In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Tampa Bay jumped Seattle early and held on for a 14-5 victory over Seattle on Sunday.
But well before the Bucs earned that monumental win, there was a little controversy just before halftime while it was still anyone’s game.
Tampa Bay was driving late in the second quarter with no time outs remaining. The clocked was stopped at 15 seconds and the Bucs were facing second-and-10 from the Seahawks 32. Quarterback Jameis Winston threw a quick out to Cameron Brate and the tight end was hit hard at the 30 by Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright before falling backward out of bounds.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Getty Images
The head linesman signaled for the clock to continue running as Bucs players hustled back to the line, but Winston never got a chance to spike the ball and set up a 48-yard field goal attempt before the clock hit triple zeroes.
Brate clearly landed out of bounds and fans didn’t approve of how the first half ended. Neither did Dirk Koetter, and the first-year Bucs head coach let officials know about it on the field, speaking with them all the way into the tunnel.
At issue, however, wasn’t the decision to run or stop the clock after Wright’s tackle of Brate. It was the amount of time it took the crew to spot the ball after the tackle. On Monday, Koetter was asked about how the final moments of the first half played out and explained what it was he was arguing.
“I have an excellent understanding of it and I had an excellent understanding of it last night, too,” said of the situation and officiating decision. “The rule was enforced fine. In the NFL, if a player’s going sideways and he’s being contacted while he’s going out of bounds they’re going to wind the clock. Of course. We practice it every week.
“My issue was with what took them so long to spot the ball. We were hustling, 15 seconds before the previous play you’re right on the border. That was only a 5-yard pass. Actually it was a 5-yard route, but by the time he ran it, it was a 2-yard route. I’ve seen teams clock it in as little as 10 seconds and my issue was just what took them so long to spot the ball.”
Brate was a little slow to get up after the hit and he dropped the ball on the sideline at about the 6-second mark. Bucs players got set with time still on the clock, but the official running to spot the ball still had it in his hand when it went to zeroes.
“Part of it, it’s a long story, but the mechanics have changed,” Koetter said. “The umpire in two-minute used to be behind the defense and he’d be right there for the players. Due to safety issues they put the umpire back behind the offense in two-minute, I get it. But for the umpire to have to run all the way to the sideline to get a new ball and then run all the way back to the hash … we’ve got so many ball boys on the sideline I don’t even have a place to watch the game there are so many ball boys down there. I had no issue with them winding the clock, my issue was why didn’t we get the ball spotted. That’s execution. Their mechanics … I get the mechanics, it’s the execution of the mechanics that I was trying to get an explanation for.”
Referee Bill Vinovich answered a few questions about the sequence after Sunday’s game. When asked about what the Bucs’ argument was coming off the field, he responded: “I have no idea what they were saying.”
Vinovich didn’t address the time it took to spot the ball, but did explain the ruling and why it was not looked at further.
“If your forward progress is stopped in the field of play and he is driven backward out of bounds, the clock will continue to run,” Vinovich said. “It was not a reviewable play.”