An NFL spokesman said Monday that the 76-yard punt return for a touchdown by Denver's Trindon Holliday in the Broncos' 36-14 win against the Panthers on Sunday should have been overturned and ruled a touchback.
On the first play of the second quarter, Holliday took Brad Nortman's punt, broke a tackle and ran down the right sideline for a touchdown that gave the Broncos a 14-7 lead they did not relinquish. Holliday flipped the ball out of his hand before crossing the plane of the goal line.
Replay official Bob Boylston confirmed the touchdown, so referee Al Riveron did not stop the game for an instant replay review. The league said Boylston should have initiated a review.
Had that occurred, Riveron would have had the indisputable visual evidence necessary to overturn the on-field ruling, the league's statement said. The result of the play should have been a touchback not a touchdown with Carolina gaining possession at the 20-yard line.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said by the time his assistant coaches in the press box realized Holliday had lost possession of the ball before crossing the goal line, Broncos kicker Matt Prater had already made the extra point.
Obviously they didnt have a chance to see it until after because of what was shown on the replay and by then it was too late, Rivera said. But Im at a point where technically Im not allowed to throw the flag because it was a scoring play.
Had he known the ball was out, Rivera said he could have called a timeout to give Boylston more time to look at the replay.
Panthers fullback Richie Brockel, who was on the punt team when Holliday scored, said replays clearly showed Holliday tossing the ball away before scoring.
He definitely flipped it before he got in. But that's the way it went unfortunately, Brockel said. The call didn't work in our favor. But it still counted for six points.
The Panthers benefited from a blown call in a Week 9 win at Washington when an official blew an inadvertent whistle during DeAngelo Williams' 30-yard touchdown run. The next day, the league said the Panthers should have been given the choice of taking the ball at the Redskins' 17 where Williams was ruled to have stepped out of bounds or replaying the down.