Ravens turned critical extra time into win

Updated: November 24, 2003, 10:47 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- An officiating blunder Sunday gave Baltimore critical extra time in its fourth-quarter comeback victory over Seattle, the NFL said Monday.

NFL supervisor of officials Mike Pereira said both the 40-second clock and the game clock should have been restarted after an officials' conference over a penalty call with 58 seconds left in regulation. The Seahawks had the ball and led 41-38.

Because the clock wasn't started, the Ravens had 39 seconds left instead of 4 or 5 when they got the ball back on downs at the Baltimore 33.

They ended up tying the game on Matt Stover's field goal following a key 44-yard pass interference penalty. Baltimore won 44-41 in overtime.

"The clock was not started at the proper time, which was an administrative error by the officiating crew," Pereira said in a statement.

An NFL official told ESPN's Chris Mortensen that the league is reviewing possible disciplinary action for referee Tom White's crew. The action could include fines and/or suspensions for the game officials involved.

Ravens coach Brian Billick conceded that his team benefited from the mistake by White's crew.

"There was, I believe, an administrative error in there, in that the clock should have been wound more quickly," Billick said.

The mistake came after the clock stopped with 58 seconds left when head linesman Ed Camp threw a penalty flag. He thought offensive tackle Floyd Womack lined up as an ineligible receiver for Seattle on a second-down play on which Shaun Alexander gained 3 yards to the Baltimore 33.

The Ravens called their final timeout at that time, but the clock was stopped for the officials' conference in which it was determined Womack had reported as eligible. The flag was picked up.

Pereira said the conference negated Baltimore's timeout, leaving the Ravens with one more.

But he said the officials erred in not restarting the game clock and play game clock after the conference. If they had, Baltimore would have been forced to take its final timeout or let the clock run down by 40 seconds or more.

Instead, the clocked remained stopped until the next play started: a run for no gain by Alexander on third-and-1. That allowed the Ravens to use their last timeout with 44 seconds left.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck carried for no gain on fourth-and-1, and the clock stopped automatically for a change of possession. Baltimore got the ball back with 39 seconds left and mounted the tying drive.

"It got a little confusing," said Billick, who was fined $15,000 earlier in the season for criticizing the officials.

"The official threw the flag because he wasn't aware that 77 [Womack] reported. That's standard procedure. That stopped the clock. We expected that the clock would then be restarted and were prepared to call the timeout.

"But as they were getting it done, the clock wasn't starting. I thought, let them run that and then we'll call timeout."

Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren knows how important the defeat could be. Seattle is 7-4, in the thick of the playoff race.

"It's hard. It's like losing a game on a Hail Mary deal," he said. "You're pretty sure your game is won and then it's lost.

"Not to mention the extenuating circumstances in the memos we received today. I almost wish that wasn't part of it, but that's also part of it."

Holmgren, a former chairman of the league's competition committee, refused to criticize White and his crew.

"I appreciate the league being very candid about it," he said. "Nothing changes, but we had chances as a team. It had nothing to do with the officials. We had chances and we just didn't do it when we needed to do it, and it ended up biting us."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press