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League to Take a Look at Rule

January 21, 2002

ST. LOUIS — Oakland Raider executive Bruce Allen can't watch his videotape of Saturday's overtime loss to New England.

"I smashed mine," he said Sunday.

Hours after a controversial call in a driving snowstorm cost them a berth in the AFC championship game, the Raiders were still fuming with frustration. They are convinced Patriot quarterback Tom Brady fumbled with 1:47 to play in regulation when he was hit by cornerback Charles Woodson. Linebacker Greg Biekert recovered the loose ball.

But referee Walt Coleman reversed his own call after watching the replay, ruling Brady never tucked the ball away and therefore was still in the act of throwing. It was ruled an incomplete pass. Four plays later, Adam Vinatieri kicked a 45-yard field goal to forge a 13-13 tie. He clinched the victory with a 23-yard field goal on the opening drive in overtime.

Mike Pereira, the NFL's director of officiating who was in St. Louis on Sunday to observe the Ram-Packer game, said Coleman's call was correct, but he indicated he would bring up the rule with the competition committee.

"It was clear to me; the call was 100% right," Pereira said. "Does that mean we won't take a look at the rule in the off-season? It's high-profile enough as to what happened that I think we'll take a look at it. But we look at a lot of things."

Pereira, who watched the game on TV in St. Louis, said he read and reread page 12 of the rule book just to make sure. He said he expected the call to be reversed, even as he watched it live.

"Once the arm starts forward, it's considered a pass all the way through tucking it back into your body. If the ball comes out at any time, whether it drops out of your hand, whether it hits your own hand, whether it hits an opponent's hand, it's an incomplete pass. [It's incomplete] until you get it tucked against your side, or if you bring it up and re-cock it to throw it again."

The Raiders, meanwhile, are seething. Allen said he left several messages with the league and, as of noon Sunday, had yet to get a return call.

"We've looked at it from every angle," he said. "Everyone who's seen it is shocked.

"It would be very similar to if they ruled [Vinatieri's] field goal no good, if it was good. It doesn't have anything to do with some unknown rule. It's just a fumble."

Sam Farmer

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