- The Washington Times
Monday, November 20, 2017

A day after a controversial intentional grounding call helped push the Redskins out of field goal range late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 34-31 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the NFL is sticking by its referees.

An NFL spokesman said Monday that the “judgment lies with the referee” on whether Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was facing pressure when called for the penalty.

With 31 seconds left at New Orleans’ 34-yard line, Cousins threw the ball out of bounds, beyond the line of scrimmage with no receiver in the area. By rule, that is considered intentional grounding if the referee determines the quarterback is “facing an imminent loss of yardage because of pressure from the defense.”

Further adding to the tension of the call, USA Today reported afterward that the league told Redskins president Bruce Allen that the flag should not have been thrown. On a conference call with reporters, an NFL spokesman declined to address that report, only saying the original ruling was a judgement call.

“It doesn’t sit very well with me at all,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Monday. “I can handle non-calls from time to time. But I can’t handle calls that aren’t calls, if that’s the fact. We had two receivers in the area and (Cousins) threw it over their heads.”

Gruden argued quarterbacks overthrowing receivers “happens all the time” and that Cousins wasn’t under duress.

There also appeared to be some miscommunication on the play to begin with. Out of timeouts, Gruden said Sunday he wanted Cousins to audible into a bubble screen for Jamison Crowder instead of running the original run play.

But Cousins said after the game that he thought the coaches were telling him to throw it out of bounds.

On Monday, Cousins said on his weekly radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan the play was “essentially like clocking it.”

“I mean, I wanted to just spike it,” Cousins said. “I wanted to throw it at Jamison’s shins, which would have been better. Maybe if I throw it right at Jamison’s cleats — like you do with a screen that’s dead, you just throw it at their cleats — then they would have said ‘Oh, there’s a receiver in the area.’”

Cousins still seemed to be confused on why the penalty was called, saying it was a gray area. If the NFL owned up to their mistake to the Redskins privately, Cousins added that “really doesn’t do much.” 

Gruden said they would ask the league for further clarification.

“Maybe I don’t understand the rule,” Gruden said. “We’ll get clarity on it. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. A costly mistake. If I’m right, then it’s too bad.”

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