The Tampa Bay Bucs have to be furious after what happened on the final play vs the Saints on Sunday. After driving the length of the field, Bucs QB Josh Freeman hit WR Mike Williams for what looked like the game tying touchdown as time expired. Instead officials called a penalty on Williams for illegal touching because he had touched out of bounds earlier in the play. There are several glaring problems with this call. First of all Williams was pushed out of bounds by the defender, which is a penalty as the back of the endzone is obviously more than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage. Second, even if Williams had run out of bounds on his own and not been pushed, he is allowed to re-establish himself in the field of play and become an eligible receiver again. He did just this, taking no less than 6 steps in bounds before catching the ball.
I can honestly say this is a worse call than the Packers – Seahawks “simultaneous possession” call that the replacement refs were crucified for. It is also a worse call than the infamous Calvin Johnson catch a few years ago.
The problem with this call is how blatantly obvious it was that it should have been called a TD. Those other calls had grey area, this one did not. If defenders are allowed to push receivers out of bounds and make them ineligible for the rest of the play, then defenders would do nothing but that.
It will be interesting to see if the outrage over this call comes close to what we saw directed at the Replacement Officials after the blown call in Seattle. I suspect it won’t, though it should. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw an apology from the league office for this one after they have a chance to look at it on video, but I won’t hold my breath.