Last week, I offered my thoughts on the NFL's rule change regarding reviews of scoring plays. In summary, I thought the rule was stupid. It's unfair, as the rule only requires plays that are called as "touchdowns" on the field to be reviewed. It ignores plays that might have been touchdowns, but which were ruled as not a touchdown on the field. This rule bit the Dolphins in the butt last week, but was not a game-deciding issue.
This week, a new problem with the rule change was exposed: if coaches are expecting a "scoring" play to be reviewed by the booth, they aren't going to throw the challenge flag. But what if the booth doesn't make the decision to review the play in time?
This happened to Chicago during the second half of their game against the Saints this weekend. Darren Sproles caught a pass out of the backfield and ran up the sideline for a score. The replay, however, showed that he has probably stepped out of bounds on the one-yard-line. The commentators thought the play would be reviewed, but the booth decided not to. Maybe they just didn't see the replay in time? Anyway, the Saints kicked the extra point, and the play stood without being reviewed.
The Saints' Darren Sproles stepped out of bounds prior to scoring a touchdown in a game against the Bears. This play was ruled as a touchdown on-the-field, but was not reviewed by the booth!
Like last week, this rule gaffe probably wouldn't have affected the game, as the Bears ended up losing by three scores due to their inability to block for Jay Cutler and the inability of receivers to catch the few passes that did come to them.
But what if this happens in a critical situation in a game? The coach of the defending team may not make a fuss - and might not even run a play - because he knows the play is (by rule) supposed to be reviewed by the officials in the booth and he's waiting for that to happen. If the offense runs the PAT before the officials in the booth decide to review the play, then they blew the call.
So are the officials going to just start giving players the benefit of the doubt and calling more plays as "scores" on the field, knowing that the booth will automatically review them? Well this comes with problems too. For one thing: there must be indisputable visual evidence in order to overturn the call on the field. So the call on the field is important! In really close situations (or when an appropriate camera angle doesn't exist), the call cannot be overturned by rule. Officials can also start taking the game situation into consideration when they make a call. If the offense doesn't have any timeouts or challenges, the officials can just call the play a touchdown on the field so it can be auto-reviewed. But if the team does have challenges and timeouts left, maybe they'll be more conservative with their calls.
Taking control away from the coaches, players, and officials on the field is a bad thing for the NFL.
This rule needs to be ditched.