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The NFL says that Sunday night’s officiating crew should have stopped play and eliminated confusion about the down and distance at the end of the New York Giants‘ 24-17 victory over the Washington Redskins.
A 4-yard completion to the Redskins’ Pierre Garcon was spotted short of a first down. Referee Jeff Triplette signaled third down. But the head linesman, with Washington in a hurry-up offense, incorrectly motioned for the crew to advance the chains, which caused the down boxes to read first down.
League officiating director Dean Blandino said Monday in a statement that “in this situation where there is obvious confusion as to the status of the down, play should have been stopped prior to third down and the correct down communicated to both clubs. This should have occurred regardless of the fact that Washington had no timeouts and it was inside two minutes.”
There was little doubt among Redskins players that they had a first down. Triplette had no doubt 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.”
Redskins players saw the chains and thought Garcon made a first down.
“The chains moved right away and it was first down,” 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.”
Shanahan said he asked for a measurement after Garcon’s catch but that 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 third down. He said he already told me it was a first down. … 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 official, whom he did not name, didn’t respond.
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.”
On third-and-1, the Redskins called a downfield pass to tight end Fred Davis, who dropped it at the New York 30.
“Coach [Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator] called that play thinking it was first down,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “Then we come back and we think it’s second-and-10 and they’re yelling out it’s 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 give the Giants (5-7) possession.
Griffin said Kyle Shanahan had called a play thinking it was second-and-10. After the Redskins (3-9) realized it was fourth down, Shanahan had to change the 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.”
ESPN.com Redskins reporter John Keim and information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.