Confusion over 10-second runoff rule adds chaos to Washington-Seattle game

If you’re left stunned, confused and a little bit out of breath over the ending of Washington’s 17-14 victory in Seattle, you’re certainly not alone.

After three sleepy quarters of play, things got thrown into overdrive with less than a minute to play. By the time the clock hit zero, fans were left to ponder questionable — though completely correct — calls from the referees, a wildly unnecessary time out and a chance to see Fail Mary 2.0.

So what the heck happened?

Well, after Josh Doctson set up a go-ahead touchdown with a miraculous catch at the goal line to give Washington a three-point lead, Russell Wilson took the ball back with 59 seconds to go and started marching the Seahawks down the field.

He finally had Seattle threatening to steal a victory after launching a 26-yard pass to Paul Richardson to put the ball at the Washington 38-yard line. But with only 15 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts, Wilson chose to go no-huddle and catch Washington by surprise. Only it wasn’t surprised.

Wilson was swarmed and made a desperate attempt to get rid of the ball while getting dragged to the turf. At the end of the play the clock read 0:04 and this is where things got confusing.

The officials immediately stopped the clock to go check if Wilson was down by contact or if it was simply an incomplete pass. Which had everyone wondering … if Wilson was down by contact, would there be a 10-second runoff to end the game?

Yes and no and here’s why.

According to the NFL rulebook, “If a replay review after the two-minute warning of either half results in the on-field ruling being reversed and the correct ruling would not have stopped the game clock, then the officials will run 10 seconds off the game clock before permitting the ball to be put in play on the ready-for-play signal.”

The call on the field had Wilson down by contact with four seconds left on the clock. Because the call was confirmed, there could be no runoff — which means if the refs originally called incomplete pass the game would’ve ended without Seattle getting a final chance to make a play, and ho boy, those postgame quotes would’ve been something.

Instead, the refs couldn’t start the clock until they placed the ball and set themselves in position. With four seconds on a running clock, all Washington had to do was drop back into coverage and see if Seattle could get the ball off in time.

That’s not what happened. Washington head coach Jay Gruden immediately didn’t like what he saw and called timeout just as the clock began to run, giving Seattle time to draw up a new play and set itself up for a Hail Mary.

Fortunately for Gruden, his defense bailed him out, swatting away tight end Jimmy Graham’s attempt at one of the more amazing game-winning catches ever.

It was a lot to process in a short amount of time. Somehow it all worked out for the best.

Unless you’re a Seahawks fan, of course.

Washington Redskins cornerbacks Josh Norman, right, and Fabian Moreau, left, celebrate after holding off a late comeback by the Seattle Seahawk  (AP Photo)

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Blake Schuster is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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