Order was restored, in a way, in the AFC East on Sunday at the Meadowlands.
The New England Patriots, the team that began the season amid speculation about going undefeated en route to yet another Super Bowl title, beat the New York Jets, the team that went into Week 1 being accused of tanking.
In truth, what happened in the Patriots' 24-17 victory was all about further chaos.
For a number of years now, no one has seemed to know what is a legal catch and what isn't in the NFL. Now it appears no one knows what is a fumble through the end zone and what isn't, either.
The craziness surrounded a play that occurred with just more than eight minutes remaining and the Patriots leading 24-14. The Jets' Austin Seferian-Jenkins was credited with a touchdown catch by the officials on the field after grabbing a short pass and barreling into the corner of the end zone as he was being tackled along the sideline.
But all scoring plays are subject to instant replay review, and beginning this season all replay decisions are made by the league office in consultation with the referee on the field. And this replay ruling was a stunning turnaround: The touchdown call was reversed, and the Patriots were awarded possession via a touchback for a fumble out of bounds in the end zone.
The replay showed Seferian-Jenkins lost control of the football near the end of his run, as he was being tackled and going out of bounds. Under NFL rules, once he lost possession, he had to re-establish it with two feet or one knee in bounds, and he needed to maintain possession of the ball while on the ground -- as with the sport's basically indecipherable catch rule. If Seferian-Jenkins failed to re-establish legal control of the football in bounds, the Patriots could be awarded possession and a touchback as with a fumble lost out of bounds through the end zone.
Two former NFL officiating czars, Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino, said in a video for Fox, for which they now work as rules analysts, that the replay did not appear sufficiently clear-cut to warrant such a reversal.
"There were a lot of ifs and mights as you and I were looking at it," Blandino said. "And usually that means the call on the field should stand."
Pereira expressed a similar view, saying: "Ultimately I would say if it has to be clear and obvious, it just didn't seem to me that it was."
The Patriots upped their record to 4-2. They are a half-game ahead of the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, with matching records of 3-2, and a game in front of the Jets, who are 3-3.
Say cheese, Romo?
Let the Tony Romo speculation begin.
Romo currently is the lead color man on CBS' NFL broadcasts, and he has drawn rave reviews for his work.
During Thursday's Eagles-Panthers game, CBS showed video of Tony Romo's last career pass, against Philadelphia in Week 17 of last season.
"Was it the last pass?" Romo said with a wry smile.
Maybe it wasn't.
As the Packers try to figure out how to get through possibly the rest of the season without quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who broke his collarbone Sunday against Minnesota, not many great free agent options are available. Romo is one of them, sort of.
A Wisconsin native who grew up rooting for the Packers, Romo is retired but also a free agent. He could join the Packers (or any team), and the Cowboys could do nothing about it, since the Cowboys released him earlier this year.
Of course, he'd be abandoning the broadcast booth to return. But he's done well enough through five weeks of his first season that CBS or someone else would gladly hire him in 2018.
For what college did Austin Seferian-Jenkins play football?
Sports on 10/17/2017
Print Headline: Ex-NFL rules czars dispute Jets' 'fumble'