There was lots of talk after Monday night’s 17-16 Redskins victory over the New York Giants about quarterback Robert Griffin III‘s first-quarter fumble that magically ended up in the hands of wide receiver Joshua Morgan, who took it 13 yards to the end zone for a touchdown.
After the game, Griffin III joked that the play was a planned pitch.
“We didn’t run it in practice, because we wanted to save it for the game,” Griffin III said with a laugh. “I just knew he was going to be there ready for it. I just had to make sure I grabbed that guy’s leg that was right next to me, so that he wouldn’t get to it. Josh did a good job, making sure he was in the spot he needed to be.”
But all joking aside, the officials overseeing Monday’s game did a terrific job getting the call right. After review, they determined the ball was coming out of Griffin III’s possession before he could officially be ruled down.
The play was the subject of a recent “Official Review” segment on the NFL Network in which Carl Johnson, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, and Dean Blandino, the director of officiating, go over the decisions that were made with a fine-toothed comb.
Johnson and Blandino pointed out that everything would’ve been different had the play happened with less than two minutes remaining or on fourth down.
“Look at the time: we’re outside of two minutes, and it’s second down,” Johnson said. “And you’re going to see the ball is going to be punched out by the Giants’ defender just prior to the runner being down by contact,” Johnson said. “And had this play happened on fourth down or inside of two minutes, this ball cannot be advanced by his teammate. Remember: inside of two [minutes] and if it’s fourth down, only the ball carrier can advance a fumble. So this was a correct judgement by the covering official, and just a great piece of officiating all the way around.”
Blandino also considered another factor:
“You could potentially have an illegal forward pass,” Blandino said. “Had RG3 thrown the ball forward at this point, that would negate the touchdown and we’d enforce a foul from the spot of the pass.”
But that wasn’t the case, even though Griffin III — and even head coach Mike Shanahan — joked that the play was actually planned.
“I can’t believe he fumbled that one ball to Josh,” Shanahan said. “Everybody thought that was an accident, but he’s worked on that during the week. I thought it was a great job there.”
Here’s the NFL Network “Official Review” piece about the play:
Morgan, by the way, became the second Redskins wide receiver to recover a Griffin III fumble for a touchdown this season. Wide receiver Pierre Garçon dove on a Griffin fumble at the goal line Week 4 in the Redskins’ 24-22 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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