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What if Matthew Stafford hadn't scored on pivotal play?

October 28, 2013|By Sam Farmer
  • Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford reaches the ball over the goal line for the winning touchdown against Dallas on Sunday.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford reaches the ball over the goal line… (Rodger Mallison / MCT )

It took real guts Sunday for Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford not to stop the clock in the waning moments of a game against Dallas and instead take it upon himself to score the winning touchdown.

But what if he hadn’t scored? Could the Lions have gotten off another play?

A quick review: With no timeouts and his team trailing by six, Stafford had driven the Lions 79 yards in the final minute to the Dallas one. He wildly motioned to his teammates that he planned to spike the ball to stop the clock. Instead, when he saw the Cowboys linebackers weren’t ready to stop him, he took a snap with 14 seconds to play and reached the ball across the goal line.

An instant after the ball broke the plane, an official at the goal line began to signal touchdown. Stafford bounced back into the scrum, ran around the left side and into the end zone. Had the ball not crossed over, that run around the end would have been important, so he essentially scored twice on the play.

Regardless, the question is, had he not scored -- and not run the ball around the end -- could he have gotten off another play?

Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former vice president of officiating, said replay might have figured into the equation.

“Any time you get inside of 10 seconds at the end of the game, replay becomes a scary situation,” Pereira, now an officiating analyst for Fox, said in a phone interview Monday. “Because how do you decide when to stop the clock? And if you stop it to take a look at it, obviously you’re guaranteeing that the team’s going to get another play.”

In this case, the decision would have to be a split-second one -- without the benefit of TV replays --  because, had the Lions not scored, they would be scrambling to get another snap off and spike the ball. Once the next play starts, officials can’t go back and rule on the previous one.

Pereira said the replay assistant in the booth is instructed to watch the field and make a decision whether the team will have enough time for another snap. If the team gets lined up and it looks as if it will get another snap off, it’s the replay assistant’s job to push the button and stop the game.

“If they’re not going to get it off, and the clock’s going to expire, that’s fine,” Pereira said. “You let the clock expire. Then you can review the play after the clock hits zero. If it was, in fact, a score, then you can turn it into a score.

“To me, that’s the No. 1 fear of a replay assistant -- a decision on whether or not to stop the game on a running clock while the clock is heading to zero.”

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