EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins rolled into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter and the official's arms went up, the Jets were just like everyone else in the building and watching on TV: They were sure they had just scored a touchdown.
And long after their 24-17 loss to the New England Patriots, they were still shocked, confused and absolutely livid that the touchdown was overturned.
"I mean, I've never seen somebody get called for a fumble when they're still holding on to the ball," Jets cornerback Buster Skrine said. "I don't know how somebody can fumble if the ball is still in their hand."
"I thought it was a B.S. call," wide receiver Jermaine Kearse added. "I'm pretty sure everybody is going to look back and say it's a B.S. call."
He certainly is going to have a lot of company with that opinion after NFL replay officials overturned the Seferian-Jenkins touchdown and not only ruled it wasn't a touchdown, but ruled it was a fumble and a touchback, which gave the ball back to the Patriots. Even some of the Patriots, like receiver Brandin Cooks, called it "shocking".
The Jets found it hard to understand exactly what the replay officials saw.
"For most of us, the last thing on our mind was a touchback," Jets cornerback Morris Claiborne said. "I thought at least it would be down on the 1 or something like that, we'd still have the ball and still have a chance to score a touchdown.
"But to hear 'Touchback'? It was the furthest thing from my mind. And me personally, I still don't understand where 'touchback' came from. It looked like he got up with the ball to me. It didn't look like the ball went through the back of the end zone at all."
The play in question occurred with 8:31 remaining and the Jets on the Patriots 4-yard line. Quarterback Josh McCown completed a pass to Seferian-Jenkins at the 6 and he barreled his way toward the pylon, where New England cornerbacks Duron Harmon and Malcolm Butler brought him down. The ball never popped loose and the down judge, Patrick Turner, immediately signaled a touchdown.
All scoring plays are reviewed by NFL officials in New York, though the only question on this one appeared to be whether Seferian-Jenkins had crossed the goal line before his knee went down.
It turned out, though, that the NFL's replay official, Al Riveron, determined something completely different upon his review. According to referee Tony Corrente, Seferian-Jenkins technically fumbled the ball out of the end zone, which by rule is a touchback, giving the defense possession. In quotes given to the pool reporter, Newsday's Bob Glauber, Corrente explained that Seferian-Jenkins lost control of the ball twice on the play and didn't regain possession until he was already out of bounds.
"He lost the ball. It came out of his control as he was almost to the ground," Corrente said. "Now he re-grasps the ball and by rule, now he has to complete the process of a recovery, which means he has to survive the ground again. So in recovering it, he recovered, hit the knee, started to roll and the ball came out a second time.
"He's now out of bounds in the end zone, which now created a touchback. So he didn't survive the recovery and didn't survive the ground during the recovery is what happened here."
Corrente added that Seferian-Jenkins' back was to the down judge, which is why Turner signaled a touchdown on the field. "He did not know the ball came loose," Corrente said.
But while the replay clearly showed Seferian-Jenkins losing control of the ball the first time, it was not clear at all that he hadn't recovered it before he crossed the goal line, which would have made it a touchdown. I.e., it did not appear that Riveron could see enough in his review to overturn the call on the field.
And yet he did, much to the Jets' dismay.
"From my angle on the replay I didn't see the ball fumbled," Jets head coach Todd Bowles said. "I saw it bobbled and I saw him gain control of it."
Bowles called the ruling "frustrating," but "not demoralizing. … I'm not going to blame this game on one play."
Remarkably, the least angry person in the Jets' locker room about that play was Seferian-Jenkins himself, who seemed to genuinely believe it was his fault and that he let his team down.
"I need to have better ball security," Seferian-Jenkins said. "I need to run through two defenders instead of letting them knock me down. At the end of the day it's my fault. I've got to have better ball security and I've got to run through those guys."
Asked if he was taking the high road, Seferian-Jenkins said "The high road? No. The high road is just the honest road. I can't take it back. I'm just saying what the facts are. I don't think it does anything for me to come up here and blast the officials or blast the rules or anything. The rule is the rule. They called it. It is what it is."
"Tough call," linebacker Darron Lee said. "Of course we thought it was a touchdown. Tough call. Really tough call."
Added Claiborne: "I'm still at a loss for words."