The Houston Texas walked away from Thursday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts with a critical, narrow AFC South victory.
And it came with controversy in the closing minutes.
The Texans had possession and a 20-17 lead with less than two minutes remaining, needing only to hold on to the ball and run out the clock in Colts territory to secure victory.
Confusion after Watson fumble
Except quarterback Deshaun Watson didn’t hold on to the ball. He fumbled on a second-down run with 1:48 remaining when Colts linebacker Darius Leonard ripped the ball out as Watson was being tackled.
Both teams claimed they had recovered the ball in a pile of players before officials determined on the field that Watson had recovered the football.
Leonard initially protested, claiming that he had the ball. He said after the game “I had it.”
But officials spotted the ball for a third-and-three play at the Indianapolis 35. No replay review.
Why no replay?
The NFL officiating Twitter account explained that there was no visual evidence to rule that the Colts had recovered the ball.
In #INDvsHOU, officials on the field ruled a fumble recovered by the offense. There was no clear visual evidence of a recovery by the defense.— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) November 22, 2019
That explains the ruling on the field, but it doesn’t explain why officials declined to review the play. The game was in the final two minutes of regulation, meaning that if there is a replay review, it must be initiated by officials.
The broadcast angles didn’t show a clear recovery either way, meaning that if officials had reviewed the play, it wouldn’t have been overturned regardless.
The Texans went on to run out the clock to secure a three-point victory.
It all made for a confusing end to close football game with more scrutiny on NFL officials who are already having a difficult season.
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