Replays make for a challenging job

Posted: September 27, 2013

NFL REPLAY challenges are an iffy business. For some reason, the league that dominates the country's sporting landscape won't spend the money to give every team the same tools in every stadium to determine quickly whether to try to overturn a call. And it won't change its rules to take the decision of whether to challenge out of the hands of harried coaches, as the seconds tick and the opposing team races to run a play before anyone can say for sure what just happened.

The Eagles and Chip Kelly are 1-for-3 this season on challenges, losing one in each of the first two games, before successfully challenging what was initially ruled a Kansas City interception last Thursday. The guy upstairs in charge of advising Kelly is offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.

"I don't always have a great view of it. We kind of put our minds together up there," Shurmur said yesterday. "In a situation where it warrants a challenge, we say, 'Hey coach, you ought to think about doing this.' "

Shurmur was asked if the Eagles want to be absolutely certain when they challenge, not willing to risk being charged a timeout, or if reasonable doubt is the criterion, making it worth gambling the timeout.

"If we see visible evidence to support the fact that we may win on the challenge, then we want to do it," Shurmur said. "Unfortunately, there's a lot of times in the game when you're thinking about it. For whatever reason you don't see" the right replay in time. "It happens mostly when you're on the road. I say that tongue-in-cheek."

Tongue-in-cheek or not, it's true: At home, the video scoreboard operator will pounce on anything questionable, freeze it, and show it over and over, 40 feet high. If you're the visitor, you're waiting for whatever the TV broadcast provides the coaches in the booth, often shown on delay, so particularly with a hurryup offense such as the Eagles', the next play is about to start as the replay of the previous play begins.

"I don't want to lead coach Kelly off the bridge by giving him bad information," Shurmur said. "There's times on the sideline when when he can see it better than I can because it's right in front of him. There's other times that we get more information up top. Each situation is different. Generally speaking, we want to be aggressive in everything that we do."

In the opener, the Eagles unwisely challenged the ruling that rookie tight end Zach Ertz had dropped a pass. To the naked eye, at real speed, it sort of looked like the ball might have been kicked out of his grasp after Ertz went to the ground and completed the catch, but replay clearly showed this wasn't the case.

In the San Diego loss, the Eagles challenged whether Chargers receiver Malcom Floyd got both feet inbounds after catching a pass at the sideline. On replay, it seemed possible Floyd might have lifted his back foot as he brought the ball in, but the official on the field had ruled a catch, and the replay evidence was not strong enough to overturn the call.

The Kansas City "interception" clearly hit the ground. This seemed obvious both live and on replay.


Broncos coach John Fox told a conference call with Philadelphia-area reporters that corner Champ Bailey is "closer this week than he was last week," to playing with a sprained foot. The Broncos listed Bailey as a partial practice participant . . . In speaking with Colorado reporters yesterday, Fox became the latest NFL coach to liken LeSean McCoy to Barry Sanders, stylistically. It's becoming a popular reference . . . Jason Peters is on the Eagles' injury report with a dislocated finger suffered in the opener. It isn't expected to affect his blocking . . . With Patrick Chung (shoulder) still not practicing, rookie safety Earl Wolff could see his first NFL start . . . Speaking of safeties, one thing Kurt Coleman remembers from the Eagles' win over Peyton Manning and the Colts 3 years ago is that he and Quintin Mikell inadvertently sandwiched Colts receiver Austin Collie, giving Collie the first of three concussions that have played a role in derailing a promising career. Collie was in camp with the 49ers this year but was cut.

On Twitter: @LesBowen


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