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Posted at 5:48 PM ET, 12/12/2010

Did the Redskins get a fifth down?

By Barry Svrluga

On the Redskins' final drive of Sunday's 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay, there was considerable confusion with the crew in charge of stats about the down and distance as the Redskins approached the goal line. On first-and-10 from the 12, did Anthony Armstrong gain nine yards - leaving second and 1? Or did he pick up 10, and get a first down?

Pool reporter John Keim of The Washington Examiner was sent to the officials' room afterward and got this explanation from head referee Pete Morelli:

"The first pass that was made, the initial ruling was first down to the 2-1/2 yard line, and the auxiliary box on the other side did not turn over. It was showing second down. The primary box on the head linesman side, which is the main down box, had first down. So we corrected the 2 because it hung up there for a while, and we corrected it to 1."

The confusion, then, wasn't with the players or coaches, it was with the viewing audience.

By Barry Svrluga  | December 12, 2010; 5:48 PM ET
 
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Comments

The confusion wasn't the down marker, it was leaving the run in the 2nd half and watching McNabb short-arm the ball all f'ing day!

Posted by: mebail | December 12, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

You might, just might, also argue that the confusion was with the auxiliary box. And hence with the tv broadcast.

'Cus that sorta thing happens all the time, right?

Which is why in 30 years of watching the NFL I've never been confused by down-and-distance like that.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | December 12, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Sure! The next explanation needs to cover why a play that moved the ball from the 12 to the 2 and a half resulted in a first down.

Posted by: DannyH8r | December 12, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

of course it was our (the fans) confusion...The Refs would never be confused with anything

Posted by: ocskins | December 12, 2010 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Barry, seriously:

The pass to Armstrong didn't reach the line to gain. Even though the Fox line on the field is unofficial (we all agree to that), the play was snapped at the 12 yard line. It was 1st and 10 at the 12. Armstrong didn't reach the 2, which was the line to gain. That wasn't a first down. On what should have been second down, McNabb threw incomplete. On what should have been third down, Torain lost four yards. And on what should have been fourth down, McNabb threw incomplete.

Now, the sequence of play calls may have been very different had the Redskins thought they were going 2-3-4 instead of 1-2-3, so you can't say for certain they wouldn't have scored. But it was fifth down on which they scored because Armstrong did NOT reach the line to gain on the pass on 1st and 10 from the 12.

Posted by: very_clever_username | December 12, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

They had four downs, not five.

As for the hold on Orakpo, I agree with him: he needs to be more vocal about it during games. He's been held that way all season.

Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor always worked the officials before and during games. You have to, in order to get your fair share of holding calls.

Posted by: MrRedskin21 | December 12, 2010 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I said it last week, still is true, what does Orakpo have to do to get holding penalties? The NFL is very bias towards Offense I know, but it's obsecne how he is held coming around the corner many times each game. With the officiating of today I wonder how LT would have fared?

Posted by: 1965skinsfan | December 12, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

What's the difference between Shanahananahan whining about the officiating after the game and Rak whining before and during?

I suppose the answer is, one is the head coach.

But I still don't think either should do it.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | December 12, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

The confusion wasn't the down marker, it was leaving the run in the 2nd half and watching McNabb short-arm the ball all f'ing day!

Posted by: mebail | December 12, 2010 5:58 PM

***********************************************

Yep! It really was agony watching McNabb making worms wince. I don't see a reason to resign him. Nor do I want see Grossman on the field, this year or ever. If they think John Beck is worth having on the roster then I wish they would put him in. Let the tryouts begin!

Posted by: DannyH8r | December 12, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

If I'm Shanahan and Allen I do one of two things:

1) With their first round pick, they should draft the best player available, since we need everything. If it's a QB, so be it. If they keep their first round draft position, then use their 2nd round pick for an O-lineman.

OR

2) Trade back for more picks.

Posted by: rickyroge | December 12, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

I thought it was 5 downs because we clearly never got the 1st down -- guess the refs just blew that. I'd thought we'd lost after the first 4th down attempt. Turns out, we got another down and scored. Which meant we would have to wait for the opportunity to lose it on the extra point.

Posted by: zcezcest1 | December 12, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

They had four downs, not five.
Posted by: MrRedskin21 | December 12, 2010 6:13 PM |

***********************************************

They had four downs following a 1st down at the 2 1/2. The problem is it wasn't a 1st down at the 2 1/2, since the previous line of scrimmage had been the 12. Armstrong got 9 1/2 yards on 1st down from the 12, taking it to the 2 1/2.

Looks like the auxiliary crew on the far side of the field recognized it was 2nd down at the 2 1/2, but the crew on the other sideline believed it was a 1st. I didn't see a 1st down signaled by the officials. Armstrong's play, as marked by the official on the field, fell well short of 1st down.

