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NFL says Broncos touchdown should have been ruled a touchback

The league says replays showed that Denver's Trindon Holliday flipped the ball out of his hands before crossing the goal line on a 76-yard punt return.

November 13, 2012

The NFL said the 76-yard punt return by Denver's Trindon Holliday against Carolina on Sunday should have been ruled a touchback, not a touchdown.

In the second quarter of Denver's 36-14 win at Charlotte, N.C., Holliday, the Broncos' 5-foot-5 returner, raced up the sideline and appeared to score. Replays showed that he prematurely celebrating the TD by flipping the ball out of his hands before crossing the goal line.

Replay official Bob Boylston confirmed the touchdown and, as a result, referee Alberto Riveron did not stop the game for an instant replay review.

The NFL said Monday in a statement: "Because the video showed that Holliday lost possession of the ball before it broke the plane of the goal line, Boylston should have stopped the game to initiate an instant replay review. Had that occurred, Riveron would have had the indisputable visual evidence necessary to overturn the on-field ruling. The result of the play should have been a touchback — not a touchdown — with Carolina gaining possession at the 20-yard line."

"I thought I was actually in the end zone this week, but I wasn't," Holliday said Monday. "Coach [John Fox] told me next time, just bring in the ball."

Holliday's touchdown was a major turning point in the game and ushered in a Broncos scoring onslaught. At the time when he fielded the punt, the score was tied at 7-7, but the Broncos would go on to score 29 straight points to take charge and win going away in Fox's return to Carolina.

"He definitely flipped it before he got in," said Panthers special-teams player Richie Brockel. "But that's the way it went, unfortunately. The call didn't go in our favor, but it still counted for six points."

The play might have also cost Carolina special-teams coordinator Brian Murphy his job. One day after Holliday's return, Panthers Coach Ron Rivera announced he had fired Murphy, citing "philosophical differences and productivity."

Black expected to recover

Tampa Bay linebacker Quincy Black is expected to recover from a neck injury suffered against San Diego but is experiencing complications with his left arm.

Black was carted off the field Sunday after tackling running back Ryan Mathews during the third quarter of the Buccaneers' 34-24 victory over the Chargers.

Buccaneers Coach Greg Schiano said Monday that Black did not suffer any spinal damage and that the sixth-year pro had "full function" with the exception of a problem with his left arm that will keep him off the field for an undetermined length of time.

"Overall, he's going to be OK," Schiano said. "Now, it's a serious injury. And he's having some complications with his left arm. So there's still further tests he has to go through before we can make a definitive statement. But it's serious. How much time that means, we're going to have to see."

Black remained on the field on his back after appearing to make helmet-to-helmet contact with Mathews, who was not injured. The linebacker's neck and back were immobilized before he was placed on a cart, transported to a nearby hospital for observation and later released.


Dallas Cowboys defensive end Kenyon Coleman is out for the season because of a torn triceps in his left arm. ... The Green Bay Packers lost another player for the season despite having the weekend off, putting offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga on the injured list because of a hip issue. ... Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson won't play Thursday against Miami because of a concussion he suffered Sunday against New England. ... Houston Texans defensive line coach Bill Kollar did not travel home from Chicago with the team Sunday because of a possible blood clot. ... The Indianapolis Colts lost starting cornerback Jerraud Powers (big toe) and defensive tackle Drake Nevis (hand) for the rest of the season.

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