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Seahawks-Falcons Rule Explanation: Why the final interception was not reviewed

NFL: NFC Divisional-Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks lost to the Atlanta Falcons 36-20 in the Georgia Dome ending their season. With 2:15 remaining in the game, linebacker (45) Deion Jones ripped the ball out of tight end (82) Luke Willson’s hands to force a turnover.

At first I, like many others, was confused why this was not called a fumble and was not overturned by the officials since his back clearly hit the ground before the ball came out. Here’s the video:

In my tweet, I mentioned “out of challenges”, since the game was not in the final two minutes. In this tweet, I forgot that all turnovers are actually reviewed by the officials regardless if a team has timeouts or is out of challenges. This has been the rule since 2012.

With this rule, if the officials feel like the play was clear, then they don’t need to review it any further even though somebody did actually review it off-screen. This is what happened in this game as Matt Ryan and the Falcons received the football and kneeled graciously three times at the two yard line to end the game.

So why was this an interception and not a fumble?

This is key to understanding the play. If you watch it closely, Willson never actually gained possession of the football. Since he never gained possession as he’s falling to the ground, this is why it’s an interception and not a fumble and the reason why the turnover did not get overturned.

Should the NFL have reviewed this even further?

One could certainly make that argument, but in a bang-bang situation like this I don’t think this play needed to be reviewed. To establish possession, a receiver needs to maintain complete control over the football all the way to the ground. The two Falcons’ defenders were clearly fighting for the football. Simply put, this would not have been overturned anyways since Willson did not clearly maintain possession of the football.

More importantly, this game was not defined or drastically changed due to the outcome of this play. The Seahawks were already trailing by 16 points with just over two minutes remaining. Much more had to go their way in order for the team to make a complete comeback with no timeouts remaining.

During this game, pressure was a big issue all day. Russell Wilson was pressured a large percentage of his snaps which was the cause of his first interception on 3rd and long as the Seahawks drove down the field in the middle of the fourth quarter. In addition to pressure, this game once again proved why Earl Thomas is missed on the field as Steven Terrell is an awful open field tackler in his place.

The Seahawks’ season is officially over. Another off-season with a terrible offensive line will force Pete Carroll and John Schneider to seriously look at Tom Cable’s contributions to the team. They will need to decide if a new coach should be hired or if they need a new influx of talent heading into next season to keep Wilson upright. In my opinion, why not both?