Fumble, pitch, fumble, confusion
Maybe Brian Kelly should have just taken a knee. Because then we wouldn't have to wonder if his knee was down before the fateful pitch, or whether Cato June was down by contact or if there were a misunderstanding when the Bucs requested the play be reviewed.
In one of the most bizarre plays you'll see, Kelly recovered a fumble and lateraled to June as he was being tackled only to see June give the ball back on a fumble that might have been overturned by replay - had it been the focus of the review. Confused? Join the club.
"I don't know what that was," Bucs defensive end Patrick Chukwurah said of the second-quarter play. "It was like a video game."
It began when Atlanta's Roddy White caught a short pass from Byron Leftwich but fumbled as June swept in. Kelly recovered, zigzagged side to side then leaped backward over a would-be tackler, looking like a confused lab rat.
Before going down, Kelly pitched the ball to June, who tried to elude a couple of tacklers before being tripped by White (a penalty that wasn't called), falling to the ground and - what else? - fumbling. Falcons tackle Todd McClure recovered. But wait.
June seemed to fumble after his knee made contact with the turf. That would be cause for a reversal if challenged, which seems simple enough. But did coach Jon Gruden botch the replay request, or was his request misunderstood?
One of those occurred because referee Walt Coleman stated before the review he would review if Kelly were down by contact before pitching the ball (he wasn't), not if June were down before fumbling. Afterward, Gruden was asked if he was specific about what he wanted reviewed as required. Officials will rule only on the exact topic a coach takes issue with. "I was specific,"Gruden said.
He went on to strongly indicate he told Coleman he wanted June's portion of the play reviewed. Kelly concurred. "They reviewed the wrong thing," he said.
Gruden said, "I thought Cato was down. I thought it was our football. But the interpretation I got, obviously, I don't understand well enough."
So what about Kelly, whose ill-advised attempt at heroism was the reason it happened in the first place? He had no regrets, nor did his coach or teammates criticize his risk taking. "That's something you live with with Brian Kelly," Gruden said.
Said June: "That's called instinct. I say, 'Let's go.' "Shoot, maybe I should have pitched it, too. When a defensive player gets the ball, it's showtime."
Kelly said the first priority of the Tampa Bay defense is to score and, failing that, get the ball back. "I'm trying to score any time I touch it," he said. "And the only way to score is to get the ball into somebody's hands who can stay alive."
Stephen F Holder. The St.Petersburg Times 19 November 2007