Last word on the red flag that never flew

ESPN Radio personality, Washington Post columnist and Pardon The Interruption television host Tony Kornheiser isn't known to be a big Packer fan. But he spoke eloquently for the Green and Gold on his radio talk show Monday morning when he commented on the non-call after the muffed punt in Green Bay's loss to Atlanta.<p>

Paraphrasing Kornheiser:

"The game should have been stopped, and the mistake should have been corrected. The officials had an opportunity to say, hey, we made a mistake and we want to make it right. "You could watch 27 replays of that (punt) and 27 times you would get the same answer: the ball never hit (Eric) Metcalf. It didn't even hit the guy blocked into him (Tyrone Williams). It hit the Falcon. That's the only answer you can get."

Packer coach Mike Sherman could have used Kornheiser on the sideline to argue his case when the official told Sherman to not bother with the red flag.

He could have used Kornheiser in the media auditorium after the loss, when questions abounded as to why Sherman didn't challenge the officials' ruling on a second quarter play in which Atlanta recovered what was considered on the field to be a muffed punt and fumble by Metcalf.

And as it turned out, Sherman could have used veteran sports reporter Kornheiser up in the booth, where Green Bay's own coaches had only one feed which didn't show the ball striking the Atlanta player.

Television replays of the incident showed that after Metcalf signaled for a fair catch, Atlanta's Kevin McAdam forced Williams into Metcalf, preventing him from fielding the punt.

While the officials ruled that the ball then bounced off of either Metcalf or Williams, one camera angle presented several times in ABC's broadcast seemed to indicate that the ball first bounced off of McAdam. If that were the case, the ball would have been considered dead on contact and the Packers would have started their next possession.

Sherman's post-game comments to the media gave the impression that he had spoken with an official directly after the play, who told him that the play was unreviewable.

Sherman clarified the situation Wednesday. Here's the last word on the controversy that could have had a hand in turning the game so decisively against Green Bay.

According to Sherman, his discussion with the official was in regard to receiver interference, not to which player first made contact with the ball.

"When I went and talked to the official, I talked to the official strictly about the fact that (Metcalf) had called for a fair catch and it was a fair catch interference penalty," Sherman said at his final press conference of the season. "I did not see the ball hit their player."

Nor did Packers coaches in the press box, who didn't see an incriminating angle of the play until after the Falcons started their ensuing possession, when it was too late to challenge the previous call.

"They had one feed, it was an end zone feed," Sherman said. "It didn't show it hitting their player. On the TV copy when they replayed it, it did show it hitting their player. But we weren't privileged to that information in the press box and I didn't have that information previous to (the Falcons' ensuing play).

"My argument was solely in defense of the fact that we have to give that player a right to catch the football on a fair catch ... When you saw me on the field talking (to the official), that's what I was defending.

"The fact that it hit their player, I didn't see that part."

If he had, or even thought that part of the play was in question, Sherman said he would have thrown the red flag asking for a challenge immediately.

"If I ever knew there was a fumble involved, it's worth the flag," Sherman said.

In the end, Sherman said officials were correct in not calling receiver interference.

Although Metcalf signaled for a fair catch, NFL rules allow for a coverage player to maneuver a player from the receiving team into the return man, as McAdam did to Williams.

"Myself and all the other officials saw that it hit (a Packers player) first," Sherman said. "Nothing warranted me to think otherwise on the field, and I wasn't getting any feedback anywhere else that it was (touched first by Atlanta) ...

"You'd like to see a uniformity on what they're showing at home and what you're seeing up in the box. I'm not sure that's always the case."

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