The NFL has acknowledged that game officials "lost" a down during the second quarter of the Carolina Panthers' 35-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, and the botched call could bring the crew led by referee Bill Carollo some sort of reprimand.
In the big picture, the play had little to do with the final result, as the game was hardly determined by one oversight. But league spokesman Greg Aiello conceded that game officials are "held accountable for a mistake of that nature" and acknowledged the situation is being reviewed.
The play occurred with 1 minute, 23 seconds remaining in the first half and the Panthers leading 21-0.
With a first-and-10 at the Carolina 48-yard line, Cardinals quarterback Shaun King threw incomplete for wide receiver Bryant Johnson and, despite not being under pressure at the time, was flagged for intentional grounding. A television replay seems to indicate Johnson simply ran the wrong route.
What should have occurred was a 10-yard penalty and loss of down, meaning Arizona would have been moved back to its own 42-yard line, facing a second-and-20 scenario.
Game officials marched off the required penalty but, instead of signaling second down, the sideline crew indicate it was third down. Not only did the officials not catch their mistake, but neither did Cardinals players and coaches. On "third" down, which actually was second down, King ran for 16 yards. He fumbled on the next play and the Panthers ended up taking over on downs. Carolina scored four plays later to assume a 28-0 lead.
The official replay from the game cites the error, noting: "Officials inadvertently took away second down from Arizona."
Even though the play probably had no bearing on the outcome, Cardinals players and team officials were steamed afterward, and some privately suggested this week that game officials should be fined.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.