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Texans-Saints: Play Until The Whistle Blows, And Then Commit A Turnover

There was a play in the Texans' win over the Saints that seemed to be ruled incorrectly. If it had been a regular season game, it could have been huge.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

I love my wife. Not only is she smart and sexy, but her passion for football rivals my own. When we’re in social settings and the conversation turns to football, more often than not she knows more about the game than most of the men who are talking. So when she says something seems screwy about a particular play, I take notice.

Saturday night, about three minutes into the 4th quarter, I had to walk away from the TV for a moment.  When I came back, my wife was fuming.

"We just got screwed!" she blurted out when I asked what happened. "The whistle had blown, play was over, but they said Savage fumbled. But the play was dead!"

We re-watched the play, and sure enough, as all of you are aware, Tom Savage threw a backward pass at the feet of Cecil Shorts III. The ball hit the ground, several officials blew the play dead, and just about everyone on the field acknowledged the whistles.

But one alert Saint, linebacker Craig Robertson, didn’t stop, instead running for the ball and "recovering" it.

This is where it gets frustrating on multiple levels. The initial call on the field was an incomplete pass.  That was wrong.  It was a backward pass, which should be ruled a fumble and the play allowed to continue until the ball was recovered by one team or the other. The play was reviewed.  The call on the field was overturned, and possession given to New Orleans. While they couldn’t do anything with it and failed to use this auspicious turn of events to their ultimate advantage, no one seemed to think anything of the call. Not the announcers, not the national media after the fact, and not even Tom Savage himself.

While I’m no NFL referee or walking rule encyclopedia, when my wife asked me if that was a wrong call, I told her I thought it should have been a replay the down scenario. Not because I’m a homer wanting every call to go the Texans' way, but simply because I know in the interests of player safety, they’re all taught to stop playing when the whistle blows. Anything that happens after the whistle blows is moot.

Fast-forward to Sunday and despite hours of NFL Network commentary, multiple national media articles praising Jadeveon Clowney and Will Fuller and even the aforementioned piece on Tom Savage berating himself for the poor decision to throw the ball, no one seemed to be the slightest bit phased by what I perceived as an utter fail by the replay officials.

Not one to let things go until I know if I’m right or wrong (yes, I’m one of those guys), I consulted the NFL Rule Book and this is what I found:

Section 2, Article 1, subsection M: when an official sounds his whistle erroneously while the ball is still in play, the ball becomes dead immediately.

1. If the ball is in player possession, the team in possession may elect to put the ball in play where it has been declared dead or to replay the down.

2. If the ball is a loose ball resulting from a fumble, backward pass, or illegal forward pass, the team last in possession may elect to put the ball in play at the spot where possession was lost or to replay the down.

While I don’t have a law degree, I have spent enough time studying the English language to be able to confidently interpret that wording as the Texans should have had the choice to either (a) play the ball where it was when Tom let go of it before the whistle blew or (b) replay the down.

Now, this is preseason, and it did give the Texans another opportunity to get out and practice red zone defense against an opponent. But it’s just another situation where the outcome of a game is forever altered by incomprehensible decision-making from the people the NFL puts in charge of making sure the game is played fairly and by the letter of the law as far as the rule book is concerned.

What did you think? Feel the Texans were screwed? Think Savage would have just made another epic blunder later in the drive if it were allowed to continue? Truly believe the zebras got it right? Let us know in the comments below.

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