Rare is it when a week goes by in the NFL without some discussion of a controversial officiating decision. And thanks to Carl Cheffers' crew in Green Bay, we've got our talking point for Week 16.
The Steelers managed to block Mason Crosby's short, 23-yard field-goal attempt, seemingly preserving a three-point lead, only to cede the ball back to the Packers on a rare illegal batting penalty.
In the ensuing scramble after Steve McLendon swatted Crosby's kick, Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark appeared to scoop up the loose football and attempt a lateral to his teammate. The unsuccessful try left the ball rolling on the ground, at which point the Steelers' Ziggy Hood swatted it out of bounds.
Hood's move resulted in a flag. However, the key here: The officials ruled that Pittsburgh never had secured possession prior to that moment, meaning that the penalty gave Green Bay an automatic first down. And, as Cheffers explained, the NFL rule book prevents the Steelers from challenging a possession call in that circumstance.
For starters, here's the bat by Hood, which clearly deserved a flag:
(GIF via Bleacher Report)
Prior to that, though, it looked relatively clear that Clark not only gained possession, but that he took a couple of steps, was touched down by a Green Bay player and pitched the ball backwards -- all of which should have resulted in the penalty being enforced after Pittsburgh took over possession.
Illustration of the Steelers play, with colorful red arrows added: pic.twitter.com/G7Ixc9SJcD (via @bpost34)Instead, the Packers took advantage of the very questionable call to punch in a touchdown -- Eddie Lacy plunged over on the next snap for six.
— John Breech (@johnbreech) December 22, 2013