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NFL head official: Miami fumble call right, Vikings non-TD not

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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The Minnesota Vikings have a legitimate gripe with officials after their loss to the Green Bay Packers, but it appears the Miami Dolphins must accept a ruling that seemingly sealed their defeat against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Carl Johnson, the NFL's vice president of officiating, appeared Wednesday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access" to clear up any confusion over the controversial calls in last Sunday's games.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger appeared to deliver the knockout blow to the Dolphins late in the fourth quarter when he scrambled out of the pocket and lunged for the end zone. The ball was knocked loose right around the goal line, but the officials ruled that Roethlisberger had scored a touchdown.


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A Dolphins player emerged from the ensuing end-zone pileup with the football. When the ball was determined on replay to have come out before Roethlisberger reached the goal line, Miami believed they had a touchback. But since officials initially ruled that Roethlisberger had scored a touchdown, they didn't bother to see who recovered the ball, because it technically was no longer in play.

Anderson said the officials properly handled the situation.

"We need to see somebody physically possess the ball prior to the scrum because, when the official ruled touchdown on the field, the ball is dead," Anderson explained. "Our officials were not aggressively digging into the pile to find out who has the football. So in order to award a touchback or a touchdown, we must see a clear recovery prior to the scrum."

Johnson said the officials did the right thing by awarding Pittsburgh the ball on the Miami 1-yard line. The Steelers went on to kick a go-ahead field goal and hold on for a 23-22 victory.

"There's a lot that goes on in the bottom of a pile," Johnson said. "You just don't know how many times the ball has changed hands. So we cannot award a touchback or a touchdown based on who presents the football following a scrum.

"It's just a judgment call," he added. "If, in an official's judgment, a runner, ball carrier broke the plane, then we want to rule a touchdown. If he was short, then rule it short. But we want our guys to make decisions on the field."

Johnson also addressed a replay reversal of Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe's apparent touchdown catch in Sunday night's 28-24 loss to the Packers.


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Shiancoe made a diving grab in the end zone and appeared to secure the ball as he rolled onto his back. Officials ruled it a touchdown but, upon review, overturned the call. The Vikings had to settle for a field goal.

Vikings coach Brad Childress was furious about the reversal and revealed Monday that Johnson had apologized to him about the missed call. But that conversation was supposed to be confidential, so the NFL fined Childress $35,000 on Tuesday.

Johnson publicly expressed his disappointment about the call Wednesday, saying: "We wish the ruling on the field would have stood as a completed catch."

Johnson said the referee believed "there was movement, there was some loss of control," but the league disagreed.

"As we further assessed the play, we saw that there was not enough to change this call," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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