LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Referee Jeff Triplette acknowledged the down marker was moved incorrectly on the Washington Redskins' last possession of a 24-17 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night, but said halting play to fix the mistake "would have given an unfair advantage."
On second-and-5 from his own 41 coming out of the two-minute warning, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III completed a pass to Pierre Garcon. The play gained 4 yards, making it third-and-1, but the down marker was shifted, indicating there was a first down.
Washington coach Mike Shanahan said after the game that he asked an official to measure to see whether that play had earned a first down — but was told that wasn't necessary.
After an incomplete pass, the announcement was made that it was fourth-and-1 and not, as the Redskins believed, second-and-10.
"The chain said first down, and then when we came back, we think it's second-and-10, and they're yelling out it's fourth down. No explanation. No measurement. Didn't stop the clock to allow the chains to move back," Griffin said. "And we just had to go ahead and call the play."
Both Shanahan and Griffin said the confusion over the proper down might have affected the play choice on fourth-and-1. But Griffin did complete a 6-yard pass to Garcon there — which would have been enough to extend the drive — before safety Will Hill stripped the ball away after the catch and ran the other way. The Giants ran out the clock.
"I told him I wanted a measurement, because I knew it was close. It was inches. And he said, 'No, it's a first down.' And he moved the chains," Shanahan said. "And then after I saw it was fourth down, I asked him, 'You already told me it was first down.' He didn't say anything. So that was quite disappointing."
Speaking to a pool reporter, Triplette said: "We signaled third down on the field. The stakes were moved incorrectly. After that play, we said it was still third down. We had signaled third down prior to the play starting. The stakes just got moved incorrectly."
The game was inside the final two minutes, and the Redskins were out of timeouts.
"We just didn't shut it down in that situation, because that would have given an unfair advantage," Triplette said.
Asked about the odd sequence, Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said: "I saw that, and I was like, 'That ain't a first down,' but they put a first down on the sticks. I was trying to signal to (Giants coach Tom) Coughlin, 'You might want to challenge that,' but the play was going fast there. ... Lucky for us, they corrected their mistake."
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