Officials Botch Deshaun Watson Fumble Call at End of Texans-Colts

In Friday’s Hot Clicks: Another officiating controversy in the NFL, an amazing rugby interview and more.
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What a mess

Texans' Deshaun Watson fumbles vs. Colts

The Colts could have taken a commanding lead in the AFC South with a win last night against the Texans. Both teams entered the game with the same record but a victory would have given Indianapolis essentially a two-game lead in the division because the Colts had already won the first meeting and thus would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. 

But Colts fans are left to wonder “What if?” this morning after an officiating controversy in the final moments of the game. 

After the two-minute warning and after the Colts had burned all their timeouts, with 1:48 to play on a second-and-9, Deshaun Watson ran with the ball and was tackled by Darius Leonard. Watson fumbled the ball, but the Texans retained possession. The question everyone is asking this morning is “How?”

Since the play occurred inside of two minutes, it should have triggered a booth review. And yet, there was no stoppage of play to take a look at it. Even after the Texans called a timeout as the play clock wound down, the booth didn’t take a look at it. 

“I was trying to get them to review it,” Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters. “But the officials on the sideline told me it was being reviewed. And then the Texans called timeout ... so that gave them in New York even more time to review it. So obviously they saw it and didn’t think it was a fumble.”

But it was a fumble. The officials agreed. The NFL explained after the game that it was ruled a fumble on the field. The issue was that there was no clear evidence of a recovery by the Colts. 

Leonard is adamant that he had the football at the end of the play. 

“I punched it out,” Leonard told reporters. “I punched for it, got it out. I had it, and after that, they said it wasn’t a fumble.”

Recovery of a fumble, especially in a mess of bodies like that, is such a difficult call to make. It’s entirely possible that Leonard had it, or that he and Watson had simultaneous control of it. There’s no way to tell without taking a very close look at the play. 

The play was examined by the replay crew in the league’s New York office but there was no stoppage of play to get a closer look at it. That’s baffling. Considering the stakes of the game, there absolutely should have been a halt in the action to take a look at the play. Maybe there wouldn’t have been a camera angle that conclusively showed who came away with the ball. Fine. But the Colts deserved to have it checked out. 

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