52 Seconds That Could Have Been

In the Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, there was an officials gaffe which resulted in an extra 52 seconds of play in the fourth period. The NFL has released an officials statement on the matter. Although the 52 seconds may have allowed certain events to happen in game, the result remains the same, the Patriots won.

52 Seconds that could have been
By Patriots Insider staff

Everyone knows the guys in stripes occasionally make a few bad calls, but adding time to a game usually isn't one of them. In what could have been a tremendous difference in the game, the operator of the game clock inadvertently reset the clock to give the game an extra 52 seconds that should have expired. The league has released a statement on the error.


"In yesterday's Pittsburgh-New England game, the game clock was improperly reset early in the fourth quarter, resulting in 52 seconds being added to the game's official time.

"With 14:51 remaining in the fourth quarter, a Pittsburgh run from the Steelers' 30-yard line resulted in the ball carrier being tackled for no gain. The game clock properly continued to run. However, before the ball was snapped for the next play, a false start penalty against the Steelers stopped the clock with 13:59 remaining. Following the enforcement of the penalty and before the ball was snapped for the next play, the game clock was improperly reset to 14:51 again, instead of remaining at 13:59.

"The on-field officiating crew, which oversees the official game clock operated in the press box, failed to recognize that the clock was improperly reset."

New England won the game 23-20 in Pittsburgh.

What it means:

There is no recourse once the game ends regardless of the severity of the officiating error. The teams both had time to adjust to the mistake and operated virtually the entire period under the effects of the extra time. There are a couple lines of thought on what the extra 52 seconds could have meant.

The Patriots couldn't have made the extra FG at the end of the game.

While not altogether true, it does have merit. New England started their final drive with 1:14 on the clock. Take away the 52 seconds and that leaves Tom Brady just 22 seconds to get into Vinatieri's FG range. But would the Steelers have kicked the ball to Ellis Hobbs? Would they have taken more time at the end of their drive to milk the clock? Would the Patriots have played defense differently trying to force the Steelers out of time on the TD drive? Those are all valid arguments. If you go back to the 52 seconds and take that off the top of the game with no other factors involved, that leaves the Patriots with the ball on the Steelers 31 with 5 seconds to go. Same result.

The Steelers would have run the clock out to go for overtime

Probably the best argument in the game, but at some point the Patriots would have adjusted knowing the Steelers needed to score with time running out. When the Steelers had the ball and were marching, the play calling may have changed to try to either use more clock or less of it. While that may not have affected the outcome with the Steelers score, it certainly would have impacted the play calling. The Steelers began their drive on their own 49 with 3:10 on the clock. The Two-minute warning would have come after the Steelers first play on the scoring drive - a 7-yard completion to Antwaan Randle El. In all likelihood, the Steelers would have had enough time to march the 44 yards to force OT.

In either case, one thing is clear the outcome is final.

What they had to say about it:

Steelers chairman Dan Rooney - "No, I didn't know about it. But there's nothing we can do about it now. The game is over."

Former NFL Official Chuck Heberling - "We checked it out with the statisticians and, according to his records, everything seemed to be all right. When we ran the tape, it was obvious it was jumping. "

The error was caught during the game, but officials decided not to do anything about it thinking that there was no mistake. Now that the review of the tape indicates there was an error, the NFL issued an apology of sorts. If there's anything positive to say about the officiating, it's that the league recognizes it's mistakes and owns up to them. With this action, hopefully errors like this will be eliminated in the future.

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