Why did the refs keep changing their mind on DeVonta Smith's TD?


How can a play be reviewed? And then reviewed again?

Good question.

DeVonta Smith’s touchdown catch in the third quarter of the Eagles’ win over the Giants Sunday was initially ruled a catch, and it sure looked like Smith somehow got both feet in bounds.

Then referee Land Clark announced that upon further review, the pass was incomplete.

Then a moment later he announced that, upon even further review, it really was a touchdown after all.

And that was the final ruling.

NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Walt Anderson explained the oddity with pool reporter Zach Berman of The Athletic.

“It was really just a communication lapse on our part,” Anderson said. “We originally were seeing a heel down. So the original communication between the replay booth and the referee was that it looked like it was going to be an expedited review. And I know the referees are trying to make those announcements quickly. By the time we could say there are additional angles, he had already made that announcement.

“And then we said, ‘No, we’re going to stop play and look at this because we had multiple angles relative to was it a continuous step. By rule, if the toe comes down first and then the heel comes down in one continuous step, then it’s out of bounds. But if there’s any kind of a drag with the toe, then that toe drag gets credit for the second step.”

And those additional angles were the ones that convinced the replay officials that Smith did drag his toe.

“We ended up seeing the additional angles,” he said. “It looked like a heel on one angle, but then on another angle, it looked like the toe probably drug. So we just wanted to stop play and make sure we were looking at all of the angles and make sure that the rule was applied correctly.

“And after we looked at everything, it looked like there may have been evidence that the toe drug first, before the heel ended up stepping. And since the ruling on the field was a touchdown, that’s when we say, ‘Well, we don’t have evidence to change it from the ruling,’ and that’s why we stayed with touchdown. …

We just wanted to make sure that we got it right. And obviously, we always start with the ruling on the field, and unless we have indisputable evidence to the contrary, then that’s what we’re going to stay with and that’s why we stayed with the ruling on the field.”

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