Already hopping mad from a malfunction in the replay booth’s equipment that nixed a review that would’ve overturned a Champ Bailey fumble-recovery TD, the Chargers got screwed again in the final seconds when referee Ed “Guns” Hochuli prematurely blew his whistle and ruled that a clear fumble was in fact an incomplete pass. Soon after, the Broncos scored a touchdown and added a ballsy two-point conversion to beat San Diego 39-38. Oops.
Even though Jay Cutler clearly lost the ball as he was bringing his arm backward, Hochuli couldn’t resist the urge to suckle the silver teat and erase all possibility for possession to be awarded to the Chargers. Linebacker Tim Dobbins picked up the errant pigskin and ran two or three yards before stepping out of bounds, giving San Diego hope that they would be awarded the ball on review. The play was reviewed, but that’s when things got confusing.
While under the black hood, Hochuli learned that he, in fact, had f’d up royally. But the rules don’t allow him to make amends for his sins.
From the SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE:
“The ruling on the field was that it was an incomplete pass,” Hochuli told a pool reporter. “We went to replay. It should have been ruled a fumble. By rule – by the instant replay rules – on that particular play where there’s a pass/fumble, a quarterback pass/fumble – the rules do not permit you to give the ball to the other team. All we can do to fix it is put the ball at the spot that it hit the ground.”
Hochuli argued that the call was “really not even a whistle issue,” but the Phoenix lawyer lost me with his logic. If the whistle had not been blown, Dobbins could have recovered the ball and the replay system would have upheld his recovery. Because the whistle was blown, the play is governed not by equity or reason, but by procedure.
To Hochuli’s credit, he did take responsibility for his blunder (unlike some officials we know), but Norv Turner wasn’t exactly in an accepting mood:
“It was a fumble, clear to everyone on our sideline, and I’m sure all the fans,” Chargers coach Norv Turner said. “Ed came over to me and said he blew it and that’s not, to me, acceptable. This is a high-level performance game and it is not acceptable to have a game decided on that play.”
While the Broncos did lose eight yards on the sort-of fumble, they scored two plays later (on fourth and goal). Then, sensing the Chargers’ dismay, they went for two and won the game when Cutler found Eddie Royal in the end zone.
Being the reasonable folks they are, Charger fans have accepted Hochuli’s explanation and are moving on with life. If you call publishing his work contact information and encouraging fans to inundate him with vitriol “moving on.” After posting Hochuli’s law firm’s address and phone number and Hochuli’s personal e-mail address, a poster named “legalspy” made the following promise:
By legalspy on 09/15/2008 at 12:35 a.m.
I should have his home and cel# shortly……
You’ve seen Ed, right legalspy? He is not a man to be tussled with, and you may find that out the hard way.