Controversial Fifth Down Explained

Moss and the fifth down touchdown catch

If you were like me, you thought the Buccaneers game should have been over when the Redskins failed to reach the two yard line after four plays from the 12 yard line. Unfortunately, the chain gang decided to make the game more interesting.  

NFL.com has the best explanation in their highlights of the game, showing the Redskins had a first and nine from the 12. Thus, when Anthony Armstrong made the catch and was down at the three, the refs signaled for a first down. This then gave them first and goal from the three (instead of the two, which is where they were supposed to have gotten to). Fox’s broadcast (and commentators) correctly continued to show that they needed to get to the two with the yellow line, and thus created the confusion. Therefore, when McNabb missed Fred Davis in the endzone, the Redskins did not turn over the ball on downs and instead they got another play on which they scored.

Say what you will about karma and how the extra point was missed anyway giving the Bucs the win and making the entire gaffe moot, but this is unacceptable. I don’t want to say much more as it seems like anyone who does gets fined by Goodell, but I hope that this does not get ignored because the outcome was not effected. The official stats have been modified so that the Armstrong reception was for 10 yards, but that does not make things right. Call it what it was, a 9 yard pass with the officials incorrectly awarding a first down.

I am not sure if the replay booth can stop the game in this situation, but if they can, that just makes it worse.  I know that they can review the spot of the ball, and this is likely the rule it would fall under.  Finally, how does the chain gang make this error?  The first person puts one end of the markers on the line of scrimmage, then they stretch the chain out ten yards from there.  Looking at the footage of the game it appears that the chain was only about 9 yards and not stretched out fully.  It will be interesting to see how the league handles and explains the situation.

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  • NCFalconfan

    I’m wondering if the chain crew that worked this game is the same one that worked the NC State Vs Maryland game a few weeks ago as Maryland got a 9 yard first down in that game to seal the win and the Redskins got a 9 yard first down in this one as well. The start of the 5 down controversy is when the Redskins were at the 12 yard line on 1st and 10. The chain crew had the 3 yard line as the line to make for a 1st down where Fox had the 2 correctly marked as the line to make. On first down, the Redskins completed a 9 yard pass to the 3 and were awarded a 1st down. On the next play the lost 4 yards on a run, followed by an incomplete pass. That should have ended the game right there.

    Maryland just a few weeks ago started from the 31 yard line and made the 40 on 4th down and were awarded a 1st down because the line to gain was marked 9 yards instead of 10. Is this a product of the education system in the DC area or just blatant cheating?

  • Barno

    “Is this a product of the education system in the DC area or just blatant cheating?” -North Carolina Falcons fan

    It shows you the product of the education system in North Carolina that you seriously thought refs at NFL and NCAA games grew up in the area in which the games they are working are played. That you seriously believed the refs for the Terps and Redskins game grew up in the DC area tells me all I need to know about the “education system” in NC.

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