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Upon further review. . .

Reversed call in Steelers-Ravens game stirs debate

Ravens coach John Harbaugh argues call during game against Steelers.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh argues call during game against Steelers.Read moreAssociated Press

Talk about something that needs further review. The NFL revived instant replay nearly a decade ago to reverse wrong calls by referees on the field. Twice already this season it's produced the opposite effect.

The first time, a month ago in a game featuring San Diego at Pittsburgh, an interception that Troy Polamalu ran back for a touchdown was incorrectly taken away after a review. On the plus side, officials acknowledged the mistake immediately after the Steelers won, 11-10 - and the call didn't affect the outcome of the game, only the point spread.

On the other hand, the NFL didn't offer refunds to any of the gamblers who took Pittsburgh and gave the four points. By some estimates, those folks lost as much as $70 million.

In a game between the Steelers and Ravens at Baltimore Sunday, Pittsburgh's Santonio Holmes caught a short pass with 43 seconds left, with both feet in the end zone, both arms outstretched and his hands cradling a football that either broke the plane of the goal line at the moment of possession or not.

Officials on the field ruled the ball hadn't crossed the imaginary line extending upward from the goal line and placed the ball just inches shy of the white stripe. Then referee Walt Coleman looked at a replay, reversed the call and decided it was the winning touchdown in the Steelers' 13-9 victory.

Exactly what Coleman saw during his brief film session remains anyone's guess. League rules require overwhelming proof that the original call was wrong, and no one else who looked at the available camera angles provided to both officials and those looking in on TV were similarly swayed.

Unlike the taken-away Polamalu touchdown, the NFL yesterday backed its officials and decided they made the right call.

"[NFL officiating chief] Mike Pereira supports the call," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail. "He sees the same thing Walt Coleman sees."

Adding to the confusion, Coleman reversed the call on the field without announcing whether the ball had broken the plane - the point that decides whether it was a touchdown - only that Holmes had both feet in the end zone and possession of the ball. Afterward, he told a pool reporter that he had ruled the ball did break the plane and simply forgot to say so.

Without the reversal, the Steelers, trailing 9-6 at the time, would have faced a fourth-down-and-inches and coach Mike Tomlin would have been forced to decide whether to try and punch it in for the winning score or kick a field goal to force overtime. *