NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said Monday that referee Jeff Triplette should have stopped play to correct the error officials made late in the New York Giants-Washington Redskins game, when a first down was incorrectly signaled and the chains were moved. Triplette waited until a play had been run before correcting the error, confusing the Redskins and helping the Giants.
"With 2:00 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday night's game between the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, Washington faced a second-and-5 from its own 41-yard line with no timeouts remaining. Quarterback Robert Griffin III completed a pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon for four yards. The ball was correctly spotted shy of the Washington 46, bringing up third down," Blandino said in the statement.
"Referee Jeff Triplette signaled third down but the head linesman -- with Washington in a 'hurry-up' situation -- incorrectly motioned for the chain crew to advance the chains, which caused the down boxes to read first down.
"Following a Washington incomplete pass, the chains were moved back and the down boxes correctly reset to fourth down.
"In this situation where there is obvious confusion as to the status of the down, play should have been stopped prior to third down and the correct down communicated to both clubs. This should have occurred regardless of the fact that Washington had no timeouts and it was inside two minutes.
"Only the referee can rule and signal a first down. The official nearest to the down markers and chain crew, the head linesman, must wait for the first down signal from the referee before moving the chains.
"Instant Replay did not become involved in this situation because the replay official determined that the ball on Garcon's catch was correctly spotted short of the line to gain for a first down."
You can argue that the play was made moot when Will Hill of the Giants stripped Washington's Pierre Garcon of the ball after Garcon made a fourth-down catch, sealing the win for the Giants. More than likely, however, the Redskins would not have thrown a deep ball on the previous play had they known it was third-and one instead of first-and-10.
NFL.com also notes that neither Triplette nor heads linesman Phil McKinnely, who signaled the first down, is likely to be suspended.