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NFL: Refs erred on missed Chiefs FG that cost Steelers postseason bid

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NFL ruling

The NFL's statement about the Chargers' illegal formation:

“With 0:08 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, Kansas City faced a fourth-and-12 from the San Diego 23. The Chiefs attempted a 41-yard field that was no good. On the play, San Diego lined up with seven men on one side of the snapper. This should have been penalized as an illegal formation by the defense.

“Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 (b) (1) of the NFL Rule Book (page 51) states that No more than six Team B players may be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the snap. The penalty for illegal formation by the defense is a loss of five yards. This is not subject to instant replay review. Had the penalty been assessed, it would have resulted in a fourth-and-seven from the San Diego 18 with 0:04 remaining, enabling the Chiefs to attempt a 36-yard field goal.”

By Alan Robinson
Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, 11:12 a.m.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is taking no consolation from the NFL's admission the Chargers lined up illegally on the failed 41-yard field goal try by the Chiefs' Ryan Succop that kept Pittsburgh out of the playoffs.

“I think it's just best that I wrap a bow around the season and move on from there,” Tomlin said Monday. “I am not looking to assess blame on anybody else about our current position other than ourselves.”

But Tomlin said “a lot of work must be done from an officiating standpoint” — possibly including the hiring of full-time officials, an issue he might address as a new member of the NFL's Competition Committee.

On the field goal try with eight seconds remaining Sunday, the Chargers lined up seven defenders to the left of the center. A rules change enacted during the offseason permits only six players to be on either side of the center on a kick; the rule is designed to prevent teams from stacking a huge number of defenders on one side of the ball to attempt to block a kick.

With a multitude of defenders surging toward him from his left, Succop watched his kick sail slightly wide right. The Chargers went on to win in overtime, 27-24 — sending them to Cincinnati for a wild-card game Sunday and sending the Steelers home with an 8-8 record. The Steelers would have advanced with a Kansas City win.

If referee Bill Leavy's crew had penalized the Chargers, Succop would have tried a 36-yard field goal, rather than 41 yards. The play was not reviewable since there was no call on the field.

Tomlin, speaking at his season-ending news conference, said he noticed immediately on TV that the Chargers were lined up improperly. Asked his reaction, Tomlin said, “I'll leave that between myself, my sons and our basement.”

Tomlin was diplomatic about discussing the missed call, saying the NFL issued a statement, and he didn't want to expand beyond that.

However, asked his reaction to the way the game ended, Tomlin said, “What do you think?”

Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said the Steelers can't blame the league, the officials or Succop for missing the playoffs.

“At the end of the day, we have to start better,” he said, refereeing to their 0-4 September. “You don't want to be on your couch, hoping that a kicker makes a field goal for you to get into the playoffs.”

Still, of the officiating in general, Tomlin said, “There is a lot of work that needs to be done … I think it has been played out and well documented over the last several weeks, not only in stadiums we have played in but others. I look forward to being part of the process of helping it improve. I think that's the mentality that we all should have.

“I intend to roll my sleeves up and offer any insight I can in terms of making this the very best it can be moving forward.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.



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