LANDOVER, Md. - A first down that was actually a third down might have cost the Redskins a chance to come from behind on their final drive of Sunday night's 24-17 loss to the Giants.
The Redskins were driving toward a potential tying touchdown just after the two-minute warning when Robert Griffin III hit Pierre Garçon with a short pass on second-and-5 from the Washington 41. The ball was spotted on the field at the 45, a yard short of a first down -- but the chains on the Giants' side of the field had moved down the field as if it were a first down, and the crew on the Redskins' side of the field was in the process of moving.
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"I said I wanted a measurement," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said, hoping to stop the clock and see how much he needed to get to convert it. "He said, 'You don't have to, it's a first down.' I saw it was a first down on the other side, and he signaled to move the chains on our side."
The problem was that referee Jeff Triplette saw that the ball was short of the first down and signaled third down.
The Redskins ran a play that one might on first-and-10 from near midfield: a deep pass for tight end Fred Davis that was broken up by a strong hit from behind by Antrel Rolle. As the Redskins regrouped for what they thought was second-and-10, Triplette announced that it was fourth-and-1.
"The stakes were moved incorrectly," Triplette told a pool reporter after the game. "After that play, we said it was still third down. We had signaled third down prior to the play starting. The stakes just got moved incorrectly."
Triplette said that had the situation occurred outside the two-minute warning, play would have been stopped to correct the matter.
"But there are no timeouts in this situation," he said. "We just didn't shut it down in that situation because that would have given an unfair advantage."
Triplette said he couldn't comment on the conversation Shanahan had with the official on his sideline. "I don't know what happened," he said.
Shanahan said the confusion "obviously" affected the Redskins' play-calling. "That was quite disappointing," he said.
The Giants defenders said they knew it was third down and not first down after the Garçon completion.
"He was upset about the call, but I was like, 'Look, you didn't get it,' " Giants linebacker Jon Beason said of Shanahan's reaction. "I was looking at [Shanahan] and I was like, 'I'm sorry. You're looking across and it says first down. That's not right.' "
On the next play -- fourth-and-1 -- Griffin completed a 6-yard pass to Garçon, but safety Will Hill stripped the ball from his grip and sealed the Giants' win.