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Ref’s mistake kept Raiders from running last play vs. Chargers

San Diego Chargers v Oakland Raiders

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Replacement referee Jim Core questions a call during the season opening game between San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 10, 2012 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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The NFL has acknowledged that a mistake by the replacement officials prevented the Raiders from running one last play at the end of their 22-14 loss to the Chargers.

The game ended with a Chargers punt that took the final few seconds off the clock. The Raiders rushed all 11 players in an attempt to block the punt and didn’t have anyone back to return it, so the Chargers downed it and both teams walked off the field.

But the rules say that when the game ends on a punt, and the punting team is the first to touch the ball, the receiving team has the opportunity to run one more untimed play. NFL V.P. of Officiating Carl Johnson confirmed to Jason Cole of Yahoo that the Raiders should have been given another play. The Chargers downed the ball at the 5-yard line, so the Raiders would have had to score a 95-yard touchdown on that final play, then make a two-point conversion just to send the game into overtime. So it’s extremely unlikely that the mistake affected the outcome of the game. But it was a rule that the replacement officials didn’t know, and that’s a problem.

Also a problem is that neither the Chargers nor the Raiders seemed to know the rule: If the Chargers had known it they presumably wouldn’t have touched the punt, and if the Raiders had known it they presumably would have alerted the officials instead of just walking off the field.

It’s also worth noting that Chargers coach Norv Turner made a clock management mistake just before that punt. When the Chargers recovered an onside kick with 54 seconds left and the Raiders down to two timeouts, all Turner had to do was run three plays on which Philip Rivers takes the snap, scrambles around behind the line of scrimmage for a few seconds and then kneels down, and the Chargers would have run out the clock without needing to punt. Instead Turner called for two handoffs -- risking a fumble -- before finally having Rivers kneel on third down, when there was too much time left to run the clock all the way down to zero.

So Turner’s clock management error set the stage for the officials to make a clock management error of their own.