Justin Herbert throws 15-yard 'fumble' through end zone for controversial touchback vs. WFT

·2 min read

With the Los Angeles Chargers threatening to tie or take the lead against the Washington Football Team on Sunday, Justin Herbert threw a harmless third-quarter incompletion on second-and-goal.

Or so it appeared. 

The second-year quarterback took a shotgun snap from the 8-yard-line and looked left to the end zone to tight end Jared Cook. WFT pass rusher Montez Sweat hit Herbert as he released the ball, which landed on the ground in the end zone and bounced out of bounds. Players got ready for third down after the apparent incomplete pass.

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But officials saw otherwise. 

Officials on the field ruled that Sweat knocked the ball out of Herbert's hands. They also ruled that Herbert didn't have possession of the ball as his arm was moving forward, meaning that the result of the play was a fumble. Since the ball rolled out of bounds through the end zone, the fumble out of bounds was ruled a touchback and a turnover giving Washington possession of the ball.

The game went to break as replay officials took a second look. Surely, they would determine that the play was an incomplete pass and that the Chargers would retain possession, right?

Nope. Replay officials upheld the call. Washington ball instead of third-and-goal for the Chargers, trailing 16-13. 

Here's slow-motion replay of the controversial call showing Herbert's arm moving forward as Sweat makes contact. 

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Former official and CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore thought the replay officials got this one wrong, citing Herbert's arm moving forward as "enough evidence to overturn this to an incomplete pass."

The call didn't end up impacting the game's outcome as the Chargers rallied for a 20-16 win. But NFL officiating controversy is alive and well in Week 1. 

Sep 12, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) attempts a pass as Washington Football Team defensive end Montez Sweat (90) rushes during the first quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Herbert got a tough call, but picked up a win in Week 1. (Brad Mills/Reuters)
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