Ever since the infamous “tuck rule” play in the 2001 AFC Championship in which a strip sack of Tom Brady got overturned as an incompletion, NFL officials have almost always erred on the side of ruling just about any borderline throw/fumble situation as an incompletion.
That is two decades of precedent and, as such, when a call goes the other way it is rather stunning (and for fans of the offense, enraging). On Sunday, we got one of the strangest examples of this when what everyone on the field assumed was an incompletion from Justin Herbert as the Chargers were in the red sone was called a fumble for a touchback — and then upheld on review because of a lack of evidence to overturn it.
at first it may look like an incompletion
BUT IT'S ACTUALLY A FORCED FUMBLE TOUCHBACK AND OUR BALL BABY
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) September 12, 2021
Montez Sweat certainly hits the ball right around the start of the throwing motion, but this might be the longest throw that’s ever been called a fumble, as the ball goes a solid 15 yards (towards the sideline) in the air, which led everyone to just watching as it bounced through the back of the end zone. Both teams returned to their respective huddles thinking nothing beyond that being an incompletion until the officials announced it had been ruled a fumble and would be reviewed, leaving plenty shocked when it stood as a fumble.
It probably is very close, but it’s also the kind of play that almost never gets called in that way because of how much velocity it still got thrown with (even if bobbling) and unsurprisingly Chargers fans were not happy their chance to at least tie the game got taken away by the strangest call of Week 1. For fans of the Football Team, maybe it was some cosmic payback for having literal crap dumped on them earlier in the game.