Washington defensive tackle Terrell McClain’s sack of Russell Wilson with about 12 seconds left Sunday probably should’ve ended the game. Wilson’s knee was ruled down and so the clock should’ve continued to run, forcing the Seattle Seahawks to scramble to get set and spike the ball in 11 seconds.
Instead, the clock stopped for about 10 seconds before it finally started to tick down, and eventually stopped at four seconds when officials decided to review the sack.
“You had a clock error,” former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira said in a FOX Sports video Monday. “You had 12 seconds when Russell Wilson went down on a knee, a whistle was blown ending the play. The clock operator stopped the clock. He stopped the clock with essentially 11 seconds to go.
“Seventeen seconds later — 17 seconds later, on a clock that was not supposed to stop, they’re up to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball and a buzz came from replay. So they went to review it and that’s another story. My issue with this is that the clock never should have stopped. I think it’s reasonable to say Seattle may not have gotten another play without this clock erroneously stopping.”
A look at the play shows Pereira is correct, the clock stops and winds just seven seconds in the 17 seconds after officials blew the play dead.
But it’s not quite as simple as Periera says.
To start, it’s impossible to know if the Seahawks would’ve been able to spike the ball in time if the clock never stopped and the play was never reviewed. Maybe with the clock winding and a greater sense of urgency, Seattle rushes to the line and kills the second down play with one second remaining. Nothing would be different.
Coaches film released later in the week showed that the referee immediately ruled Wilson down, but didn’t signal to wind the clock. Technically, he doesn’t have to and the game clock operator should’ve continued to run the clock until told to stop it, but typically on close plays — like ones on the sideline late in the game — an official will signal whether the clock should stop or run.
And no, this wasn’t a case of “home cooking.” Game clock operators are former officials, generally in the college ranks, and employed by the NFL, not the home team.
Ultimately though, it didn’t affect the outcome. Seattle’s Hail Mary attempt fell incomplete and Washington got a 17-14 win. So all’s well that ends well.