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“We need indisputable visual evidence to overturn a ruling. Then to confirm it, you need that same level of evidence,” Blandino said. “If they don’t have that, then they’ve got to stop the game and bring the referee over.”

On an obvious score, the official doesn’t even have to wait for a replay _ he can just rewind the live feed like a fan using a DVR to watch the play again. The TV feed has a six-second delay, so the official can see the play on the field then immediately catch it again on the screen.

There’s no time limit for the review. If the score can’t be confirmed right away, the league instructs officials to wait for at least one replay “in a reasonable amount of time,” Blandino said.

“We don’t want them standing out there for a minute,” he said. But officials also shouldn’t be afraid to wait an extra five seconds if it prevents a time-consuming referee review.

The video operator records the replays off the live TV feed. The NFL uses only the clips shown by the network broadcasting the game.

NFL coaches in the booth do the same to decide whether to challenge. The Philadelphia Eagles were burned by that in a loss to Atlanta in Week 2, when they didn’t challenge Michael Vick’s interception because NBC couldn’t find a camera angle proving the ball wasn’t cleanly caught until too late.

Johnson says the NFL shouldn’t provide its own replays.

“It’s totally transparent,” he said of the current system. “We’re making our decision based on what you see.”

The replay official and the video operator are part of the nine-person team of officials who travel together from game to game. They used to vary from stadium to stadium, but the pair joined the crew nearly a decade ago to improve communication between the booth and the referee. The video operator rewinds and slows down clips and jumps from one to the other at the request of the referee, who has his own individual preferences on how he likes to view the replays.

“Often the referee has not seen the play. The first time he’s seeing it _ if it was not something that he personally called _ is when he steps into the booth,” said Coleman, who spent 11 seasons as a video operator.

Through Week 7 this season, there were 164 replay reviews, up from 152 last year. Coaches’ challenges decreased to 82 from 101. More calls under review were being overturned _ 45 percent instead of 41 percent _ possibly because coaches no longer are challenging scores that would not get called back, because the replay official is able to confirm them.

Whereas the number of replay reviews increased, the average delay decreased to 2 minutes, 27 seconds from 2:40. Blandino believes that’s because on a booth-initiated review, the referee doesn’t first have to talk to the coach about what’s being challenged.

“I do like how the rule has played out thus far and the fact that numbers are the same,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “The fact that the challenge times are down, I think, speaks well for the change of the rule.”

Chargers coach Norv Turner would be open to the automatic reviews being added for even more types of plays.

Sometimes the reviews can affect a game on plays a coach never would have challenged. With the game tied and 1:43 left in Week 3, Buffalo’s Fred Jackson appeared to score a go-ahead 39-yard touchdown against the New England Patriots. The automatic review resulted in Jackson being ruled down just short of the goal line.

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