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Referee Jeff Triplette tries to explain Sunday night gaffe; NFL admits mistake

Jeff Triplette (Bob Levey/Getty Images) Jeff Triplette said the chains were moved incorrectly after a second-down catch. (Bob Levey/Getty Images)

As the Redskins tried to drive for the game-tying score in Sunday night's 24-17 loss to the Giants, there was a confusing moment, as Washington believed it had a first down, but the referees didn't.

After Pierre Garcon caught a second-down pass at the Redskins' 45-yard line with 1:37 left in game, Washington coach Mike Shanahan thought his team had a first down, and the chains moved forward.

But the referees marked Garcon short of a first down, and two plays later, the Giants had the ball back and were taking a knee to seal the win.

Referee Jeff Triplette tried to explain the referees' error after the game.

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"We signaled third down on the field," Triplette told Zac Boyer of the Washington Times. "The stakes were moved incorrectly. After that play, we said it was still third down. We had signaled third down prior to the play starting. The chains just got moved incorrectly."

Shanahan said he asked for a measurement but an official told him it wasn't necessary because the play resulted in a first down.

"I saw it as a first down on the other side and he signaled to move the chains on our side," Shanahan said. "I asked him if it was fourth down. He said he already told me it was a first down. ... Then, after I saw it was fourth down I asked him, 'You already told me it was first down.' That was quite disappointing."

Said Triplette after hearing Shanahan's comments: "I can't respond to that. I don't know what happened. I just know that we had signaled third down."

The play can be viewed here.

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Dean Blandino, the NFL's head of officiating, weighed in on the play in a statement released Monday afternoon.

"With 2:00 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday night’s game between the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, Washington faced a second-and-5 from its own 41-yard line with no timeouts remaining. Quarterback Robert Griffin III completed a pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon for four yards. The ball was correctly spotted shy of the Washington 46, bringing up third down.

"Referee Jeff Triplette signaled third down, but the head linesman – with Washington in a 'hurry-up' situation – incorrectly motioned for the chain crew to advance the chains, which caused the down boxes to read first down.

"Following a Washington incomplete pass, the chains were moved back and the down boxes correctly reset to fourth down. In this situation where there is obvious confusion as to the status of the down, play should have been stopped prior to third down and the correct down communicated to both clubs. This should have occurred regardless of the fact that Washington had no timeouts and it was inside two minutes.

"Only the referee can rule and signal a first down. The official nearest to the down markers and chain crew, the head linesman, must wait for the first down signal from the referee before moving the chains.

"Instant Replay did not become involved in this situation because the replay official determined that the ball on Garcon’s catch was correctly spotted short of the line to gain for a first down."

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