It comes a little late for the Kansas City Chiefs, not to mention the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the NFL issued a statement Monday morning admitting its officials made a mistake in not assessing an illegal-formation penalty on the Chargers during Sunday’s game in San Diego.
The error helped the Chargers beat the Chiefs 27-24 in overtime and advance to the playoffs. A win by the Chiefs would’ve put Pittsburgh in the postseason instead.
Here’s the play in question:
With 8 seconds remaining in regulation, the score tied at 24 and the Chiefs facing fourth and 12 at the San Diego 23, Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop lined up to attempt a 41-yard field goal.
The kick sailed wide right, but Succop should have been given a do-over, the league said, because the Chargers “lined up with seven men on one side of the snapper. This should have been penalized as an illegal formation by the defense.”
The NFL’s statement cited “Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3(b)(1) of the NFL Rule Book (page 51),” which “states that ‘No more than six Team B players may be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the snap.’ ”
Properly enforced by the officiating crew, the penalty would have resulted in a 5-yard difference for the Chiefs and a re-kick from the Chargers’ 18-yard line ... a much easier distance for the usually reliable Succop.
Instead, the game went to overtime, when San Diego kicked a field goal of its own to win and advance to a playoff showdown Sunday at Cincinnati.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he saw the Chargers’ overload and tried to get the officials’ attention. He called a timeout after the kick and before the Chargers took a final, kneel-down snap.
“You saw I took a timeout,” Reid said. “That was for a reason. I saw it. I couldn’t challenge. I had a timeout. I used it so they could take a peek.”
Nothing was going to change — with the play or the Chiefs’ position in the playoffs. They were already assured of a playoff berth and a fifth seed on the AFC side of the bracket (they open the postseason Saturday at Indianapolis), so losing the game hurt mostly as a matter of principle.
But that wasn’t the only controversial play on Sunday at San Diego. During overtime, Chargers safety Eric Weddle appeared to fumble the ball away on a fake punt attempt. It was scooped up by KC’s Cyrus Gray and returned for an apparent touchdown.
But the officials ruled the play dead — Weddle was down by contact, in their estimation — and because the game was in overtime, Reid was not allowed to challenge the ruling.
“I wish I could have (challenged),” Reid said after the game. “I’m doing it off the naked eye without the video, but doggone it, I thought we had that one. That’s their call. I saw the ball out. They called him dead, so it was over at that point.”