PITTSBURGH -- The first 11-10 game in NFL history shouldn't have ended that way, referee Scott Green said after a last-minute touchdown was errantly taken away from the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
The officiating mistake didn't affect the outcome since the Steelers still would have won, but the touchdown would have changed the score to 17-10 -- or, more likely, 18-10, since the teams were lined up for an extra-point try that was never attempted.
On first-and-10 from San Diego's 21 with five seconds remaining, Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw a short pass to LaDainian Tomlinson over the middle for 3 yards. Tomlinson turned and made a handoff-type lateral to wide receiver Chris Chambers, who attempted to pitch the ball to a teammate only to have safety Troy Polamalu scoop it up and score from the 12.
Both teams left the field on what looked to be a game-ending play but were called back by the officials for the extra-point attempt. At that point, the replay official called for a review.
After watching the play, Green initially announced the ruling on the field was upheld and the touchdown counted. But the officiating crew huddled again before the extra-point attempt and changed the call, deciding that an illegal forward pass should have ended the play.
Green, in a postgame interview with a pool reporter, said that call was errant -- even though his explanation for the confusion was almost as confusing as the play itself.
"We should have let the play go through in the end, yes," Green said. "It was misinterpreted that instead of killing the play, we should have let the play go through."
Green said the confusion occurred because there was a misunderstanding about which lateral was in question.
"The first pass was the one that was illegal, but it only kills the play if it hits the ground," Green said. "That was incorrect to have killed it at that point. The ruling should have let the play go on. That's just the way that it played out. We believe the second pass was legal."
Green was asked why, since the ball didn't hit the ground during any of the tossing, the officials decided after huddling that the play should have ended.
"We didn't kill it on the field," Green said. "After [the] discussion we decided ... there was some confusion over which pass we were talking about and it was decided that it was the second pass that was illegal that did hit the ground and therefore we killed the play there."
However, the officials realized afterward they erred.
"I know," Green said. "The rule was misinterpreted."
In an interview Monday on SportsCenter, Mike Pereira, the NFL's vice president of officiating, said the league would look at "tweaking" its replay system, possibly before the playoffs, to allow officials to go back to replay a second time if an error is made. In the current system, officials cannot return to the monitor for a second look at a play if there is confusion about rules interpretation.
That the Steelers preserved their victory "doesn't make us feel any better about the call," Pereira said.
The score made a difference in the wallets of a lot of bettors on the Las Vegas Strip.
"Anyone who had a bet on the Pittsburgh side and thought they had won weren't too happy," said John Avello, director of the race and sports book at the Wynn resort.
Avello said there might have been $10 million bet on the game statewide and many times more than that in illegal bets around the country and in offshore Internet betting sites. There was more money bet on Pittsburgh, he said, especially in parlay bets.
Though the officials later said they made a mistake in calling back the touchdown, the official score remains 11-10, and even if the NFL changes it, Nevada sports books paid off on the final score from Sunday.
Asked about the officiating -- the Steelers drew 115 yards in penalties to the Chargers' 5 -- Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin declined to comment.
"No, I have never seen a game ended with 13-to-1 in penalties [the official tally was 13 against the Steelers, two against the Chargers], but I am not answering questions about the officiating," Tomlin said.
The call affected betting on the game since the Steelers were either a 4½- or five-point favorite and would have covered if the touchdown counted.
"It was weird," Steelers receiver Hines Ward said, " ... but this game is about wins and losses, and we won."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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