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NFL acknowledges officials' critical error

A non-call at the end of regulation of the San Diego-Kansas City game may have cost Pittsburgh a playoff spot.

THE NFL said yesterday referees erred in not penalizing the San Diego Chargers for an illegal formation on a missed 41-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Succop of the Kansas City Chiefs with 4 seconds left in regulation on Sunday.

Succop was wide right on the kick, and the Chargers went on to win, 27-24, in overtime to claim the AFC's final playoff spot.

The NFL said in a statement that had the penalty been assessed by referee Bill Leavy's crew and the ball moved up 5 yards, it would have allowed the Chiefs to attempt a 36-yard field goal.

San Diego lined up with seven men on one side of the snapper. The rule says no more than six players can be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper.

If the Chiefs had won Sunday's game, the Chargers would have been eliminated and the final playoff spot would have gone to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he noticed the Chargers were lined up incorrectly before the field-goal attempt.

"What transpired was unfortunate for our hopes moving forward, we'll have to find a way to accept that and move forward," he said. "I'm not going to lose any sleep over something that happened in a stadium that we weren't even in."


* Tom Coughlin is going to get another chance to make the New York Giants a champion again.

Giants co-owner John Mara told the 67-year-old Coughlin that he wants him to return for an 11th season with the team that he led to Super Bowl titles in 2008 and 2012 despite a disappointing 7-9 record this year.

It marked the fourth time in 5 years that the Giants have missed the postseason, but this might have been one of Coughlin's better coaching jobs. He held together an injury-plagued team that lost its first six games and won seven of the final 10, closing the season with a 20-6 victory over Washington.

"Do we have unfinished business? Yes!" Coughlin said. "We have a lot of unfinished business. We'd like to get to the winner's circle again. That's what this thing is all about. Do you think I'm disappointed? Yes, I'm disappointed."

There are some issues that have to be finalized later this week when Mara and Coughlin sit down with co-owner Steve Tisch and general manager Jerry Reese. Coughlin, whose contract will expire next season, may get an extension so he does not enter next season as a lame-duck coach.

There is also going to be an evaluation of the season and a frank discussion about the coaching staff. The offense and special teams struggled, so those coordinators - Kevin Gilbride and Tom Quinn - will be on the hot seat, as will quarterback coach Sean Ryan in the wake of Eli Manning's dismal season that featured a career-high 27 interceptions.

* The Buffalo Bills fired receivers coach Ike Hilliard.

Head coach Doug Marrone would only say he made the decision based on "a difference in philosophy."

* A person familiar with the situation said Miami Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline has a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that will not require surgery.