Did two terrible spots in the fourth quarter directly result in the Houston Texans losing to the Oakland Raiders 27-20 in Mexico City Monday night?
But it’s hard to say that the missed spots didn’t play a big role in that loss. A really big role.
Houston has plenty of room to gripe after referees spotted two consecutive running plays short of the first-down markers with 7:07 and 6:31 to play, leading to a turnover on downs and an Oakland go-ahead touchdown.
But the Texans appeared to pick up the first down yardage on both third and fourth downs. Why the referees couldn’t see that is a whole other question.
"We got all those cameras and can’t get that right?" Texans coach Bill O’Brien said after the game.
On the first controversial spot — the third-and-2 — Lamar Miller ran to the left and appeared to have moved the ball past the first-down marker on the left sideline, but referee Patrick Turner spotted Miller to have only gained the line, despite the fact that his knee was closer to the marker than the ball.
O’Brien didn’t challenge the spot — he should have, he would have won — and the Texans faced a fourth-and-inches.
On that play, Akeem Hunt ran into a pile of humanity and appeared to have gotten just enough to earn the first down.
This spot was challenged, but the referees didn’t overturn it.
This wasn’t the only spotting failure in the game. In the first quarter, referees failed to give Braxton Miller a first down when he rolled over a defender while being tackled on a third-and-2 run. He was marked a yard short, despite the fact that he first was taken to the ground well past the sticks. The spot wasn’t challenged and the Texans punted.
And when it comes to refereeing failures in the game, none beat the negligent whistle that wiped a DeAndre Hopkins touchdown off the board by ruling him out of bounds when, well… he never went out of bounds.
This is where Hopkins was determined to be out-of-bounds. It was close, but he was still in play.
All in all, a banner day for Tony Corrente’s crew.
There’s no solution to the inadvertent whistle — bad calls happen and that was irreversible — but the NFL can make sure that another game is determined by poor officiating when it comes to spotting the ball.
The solution to the NFL’s ball-spotting issues is simple — make the first-down markers invisible barriers, like electric fences, and when the ball crosses the plane of the sticks (or the end zone) have a signal that’s both seen and heard. Sync those alerts up with the video, so that you can determine when the ball crossed the plane against when a knee or elbow was down.
Beep, knee — touchdown.
There’s the elbow… there’s the light. Fourth down at the [INSERT GPS COORDINATES HERE].
This is hardly rocket science, but the NFL should be able to afford a few rocket scientists to make sure errors like Monday’s cannot happen again.