Wait…What Just Happened? : Fumble Recovery

football, advanced, fumble, grapefruitAnother week, another chat about flaws in the Coach’s Challenge system.

Early in yesterday’s Colts at Ravens playoff game, Ravens running back Ray Rice fumbled the ball, the Colts recovered it, and then a Ravens player emerged from the pile with the football.

So, sequence: Ravens fumble, Colts recover, Colts lose possession, Ravens dig it out and re-recover it.

The official call: Colts football.

Now at first glance, this is a weird call. If a player emerges from the bottom of a pile with the football, you’d assume he had the final possession of the football. But more often than not things get ugly at the bottom of the pile and players scrap for the ball even after the play is dead (when the whistle has been blown) to try and get possession. So in that light, it would make sense that the official (Mike Carey) who called Colts ball saw more than we did on TV and knew that the Colts had possession of the ball when the play was over, not the Ravens.

However, on second glance, it looks like the original sequence was right on: Ray Rice fumbled, the Colts recovered but lost the ball, and the Ravens re-recovered the ball at the bottom of the pile. It seemed like pretty solid evidence that if reviewed, the ball would be given to the Ravens.

But Ravens head coach John Harbaugh couldn’t do anything about the bad call. Remember what we learned about the Coach’s Challenge system? There are a bunch of plays that coaches can’t challenge, including fumbles. So even though it was clearly a bad call, the Ravens just had to get over it and keep playing (which they did, to the tune of a turnover of their own later that drive).

Next week, we’ll talk about something other than the issues with the Challenge system. Promise.

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