Kind of poetic justice that the point after failed.

Posted by: DannyH8r | December 12, 2010 6:40 PM | Report abuse

Reading about Mike Shanahan excuses and ripping the refs... He needs to look at his own sideline management and heirarchy of who is in charge of the Offense. Because it surely appears Shanny (MIke) takes over at each two minute point... before the half and at the end of the game.. If you taped the game you can see Kyle basically drop the clipboard to his side and his Dad takes over towards the 2 minute warnings of both halves. Could be why Mike Shanahan said he was responsible for pulling McNabb from the last 2 minutes of the Detroit game.
Bottom line, its confusing the players at the worst time...when time management is critical...
Mike needs to accept who he has always been.. a control freak who cant entirely let go of the Offensive duties in the heat of the battle. The players need to know who the decision maker for the Offense is.. Or Mike should remove himself entirely from the Offense and let Kyle run the total show as the Offensive Coordinator so the confusion stops.. Otherwise, it will be more of the same..
Time running out as the Offense looks confusingly at the sideline wondering what the plays are and who is calling them.. Especially McNabb who looks almost now resigned to this sideline dysfunction.
This father/son Offensive Coordinator by committee is not working.

Posted by: onanygivensunday | December 12, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Yes, they got a 5th down. The Bucs coach should have figured it out, but didn't. Looking at the replay of where the ball started (close to the 12) and where it ended up (at the 3) and the fact that the sideline crew wasnt asked to move the sticks to 1st and goal or reset the down markers makes me think these are officials covering their behinds after the fact.

Posted by: jaygatsby27 | December 12, 2010 6:45 PM | Report abuse

F the fifth down bidness.

How do you lose a home game to a team starting more than 5 rookies on offense?

How do you lose a game where you've rushed for more than 170 yards?

How can you win with a quarterback who throws more ground balls than a sinker ball pitcher?

How does a 2 year quarterback look just as capable and confident as our 'elite' former Pro Bowl quarterback?

We were foolish to believe the skins could be the BUCS.

And only a fool would believe the wise man who says we'll won't win another game this year.

Posted by: MistaMoe | December 12, 2010 6:46 PM | Report abuse

What's the difference between Shanahananahan whining about the officiating after the game and Rak whining before and during?

I suppose the answer is, one is the head coach.

But I still don't think either should do it.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp

Not being snarky, just asking. You ever watch NFL films? You will hear players (and coaches) tell officials to watch for certain things from certain players. They have watched film or seen earlier plays and know what the guy is trying to get away with.

So they mention it to the ref, in hopes he will call it next time.

Whining is beeyotching about not calling it last time.

All Rak has to do is to mention to the linesman or the line judge or whoever is calling on his side that he is being held by (number). Say it with respect--don't show guy up like Shanahan did.

Baseball; has certain rules too. It's why batters can gripe about a strike zone to an ump within reason. But if they step out of the box, and TURN to the ump about it, they are gone.

Most teams know the written rules, The Smartest teams know the unwritten rules.

Posted by: TheCork | December 12, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse


Is there anyone here who thought by the middle of the 3rd quarter that there was ANY chance the Skins would keep the lead? Is it more of an old team getting worn down in the second half or a coaching staff failing to make adjustments?

Posted by: DannyH8r | December 12, 2010 6:57 PM | Report abuse

No, Cork, you're absolutely right. Of course it happens and it should.

However, the refs know Rak's getting held. This is not a secret going into games; refs don't live in bubbles.

They aren't failing to call it because Rak isn't notifying them. He needs to make plays through the holds, because at this point, they aren't calling it. (I suspect he may even be getting a rep as a whiner, but that's pure speculation on my part.)

My bigger point - the one Beantown has made elsewhere - is that APPEARING to worry about such tangential things, as the head coach is doing, indicates bigger picture dysfunction and misaligned focus on the part of a coach I'm beginning to suspect is neither very bright nor particularly organized in his approach to his job.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | December 12, 2010 7:06 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the confusion was that I thought it took TEN YARDS for a first down and not NINE YARDS. Replays show from the 12 to the 3. NINE YARD GAIN -- SECOND DOWN, not first down. An incomplete pass later and a running loss -- fourth down. Incomplete pass through the end zone. Fifth down. Pass for TD.

NFL play-by-play shows the above. NFL lies and says it was a first down. NFL cover-up by changing the play-by-play. Washington Post typically uncurious and doesn't pursue the news story.

Posted by: ooyah32 | December 12, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

That or he's really frustrated and he's letting his emotions get the best of him, which is my job as a fan, not his.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | December 12, 2010 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I keep hearing about "coaching adjustments"...

What adjustments can you make with three consecutive 3 and outs. When the PLAYERS can't throw or catch a simple screen pass or catch a ball in the back of the endzone or execute an extra point, then PLAYERS should be held accountable.

