(Note: several updates at 8:12 p.m.) To clear up some of the confusion surrounding how the 51-yard game-tying field goal at the end of regulation by the Browns’ Phil Dawson was determined to be good for the following reasons (source: 2007 NFL Rule Book).
Rule 1 (The Field), Section 3 — Crossbar: In the plane of each end line there shall be a centrally placed horizontal crossbar 18 feet 6 inches in length, the top face of which is 10 feet above the ground. The goal is the vertical plane extending indefinitely above the crossbar and between the lines indicated by the outer edges of the goal posts.
Rule 11 (Scoring), Section 5 (Field Goal), Article 1 (c) — Entire Ball Through Goal: The entire ball must pass through the goal. In case wind or other forces cause it to return through the goal, it must have struck the ground or some object or person before returning.
The ball did hit the standard behind the goal post which is past the goal line (the ball completely crossed the goal line marked by the outer edge of the uprights) and returned to the field (other forces).
One of the two officials (Back Judge #61 Keith Ferguson on the left upright as seen from the back of the end zone) assigned at the bottom of each upright seemed to indicate the field goal was good by nodding his head while the other official (Field Judge #58 Jim Saracino working the right upright according to the TV tape) pointed to the ground in front of the crossbar and eventually waved it no good.
By rule, field goal plays are not reviewable by instant replay. Referee Pete Morelli put on the headset at the replay screen but after talking to the booth and the replay official there, huddled with his crew on the field. Apparently, after “further discussion”, they agreed that Dawson’s kick hit the standard behind the goal which made the kick, by rule, successful.
The TV broadcast did not show whether Morelli was actually shown any replays or if he only spoke to the replay official in the booth about his options to review/not review the play. If is not reviewable, the tape is not shown to the officials.
(Note: There is also a Replay Communicator — usually a former NFL PR director or a league staffer — who is in the replay booth and whose job is it to let the TV director and in-booth announcers know what is going on in the replay booth. That is how the announcers knew that the play was not reviewable so quickly in the post-kick confusion).
After the game, the pool reporter assigned to the officials’ locker room got this from Morelli:
“It was a ruling by one of the officials. The other official informed me that the ball hit the back of the extension of the goal post, which is the backside of it, which is an object beyond the goal post. And, in discussion with the three of us, we had to figure what the ruling was, whether the ball hit the bar beyond the extension or not. In rule #11, section 5-C, the entire ball must pass through the goal in case of wind or other forces cause it to return through the goal. It must have struck the ground or some object. And, that object was that extension on the back. We determined that was what it struck. Therefore, it made the field goal good.”
In any case, the officials got the call right. It will certainly go down as one of the strangest plays in Ravens history and will be a chapter in the Ravens-Browns history book that will be “cussed and discussed” for years to come between fans of these closely intertwined franchises.