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NFL Head Of Officiating: Fumble Call Was 'Enforced Correctly,' 'Clear And Obvious'

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- Jets fans hoping to wake up from Sunday's nightmare with an apology from the NFL will have to hope for something else.

Alberto Riveron, the NFL's new VP of officiating, spoke to reporters on Monday about the controversial ruling to overturn an Austin Seferian-Jenkins touchdown and award a touchback for the Patriots.

Riveron -- who was an on-field official from 2004-12 and served as a referee for the final five years of that stint -- told reporters that despite some of the public confusion, the call was 100 percent correct.

"No doubt about it, it was clear and obvious," Riveron said, per The Boston Globe. "And we use that (standard) for every replay. Unless it's clear and obvious to us, we will not change the ruling on the field, and this definitely met that criteria."

While Riveron accepted that the competition committee may decide to take a closer look at whether a fumble out of the end zone should result in a turnover, he said the officials ruled on what the rules currently state.

"We might not agree with the rule, but that is the rule," he said. "So the rule was enforced correctly."

Riveron -- like referee Tony Corrente a day prior -- tried to explain the play in simplest terms.

"The last thing that we see, we see a runner in control of the football, in the field of play, and then the result of the play is the ball going out of bounds, across the goal line and through the end zone," Riveron said. "The ball was put out of bounds by the offensive player across the goal line, and then it went out of bounds in the end zone."

Despite the controversy, it is that simple. Here's another way to look at it: Let's say a Patriots player -- we'll say Dion Lewis -- fumbled the football close to the sideline. A Jets player -- we'll go with Buster Skrine -- got his hands on the football as it hovered near the goal line. Skrine juggled the football while falling out of bounds, never fully securing and possessing the football until his body was on the ground on the white paint. Because Skrine never possessed the football in the field of play, the Patriots would retain possession. The Jets did not gain possession.

On this play, Seferian-Jenkins lost control of the football and never regained possession before landing out of bounds. And because the rule states that a fumble by an offensive team that goes through the opponent's end zone is a touchback, that's the rule that applied.

Had Seferian-Jenkins gone through that same process but did so at the 3-yard line instead of the goal line, then the Jets would have retained possession with no issue. However, the specific place on the field where the fumble occurred led to the quirky rule coming into play.

There's a lot to process there, but that's the bottom line. Seferian-Jenkins himself understood that.

"I let my team down. ... I have to have better ball security," Seferian-Jenkins said after the loss. "If I take care of the ball the way I'm supposed to, and I don't let it move or anything like that, we don't have this discussion. ... It's not like I'm taking the high road. I'm just saying what the facts are. ... The rule is the rule, they called it, it is what it is. I've got to do a better job of having ball security so it doesn't happen again. If I can catch the ball and I run through both of them and I stand up and I don't fumble or anything like that, then that's what it is."

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