That debacle at the end of the first half is a better example of COACHING errors.

The Bucs had two many chances to win...and we, as usual, made too many mistakes.

Posted by: rickyroge | December 12, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Not arguing the general point, rickyr, as there's plenty of blame to go around, but you really don't think failure to make adjustment had a LOT to do with all those three and outs? I mean, c'mon.

Coaching "errors" abound.

Posted by: stevie_in_gp | December 12, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

On the surface, Ryan Torain had a GREAT game, but under the surface, this is a CLASSIC example of what ails us...

With a speedy, change of pace back, some of those big runs may be touchdowns. Torain was the FEATURED back today, but I don't think he would start on any othe team without a true change of pace back that has the potential to go the distance.

Keiland Williams should have scored on that big run he had.

Again, we've overcomitted to Portis over the last few years and have never established a true two RB system.

Posted by: rickyroge | December 12, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

I don't think RB will be a weakness next year. They'll add to what's already a pretty good group. Davis has shown tremendous burst. He doesn't have Torain's ability to keep his feet after a hit, but he'll be gone if he gets to the open. Williams has skills and size.

But all these guys need to work on blitz pick-up. I'm hoping we get a few solid o-linemen in free-agency who are just coming off their rookie contracts. That might make blitz pick-up skills a little less urgent.

And if we have a QB who can get the ball above their ankles in the flat, that would help tremendously to keep drives alive.

Posted by: DannyH8r | December 12, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

When you watch a game that the league wants you to understand is a "premium matchup" like the Steelers vs. the Ravens, then you will see marquee players like Harrison, Suggs and others being grabbed around the neck like Orakpo is and they call it routinely against the offense. Other cities that have self respect, they expect normal outcomes and treatment, in fact they demand it. You would not see a hold like what we saw on Orakpo accepted in New York. The league office is in New York.
Likewise you would not see other cities accept ridiculous outcomes week after week, like a circus or freakshow where kickes miss routine plays and holders and long snappers (professional athlete mind you) routinely botch the basics. The system is set up to accept fraud. If you worked at a bank, you could not make routine mistakes with money, you would be fired probably without warning. But for professional athletes we accept failure on routine tasks without reprisal or consquences, which leaves huge openings for fraud. Pay-check pillaging.

Posted by: DownTownClown | December 12, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

so explain to me how if it's 1 and 10 on the 12 yard line and the ball is put on the 2 1/2 yard line..how is that a first down? he only got 9.5 yards.. so it would have been 2 and 1...so yes that's 5 downs.. you said it in your own story.. he didn't get 10 yards...

Posted by: intwtf | December 13, 2010 6:07 AM | Report abuse

With the luxury of DVR, nothing could be clearer than the fact that after the last "real" first down, the marker and the down indicator are at the TB 12 yd line. The first down marker is at the 3 yd line. Amrstrong was easily 1/2 yd short of the first down marker. Was it a conspiracy or a human mistake. I would like to think the latter, but either way, the officials, coaches and players were asleep on this one.

Posted by: douglasmhurst | December 13, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I completely agree that the NFL would cover this up to prevent any more speculation about official mistakes. It definitely was 5th down. There is no way that they got a first down on the 9 yard pass play. Think about this: The Redskins only lost by 1, so they covered the spread. Think about all of the people who lost money betting on the Bucs because the Redskins scored on a 5th down at the end of the game. I'm sure that the league doesn't want backlash, so to cover up, they say that the that Skins got a first down. Watch the replay. There is no way.

Yes, the confusion was that I thought it took TEN YARDS for a first down and not NINE YARDS. Replays show from the 12 to the 3. NINE YARD GAIN -- SECOND DOWN, not first down. An incomplete pass later and a running loss -- fourth down. Incomplete pass through the end zone. Fifth down. Pass for TD.

NFL play-by-play shows the above. NFL lies and says it was a first down. NFL cover-up by changing the play-by-play. Washington Post typically uncurious and doesn't pursue the news story.

Posted by: fasteddie93 | December 13, 2010 11:55 AM | Report abuse

Since this whole 5th down debacle took place in the last two minutes my question is what is the instant replay ref looking at? Since Tampa Bay could not have challenged the mark anyway shouldn't he have buzzed down to stop the next play? Does he also think that nine yards equals a first down like the field crew did?

Posted by: jfajr | December 13, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

The problem is the down marker on the far side was set up at the 3, not the 2, at the snap of the previous play from the 12. When Anderson was down, he was past that marker, but the marker was set up incorrectly. The head linesman saw Anderson go past the marker and thought it was a first down. It wasn't.

As for being able to do all that in the moment and tying it to gambling and all that, that's conspiracy theory nonsense. Mistake, plain and simple.

Posted by: very_clever_username | December 13, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

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