Rams' Linehan: NFL's 10-second runoff rule has issues

Updated: October 16, 2006, 7:19 PM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Rams coach Scott Linehan said Monday the NFL should reconsider the "integrity of the 10-second runoff" after the bizarre ending in St. Louis' 30-28 loss to Seattle.

The Seahawks, down 28-27, used a running play to reach the St. Louis 31 in the final seconds Sunday and hurried to the line. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck spiked the ball with 4 seconds left to set up a field goal to win the game.

The yellow flag flew, and many of the Rams began to celebrate in anticipation of an offensive penalty that would require a 10-second runoff, which would have meant the game was over and the Rams won.

Wrong.

The Seahawks were whistled for an illegal formation, not a false start. The false start penalty would have required the runoff. The illegal formation call simply moved the ball back five yards.

Josh Brown made a 54-yard field goal to win it for Seattle (4-1), which moved back into first place in the NFC West, a half-game ahead of St. Louis (4-2).

Linehan didn't question the ruling, just the rule.

"I think the integrity of the 10-second runoff is in question here because the whole idea is you can't have an illegal play of any kind without any timeouts while the clock is running to ensure that you get a chance to get a kick," Linehan said.

Teams could use the loophole to their advantage, Linehan said. For example, a trailing team that completes a long pass might not have time to get the rest of the team to the ball in the waning seconds. So why not just have the receivers who are downfield run a play and take the illegal formation penalty?

"If you have a long play now, what I would say is I think Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce should run up and snap the ball to each other," Linehan said. "Everybody stand still. It's an illegal formation -- there's only one guy on the ball and an ineligible taking the snap. Snap the ball and clock it. It's only a five-yard penalty, right?"

Linehan admitted the scenario isn't likely to play out often, but if it does, "you save approximately 10 to 15 seconds.

"I promise you they're going to have to figure out a way [to look at the rule] because that's what we're going to do," he said.

Amid the confusion, defensive end Leonard Little believed he heard an official say there were two fouls on the play -- illegal formation and false start. Some team officials believed they saw an official begin to give the false start signal. Linehan said he was unaware of that possibility.

"There was never any explanation there were two fouls. Obviously we would have taken the one that ran off the clock if that was the case," Linehan said.

"Don't tell me that."

Referee Ed Hochuli only mentioned the illegal formation call when questioned by a pool reporter after the game.

The dramatic ending has become commonplace for the Rams.

They beat Arizona when Kurt Warner fumbled as the Cardinals were moving toward a chip-shot game-winning field goal, and won in Green Bay when Brett Favre fumbled as the Packers were near a tying field goal or even a winning touchdown. All six of their games have been decided by a touchdown or less.

That's life in the NFL, Linehan said.

"I think games usually come down to the last possession," he said.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press