- The Washington Times - Monday, November 1, 2004

Still steamed over the controversial illegal motion penalty that wiped out a potential game-winning touchdown, the Washington Redskins have submitted a formal complaint to the NFL about what they believe was poor officiating in Sunday’s 28-14 loss to Green Bay.

“There was nothing wrong with what we did,” coach Joe Gibbs said of the play in which Clinton Portis’ 43-yard touchdown catch was negated by an illegal motion penalty on receiver James Thrash. “Now, [the NFL] will tell you maybe, but that’s not what I think.”

Gibbs sent tapes to the league of three plays from Sunday’s game in which he said his players ran in motion exactly like Thrash did but were not penalized. On the play in question, Thrash came in motion from left to right and turned to square himself in position to block a blitzing Packers safety just before quarterback Mark Brunell took the snap.

Brunell proceeded to hit Portis out of the backfield for a touchdown that appeared to tie the game at 20-20 with 2:35 to play and an extra point still to come. The play was immediately called back, as referee Tom White explained, because Thrash was “moving forward” at the time of the snap.

“We’ve been doing that all year and our entire lives,” Gibbs said. “We motion across, come set, and then we pick up a safety blitz. And that’s exactly what we did. We did it three other times in the game. Those are all being sent in [to the league]. It’s exactly the way we [design] it. We do it every single time.”

Thrash, after reviewing the tape several times yesterday, disagreed with the call but hesitated to criticize the officials.

“I’m not going to talk bad about any officials because fines are in play,” Thrash said. “We didn’t agree with it, but we have to live with it.”

Rule 7, Section 2, Article 5 of the NFL’s rule book states that “at the snap, all offensive players must be stationary in their positions” except for one man in motion who may move “parallel to, obliquely backward from, or directly backward from the line of scrimmage at the snap.”

The league has made illegal motion a point of emphasis this season, and the results are staggering. Through the first seven weeks of the 2003 season, six illegal motion penalties were called; through the first seven weeks of this season, that number has risen to 42.

Several Packers players yesterday told Green Bay reporters they didn’t see much motion from Thrash on the play. But despite it all, Gibbs expects no concessions and no apologies from the league office.

“I don’t think they will,” he said. “I think they’ll say he’s moving forward. That’s part of life up here. You’ve got to deal with it, and you’ve got to get on with it.

“I will say this: You’re going to play a lot of close games, and things like that make a huge difference. I thought we made the play to win the game. As a matter of fact, I thought it was an unbelievable play. … It’s just that [in the NFL], you get very inconsistent stuff called. And that was an inconsistent call.”

Taylor returns

Sean Taylor returned to practice yesterday after being banished the previous four days by Gibbs following his arrest early Thursday for drunken driving.

The rookie safety, who was inactive for Sunday’s game and was not in attendance at FedEx Field, arrived at Redskin Park at 12:45 p.m., just 15 minutes before players were required to be in team meetings. He refused to acknowledge reporters’ requests for comment as he walked through the front door.

Taylor, who faces a Dec. 1 hearing in Fairfax County on charges of driving under the influence and refusing to take a breathalyzer test, is expected to practice all week and return to the starting lineup Sunday at Detroit.

Gibbs said the matter is closed as far as he’s concerned, and he believes the first-round draft pick will grow from the incident.

“He feels like he made a mistake,” Gibbs said. “He owns up to it, and he kind of understands it. … I wish some of those things hadn’t happened. I think he does. We’ll just have to live through it, and hopefully that’ll be the end of it and he takes off from here on out. We think he’s going to make a real contribution for the Redskins.”

Extra points

Gibbs again gave his full endorsement to beleaguered quarterback Mark Brunell, who has the league’s lowest completion percentage (52.4 percent) and was soundly booed by the home crowd during Sunday’s loss. The coach said that despite fans’ pleas to replace Brunell with backup Patrick Ramsey, the thought never crossed his mind.

“I felt very comfortable with what was going on, as far as Mark’s play,” said Gibbs, who added that Brunell will start Sunday in Detroit. “Had I made that change in the first half, the thing I would have said to everybody was that we would have missed those plays in the second half that really should have given us the win. [Brunell] really made some great plays down the stretch there.” …

Despite surrendering a season-high 361 yards to the Packers, the Redskins defense continued to hold the NFL’s top ranking through Sunday’s games.

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