In Charlotte, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera was upset with his coaching staff for allowing 12 men to break the huddle at least twice in the 41-38 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
In New Orleans, Saints coach Sean Payton counted three and said Sunday those are calls that get made by high school football officials.
And if you go by Payton’s total of three, all of the plays on referee Brad Allen’s watch happened at crucial moments in the game.
“I said what I said yesterday and I meant it,” Payton told New Orleans reporters. “Those are easy, easy things to see, and it’s frustrating. But again, we don’t make excuses. That’s not why. I’m just angry because those were critical situations.”
The first came in the first quarter as the Panthers faced a fourth-and-1 from the New Orleans 41. Fullback Mike Tolbert was the 12th man in the huddle and ran off the field as the Saints called a timeout so Payton could draw the officials’ attention. There was no flag on the play.
After the timeout, Cam Newton optioned into a naked bootleg and ran along the left side 30 yards for the first down.
The second instance came early in the third quarter with the Panthers facing second-and-goal at the Saints’ 1. The Panthers broke the huddle with 12 men again – this time receiver Devin Funchess was the likely 12th – and lined up for the play.
Payton wanted a flag but the officials apparently didn’t see the 12 men. Rivera got a timeout before the ball was snapped.
Because there was no play, it’s not reviewable. Payton threw the red challenge flag but was told that he could not challenge it because there was no play with 12 men on the field. Carolina scored two plays later.
“Well that’s one of the things that you’ve got to pay attention to,” Rivera said. “We had some young guys we were trying to get some more playing time to and we’re shoving guys in and out and they’ve got to make sure they hear the personnel calls, see the signals and pay attention to those things. That’s something that really bothered me. It really upset me on the sideline.
“Those are actually situations where we came into the huddle. And when you sit there and you see a bunch of large bodies and you’re a slender one you might want to turn around and go off the field.”
The final non-call came with less than 4 minutes remaining. The Panthers were down 38-34 with the ball at their 43 on third-and-5.
Tight end Ed Dickson ran off the field as the Panthers lined up on the play. FOX announcer Joe Buck said Payton was “livid” on the sideline, supposedly trying to get the official to call a penalty for 12 men. The ball was snapped and Newton threw to Ted Ginn Jr., who dropped a sure touchdown pass. But a defensive holding penalty was called and the Panthers got a fresh set of downs.
Seven plays later, Carolina scored the game-winning touchdown.