The decision to turn an Austin Seferian-Jenkins' touchdown on Sunday into a hard-to-explain fumble and touchback was a "clear and obvious" decision, according to the replay official who made the call.
Al Riveron, the NFL's senior VP of officiating, strongly defended his call in a conference call with reporters on Monday morning, one day after it impacted the Jets' 24-17 loss to the New England Patriots. He said the reversal of the touchdown after a video review was absolutely the correct decision based on the rule, and he didn't see anything controversial about it.
"No doubt about it, it was clear and obvious," Riveron said. "And we use that (standard) for every replay. Unless it's clear and obvious to us, we will not change the ruling on the field, and this definitely met that criteria."
It will be hard to sell that to the Jets or their fans or basically anyone who saw replays of what looked like a touchdown catch by Jets TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the fourth quarter. Seferian-Jenkins caught a pass from Josh McCown at the Patriots 6-yard line and barreled through two Patriots defenders and landed just inside the pylon and across the goal line. It appeared the Jets had cut their deficit to 24-21 with 8:24 to play.
But all scoring plays are automatically reviewed at the NFL's headquarters in New York, and what Riveron apparently saw was Seferian-Jenkins bobbling the ball before he got to the goal line, bobbling it a second time, and then not regaining control until he landed out of bounds. That made it a fumble that technically went out of the end zone, which meant a touchback and Patriots ball.
"Once he is going to the ground, we see the ball is loose," Riveron said. "Now we know we have a fumble. By rule, he has to re-establish possession. He must regain control of the football again. We see in two other instances where the ball is loose. He has not regained control of the football before he hits out of bounds."
The Jets were livid when the decision was announced. Receiver Jermaine Kearse called it "a B.S. call." And many - including Jets coach Todd Bowles and Riveron's predecessors, Mike Periera and Dean Blandino - questioned whether that could even be seen on the replay, or whether Riveron truly had enough video evidence to overturn the touchdown call on the field.
Riveron, said he did based on the same replays that everyone else saw on TV. "We do not have access to the in-house shots," Riveron said. "All we get here is what TV feeds us."
He got enough, he insisted, to change the call based on the existing rule. Riveron did indicate, though, that he expects the NFL's Competition Committee will revisit the rule next spring.
"This has been something that has been brought forth to the Competition Committee on numerous occasions," he said. "And I'm sure we'll talk about it again. We might not agree with the rule, but that is the rule, so the rule was enforced correctly."