Mike Shanahan watched the Cincinnati Bengals' sideline empty onto the field, but he knew the game wasn't over. With seven seconds left after Robert Griffin III spiked the ball, a false-start penalty on Fred Davis was all it took for havoc to erupt.
At least one official incorrectly called the game over because that call often leads to a 10-second run-off. Not the case with the clock stopped, and the Washington Redskins' sideline protested. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan could be seen yelling before one official threw a flag.
The unsportsmanlike conduct penalty backed the Redskins up another 15 yards, forcing Griffin into an unsuccessful Hail Mary attempt that concluded the 38-31 loss.
"They threw the flag at us, and there was half of their football team on the field," Mike Shanahan said. "So I was disappointed in that."
Kyle Shanahan chased the replacement referees off the field, irate about the penalty. No one in the Redskins' locker room conceded the call was on the offensive coordinator — the officials never announced the culprit — but it was an unsettling ending.
"I don't really know what was going on there," offensive lineman Jordan Black said. "It was just a big mess, a lot of confusion. I don't know what that was."
What it wound up being was a comedy of errors, starting with Davis' false start penalty and continuing with the officials mishandling the situation.
It was arguable whether the Redskins deserved the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but this call came a week after players lamented that the replacement officials couldn't control extracurricular activities in their game against the St. Louis Rams.
This was the opposite.
"I don't think he should've called it, but obviously he called it," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "He was trying to control the sideline, and I think we complain about last week them not having control and this week he was trying to [take control]. I think a more mature ref probably wouldn't have called it."
The regular officials, locked out by the NFL without a collective bargaining agreement, probably would not have gotten the penalty yardage wrong, either. Instead of penalizing the Redskins a total of 20 yards for the false start plus the unsportsmanlike conduct, they pushed them back 25 yards.
At that point, Washington was at its 41 instead of its 46, and Griffin's throw was batted down at about the Cincinnati 10.
Many mistakes contributed to the Redskins being in that spot, but the final moments proved frustrating.
"The false start was just a mental lapse on our part. We weren't sure what was going on, whether the game was over or whether it was just a penalty. It was a dead ball, so there's no 10-second runoff on that," Griffin said. "It's unfortunate. We can't have those kind of things in those situations."
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