NFL will look into changing fumble rule

September 15, 2008 5:04:00 PM PDT
The NFL will look into the inadvertent whistle rule that required officials to give the ball back to Denver in the final seconds of Sunday's game with San Diego.

League spokesman Greg Aiello said the NFL competition committee will look into the rule in the offseason, perhaps changing it as it did the "down by contact" rule.

The play occurred with the Broncos at the Chargers 1-yard-line in the final minute. Denver quarterback Jay Cutler dropped back to pass, the ball slipped out of his hands, bounced off the grass and into the arms of San Diego linebacker Tim Dobbins.

Referee Ed Hochuli ruled it an incomplete pass. Replay ruled it a fumble, but it was spotted at the 10-yard line, where the ball hit the ground, and given to Denver because the rules did not permit possession to be awarded to San Diego because the whistle had blown.

Denver went on to score, convert a 2-point conversion and win 39-38.

Coach Norv Turner said he spoke with NFL officials Monday and that the Chargers sent in video of the plays in question.

"As for things that occurred during the game, in my mind, they're done," Turner said. "We sent the plays in to the league that we had in question. We expect to get a response back. Anything that we talk about or anything that is discussed in terms of any of the rules or any of the calls isn't going to change the outcome of that game. That game is going to be 39-38, forever."

Until March 2007, down by contact plays were not reviewable. That rule was changed so that they were reviewable, and if a fumble occurred even after the whistle blew, the team recovering it got possession.

"Officials are held accountable for their calls. They are graded on every play of every game," Aiello said Monday. "Ed has been an outstanding official for many years, but he will be marked down for this call. Under our evaluation system, an official's grades impact his status for potentially working the playoffs and ultimately whether or not he is retained."


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