Referees Make Delayed Correction
Dec. 22, 1997
DENVER (AP) _ Referee Jerry Markbreit issued a rare ``correction'' in Sunday's San Diego-Denver game, waving off a safety about two minutes after the ruling had been made.
Barely five minutes into the game, the Chargers were awarded a safety when Denver quarterback John Elway was whistled for intentional grounding in the end zone.
Scoreboard replays, however, clearly showed Elway released the pass from the 2-yard line instead of the end zone, and fans booed lustily every time it was shown.
About two minutes later _ as both special teams came onto the field and Denver was about to execute a free kick _ Markbreit stopped play. He huddled with other officials and issued a correction, saying there was no safety.
Markbreit insisted the reversal was not prompted by the scoreboard replay. Asked if his crew saw the replay, he said, ``We did not.''
Markbreit made the intentional grounding call after noticing Elway threw the ball into an area where there was no receiver while he was still in the pocket.
``I threw my flag, and when I realized the flag and he were lying in the end zone, I went up with the safety call,'' Markbreit said.
``My head lineman and line judge conferred after the play was over and came to me and said, `We don't feel that the ball was thrown from the end zone. We feel it was in the field, at about the 2-yard line.' So I made the correction.''
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan complained about the original call.
``Somebody's supposed to help him out,'' he said. ``That's one of the tough decisions for the official. The referee ... can see the guy in the end zone. He needs help from another official who was in the right position. He went back and asked one of his compadres and he said it wasn't in the end zone.''
The officials were involved in another controversial call on Denver's first touchdown early in the second quarter. Elway hit Rod Smith with an 11-yard touchdown pass on a play that initially was ruled incomplete because Smith appeared not to have gotten both feet down in the corner of the end zone.
San Diego defenders celebrated, but the officials then conferred for several seconds and signaled a touchdown instead. Side judge Laird Hayes initially called it incomplete.
Field judge Don Hakes said Hayes ``thought he (Smith) didn't get the second foot in. I felt he got the foot in. I felt that he dotted the `i' with the second foot. The head linesman (Terry Gierke) came down and thought he also dotted the `i.' Since it was two of us, we went with it.''
Told that replays appeared to support the original call of incomplete, Hakes said, ``If it did, then we missed it. It was my end line to call.''