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Broncos’ win takes Vance Joseph off hook for non-challenge

November 19, 2018
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Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus (8) kicks the winning field goal during the second half of an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Chargers Sunday, Nov. 18, 2018, in Carson, Calif. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Vance Joseph’s decision to tuck his red challenge flag back into his pants pocket loomed large until the Denver Broncos pulled off a last-second win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Still, the failed 2-point conversion early in the fourth quarter of Denver’s 23-22 last-second win highlighted a loophole in the NFL rule book that Denver’s coach said Monday he’d like to see closed.

Line judge Jeff Seeman ruled Case Keenum came up short on a 2-point draw following Phillip Lindsay’s touchdown run that put Denver ahead 20-19 with 12 minutes left, and Joseph said one of the officials told the quarterback his team should challenge the call because it was so close.

Replays appeared to show the nose of the football crossing the goal line just before any part of Keenum’s perpendicular body hit the ground.

While CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore, a former NFL referee, said during the broadcast that he expected the league would have reversed the on-field ruling if the Broncos had challenged, Joseph said his staff upstairs in the press box wasn’t so sure.

“So, in my opinion it was more important for me to keep that timeout there without having clear evidence,” Joseph said. “Now, if it was clear, absolutely we challenge that. But it wasn’t clear to our guys upstairs.”

And if his assistants couldn’t say with certainty that the call would be reversed, Joseph figured a challenge was unlikely to meet the league’s standard of “clear and convincing” evidence to overturn the call on the field.

Joseph said on a close call, it would behoove everyone if the officials ruled in favor of the offense because all scoring plays are reviewed by league headquarters, providing a safety net in case they’re wrong.

There are no such protections for coaches who lose one of their timeouts if a challenge is unsuccessful.

“I couldn’t risk the timeout without clear evidence from our guys upstairs if it was a score or not,” Joseph said. “Case was told by the official, ‘You guys should challenge this because it’s fairly close.’ I would prefer those guys to call it a score so if it’s looked at, we can get it right without risking something from me. Right? Because he has no risk. He has no risk. It’s built in to get it right.

“So, if it’s close, they should call it a score so we can look at it — without anybody risking anything. We just simply get it right. But for me to get it right, there’s consequences.”

Joseph settled for the one-point lead and kept his three timeouts, all of which he used on the Chargers’ final possession, helping his offense get the ball back with 1:51 left, trailing 22-20.

Keenum drove the Broncos to the Chargers’ 16 and Brandon McManus kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired.

Joseph said he decision not to challenge on the 2-point conversion play was reinforced when he watched the coaches’ video Monday morning.

“I’m telling you, it can go either way, in my opinion,” Joseph said. “It wasn’t clear. If it was, he probably would have called it a score.”

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