stretched for an apparent first down, Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel challenged the spot. He won, and New Orleans had to settle for a field goal.
- In the third quarter, Kansas City’s Dexter McCluster made a reception and fumbled after falling to the turf with a shoulder injury (linebacker Jonathan Casillas plucked the ball off the artificial grass). At first, officials ruled that McCluster was down by contact. The Saints challenged the call and won, getting the ball at the Chiefs’ 19-yard line.
- On the next series, Brees fired left to wideout Lance Moore, who made a spinning catch on the left sideline at the 1. Crennel challenged the call, and replays showed that Moore failed to get two feet inbounds (the Saints later scored on that possession anyway).
- Finally, in overtime, Chiefs running back Shaun Draughn lost the ball after a 12-yard reception. safety Roman Harper grabbed the ball and returned it 57 yards for a touchdown that would’ve allowed the Saints to escape with a win — had the touchdown stood.
Of course, it didn’t. Replays clearly showed that Draughn was down by contact.
The replay official also reviewed Kansas City’s sack of Brees in the end zone during the fourth quarter. Though Brees lunged forward with the ball, attempting to avoid the safety call, officials ruled that linebacker Justin Houston had Brees in his grasp while Brees was still in the end zone.
It all added up to a long day for both teams, though it obviously felt longer to the Saints.
Did the replacement officials get all the calls right?
Maybe. Maybe not.
“I don’t get into that business,” veteran defensive end Will Smith said. “I mean, the refs are human; they’re not going to call it as called all the time.
“You just have to play the game. You can’t leave it in their hands.”