New Orleans managed zero touchdowns in the first half against Detroit. But it got close! A slew of weird situations somehow kept the Saints out of the end zone on their final drive. Let's break it down.
First, Drew Brees completed a 28-yard pass to Brandin Cooks that was ruled a touchdown on the field. But after a look at PYLONCAM, it was clear his knee was down before the end zone:
That left New Orleans with the ball at the 1-yard line. On second and goal, Tim Hightower appeared to score:
Offensive lineman Senio Kelemete was lined up in an eligible position as an extra blocker, as he had been on first down. That's fine, but as a player wearing an ineligible number, he has to report to the referees that he's lining up in an eligible position each and every time he does it. The felt he did this, but the referees apparently didn't. If Kelemete did signal to the refs that he was supposed to be eligible, ESPN's cameras didn't catch it, but it also wouldn't be the first time this season the NFL's refs failed to notice a player signaling their eligibility.
On fourth-and-1, the Saints were set to run a play, but Detroit called a timeout. One problem: The Lions had already called all three timeouts.
Surprisingly, there is no penalty for an NFL team calling an additional timeout, with the exception of teams calling faux timeouts to freeze a kicker. (That's considered unsportsmanlike conduct and worth a 15-yard penalty.) The only result is that the timeout isn't rewarded. It's the referees' job to understand that there are no timeouts remaining and not stop play. Whichever referee blew the play dead made a mistake.
Maybe the Lions genuinely wanted to call a timeout there, thinking they didn't have the right coverage for the play. But this is something teams could exploit for their own good. Because the refs actually blew their whistles, the Lions got a free look at the Saints' desired fourth-down play call.
On fourth down part 2, the Saints completed a pass to Marques Colston in the end zone:
But at the beginning of the play, several Saints linemen went past the line of scrimmage and the Saints were called for having an ineligible man downfield. That wiped out the third "touchdown" of the drive.
So, all that for naught.
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