WHEN SAINTS wide receiver Robert Meachem stripped the ball from Redskins linebacker Kareem Moore on Sunday, he not only turned what was an interception going one way into a touchdown going the other, he threw a hand grenade into fantasy leagues across the land.

Meachem's thievery resulted in all sorts of confusion and rancor. Wide receivers don't score touchdowns on fumbles by the defense very often, and the scoring systems for a number of leagues came under intense scrutiny from irate players.

"That touchdown led to around 75 angry e-mails and wall posts, as well as around 50 text messages," joked Jason Tres, commissioner of a Philadelphia-based league.

Some automated leagues gave Meachem a touchdown, even though he officially didn't deserve it. Because the Redskins fumbled, Meachem instantly (and confusingly) becomes a defensive player and his touchdown is scored as a "return from a change of possession," according to the NFL and Elias, the league's official statistician. Thus Meachem should get nothing and the Saints defense gets credit for a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and a touchdown.

CBSSports.com is among the sites that followed the official scoring, though officials had several meetings and debates about which way to go.

"This decision was not hastily made," said Dave Richard, the site's senior fantasy writer. "We take this stuff extremely seriously. Leagues trust us as commissioners, and I believe we made the most fair decision."

In 2003, Keenan McCardell made a very similar play. The Buccaneers receiver ran back a touchdown after Indianapolis safety Mike Doss fumbled following an interception. One major difference in the two plays was that McCardell's play occurred in Week 5. Meachem's happened in Week 13, when playoff jockeying is much more intense.

Former Daily News assistant sports editor Paul Vigna, of York, Pa., plays in a league run by FoxSports, which credited Meachem with the score, not the Saints defense. The decision cost him a playoff bye. Many others lost much more.

"It's crazy to have an entire fantasy season come down to such a bizarre play, but at least it's not something that cost me a playoff spot," he said. "Not sure where I fall on who should get credit. Always figured, without looking at the rule, that the player gets the points there, because the offense is still on the field. Never considered looking at it as the offense becoming the defense after a turnover."

He wasn't alone.

The simplest and most logical thing is to stipulate that a player is either on offense or on defense/special teams when the ball is snapped through the duration of the play and to reward any player when he scores a touchdown, no matter how he scores it. Same deal if he kicks a field goal or an extra point.

Those who own Meachem ought to be rewarded for his heady and spectacular play. And those who own the Saints defense/special teams ought not be rewarded, because the Saints defense/special teams did not force the fumble. A wide receiver did.

Brian Wehman, of West Deptford, N.J., plays in one of the many leagues that took matters into its own hands.

"We took a vote, and it was 8-3 in favor of no touchdown for the defense," he said. "It was pretty much everyone's opinion that the [official] rule is a defensive touchdown, but this is fantasy football, not a real game. So since the defense was not on the field, they should not get credit for [the touchdown].

"Every year, just when you think you have all the rules covered, something like this happens."

CJ watch

Tennessee's Chris Johnson had 113 yards Sunday against the Colts, which marked the seventh consecutive game he's run for at least 100. Johnson is now within 500 yards of 2,000 for the season. Here's where he stands:

Season yards. . . 1,509

Avg. per game. . . 125.8

Avg. needed for 2,000. . . 122.8

Avg. last 7 games. . . 148.7

Sunday. . . vs. Rams

Rams avg. allowed. . . 146.2

Three up

* Jamaal Charles, Chiefs running back: Kansas City hosts Buffalo, which has given up an NFL-high 16 rushing touchdowns. Charles is a sleeper as a No. 2 back.

* Kellen Clemens, Jets quarterback: Granted, Clemens hasn't thrown a touchdown since George W. was in office, but he is a sneaky play this week in large leagues. The Jets play at Tampa Bay, which has allowed 24 TD passes and will be focused on stopping the run first.

* Donald Brown, Colts running back: While he has been a disappointment this year, he should become useful once the Colts clinch homefield advantage and start resting their regulars.

Three down

* Adrian Peterson, Vikings running back: You can't sit him, but you can be concerned that Peterson hasn't done much the last three games. He has a tough assignment against Cincinnati, ranked second in the league against the run. Better hope the Vikes don't seal up that No. 2 seed anytime soon.

* Vincent Jackson, Chargers wide receiver: Hasn't seen the end zone in a month and is being outproduced by teammate Malcom Floyd. Jackson is too explosive to bench, though. Might give Floyd a look at third wide receiver.

* Nick Folk, Cowboys kicker: Folk has bricked five of his last seven field-goal attempts and only one of them was beyond 50 yards. Hope you brought a backup to the playoffs.

Weather report

Rain and snow showers are in the forecast for Detroit at Baltimore. Rain also is expected for Miami at Jacksonville and Washington at Oakland. Those early forecasts don't seem so severe that they should affect lineup decisions, however.

Ed Barkowitz, whose team never recovered from Michael Turner's injury and missed out on the playoffs on a tiebreaker, has been writing about fantasy football in the Daily News since 2001.

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