LANDOVER – One of the Redskins most costly plays Sunday was Kirk Cousins‘ fumble with 1:38 to go in the fourth quarter.
But was it really a fumble?
Video reviews seemed to show the ball leaving Kirk Cousins‘ hand in a forward throwing motion before it was slapped away by defensive end Brandon Graham, then collected by defensive tackle Fletcher Cox. The initial ruling was a strip-sack for Graham, a fumble for Cousins and a recovery for Cox, which he returned for a touchdown to put the Eagles up 28-17. If Cousins had control of the ball when he released it with a forward motion, though, the ruling should have been an incomplete pass.
“Real time, I have lack of control in the hand,” referee Brad Allen told a pool reporter. “That means empty hand going forward. We ruled fumble, recovered by the defense.”
The ruling stood upon review. This year, the officials have access to video monitors on the field during reviews and can communicate with NFL headquarters in New York. Those in the league office make the final call, however.
Coach Jay Gruden was told that the league office couldn’t tell if Cousins had fumbled or thrown an incomplete pass, so they couldn’t overturn the initial ruling of a fumble.
“That’s what I was told,” Gruden said. “Yes. They couldn’t tell.”
A forward pass must move forward after leaving the passer’s hands (yes, that’s obvious, but this is the NFL definition) or first touch the ground, another player or official or anything else that is closer to the opponent’s goal line than the point at which the ball leaves the passer’s hand. Any intentional movement forward of a passer’s hand starts a forward pass, according to the NFL.
Allen said that all the views he and the league office looked at during the review were inconclusive, so they stuck with his initial ruling of a fumble.
“I just have to go with my gut. And my gut said fumble,” Allen said.
Cousins, whose last chance to lead a touchdown drive and put his team ahead ended with the play, said he thought he’d made a throwing motion and that the ball had come out, but that he wasn’t blaming the officiating crew for the decisions.
“I don’t have a whole lot to say because I haven’t seen it yet except for on the Jumbotron,” Cousins said. “We’d like to think that we have a chance there to get the ball back but, I always expect when the play is allowed to be reviewed and they can go over it again that they’re going to make the right call and you saw their decision.”
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