John Keim | ESPN.com
LANDOVER, Md. — The Washington Redskins thought they had a first down, so, too did the chain gang. One group did not think it was a first down and, ultimately, they were the group that mattered: the officials.
And that led to controversy at the end of the Redskins’ 24-17 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night.
It started with a second-and-5 completion to receiver Pierre Garcon to the Redskins’ 45-yard line with one minute, 37 seconds remaining. The officials marked him short of the first down, but the chains on the Redskins’ sideline moved as if Garcon had been awarded a first down.
We signaled third down on the field. The stakes were moved incorrectly. After that play, we said it was still third down. We had signaled third down prior to the play starting. The chains just got moved incorrectly.
” — Jeff Triplette, referee
There was no doubt in the Redskins’ minds that they had a first down. There was no doubt for referee Jeff Triplette that it was third down.
“We signaled third down on the field,” Triplette told pool reporter Zac Boyer of the Washington Times. “The stakes were moved incorrectly. After that play, we said it was still third down. We had signaled third down prior to the play starting. The chains just got moved incorrectly.”
The players saw the chains and thought Garcon had made a first down.
“The chains moved right away and it was first down,” Redskins guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. “Next thing I know it’s not. … We thought it was first and 10 so we ran the play. Next thing we know it’s fourth and 1 all of a sudden. I don’t know how they can take it back. I feel if it’s marked, you have to go with it. That changes everything for our offense.”
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he had asked for a measurement following Garcon’s catch. However, Shanahan said an official told him it wasn’t necessary.
“He said, ‘You don’t have to, it’s a first down,’ ” Shanahan said. “I saw it as a first down on the other side and he signaled to move the chains on our side. I asked him if it was fourth down. He said he already told me it was a first down. … Then, after I saw it was fourth down I asked him, ‘You already told me it was first down.’ That was quite disappointing.”
Shanahan said the unnamed official didn’t respond to that. His claim that he was told it was a first down was relayed to Triplette.
“I can’t respond to that,” Triplette said. “I don’t know what happened. I just know that we had signaled third down.”
The Giants players didn’t think Garcon had gained a first down.
“When I saw the marker said first down, I was trying to signal to Coach [Tom] Coughlin, like, ‘You might want to challenge that.’ Because it was not a first down,” Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said.
“He was short. Lucky for us it worked out, but it wasn’t a first down. Everybody on the field could see that.”
Giants linebacker Jon Beason said, “What it looked like, they marked it first down on one side and not on the other side, so they thought they had a first down even though they didn’t. He [Mike Shanahan] was UP-SET, and he’s over there yelling, and I was talking to him saying, ‘But you didn’t get it.’ I don’t think he could hear me, but I was pointing. It wasn’t a first down. Everybody makes mistakes, I guess.”
On third and 1, the Redskins called a downfield pass to tight end Fred Davis, who dropped a pass at the New York 30.
“Coach [Kyle Shanahan] called that play thinking it was first down,” Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “Then we come back and we think it’s second and 10 and they’re yelling out its fourth down. No explanation, no measurement — didn’t stop the clock to allow the chains to move back.”
On fourth down, Garcon caught a short hitch that would have resulted in a first down, but safety Will Hill stripped him of the ball to end the game. Griffin said offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had called a play thinking it was second and 10. After they learned it was fourth down, Shanahan had to change his play call.
“Anytime you have a sequence of plays you’re not going to call a quick hitch on fourth and inches,” Mike Shanahan said. “So obviously it’s going to affect our play call.”
Griffin said it did not cause confusion in the huddle.
“We try to stay in the moment,” Griffin said. “If the refs call it fourth down we try to make sure we’re treating that as a fourth down play. This is it. We have to convert this to continue to go on, tried to stay in the moment and then after the fact think about how everything transpired. We did a good job of that and got a good play. It just didn’t turn on.”
Information from ESPN.com Giants reporter Dan Graziano contributed to this report.
- Covered the Redskins for the Washington Examiner and other media outlets since 1994
- Authored or co-authored three books on the Redskins and one on the Cleveland Browns