The NFL has released a statement admitting that San Diego's clock operator made an error Monday night, one which cost the Steelers 18 seconds late in the game.
The play occurred following a 54-yard field goal by Chargers kicker Josh Lambo to give San Diego a 20-17 lead over Pittsburgh with 2:56 remaining in the fourth quarter. The ensuing kickoff was received by the Steelers in the end zone for a touchback, a play which should have prevented the clock from starting. Instead, 18 seconds ran off.
"By rule, the game clock does not start if the receiving team possesses the ball in the end zone and does not carry it into the field of play," the NFL said in its statement, which was released to NFL Media. "Because of an error by the clock operator, the game clock was incorrectly started before the Steelers' first play from scrimmage following the touchback. That first down snap came with 2:38 left to play instead of 2:56, a difference of 18 seconds."
The statement doesn't assign all the blame to the game's clock operator either.
"The official game time is kept on the stadium scoreboard, but it is the responsibility of the side judge to supervise the timing of the game," the statement reads. "Had the side judge or any of the other six on-field officials noticed the timing error, they could have corrected it.
Plays involving the game clock are not subject to instant replay review and so the Steelers had no recourse after this error. Luckily for the league, the Steelers were still able to pull off a last-second win.
This is now the second straight Monday Night Football game that has ended in controversy. During Week 5's Lions-Seahawks game, which Seattle eventually won 13-10, the referees allowed Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright to knock a ball fumbled by Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson out of the back of Seattle's end zone. A flag should have been thrown and the Lions should have maintained possession and been given the ball on the half-yard line. Instead, the play was ruled a touchback and the Seahawks were able to walk off with a win.
SB Nation presents: How the refs screwed the Lions last Monday night