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Good cheer?


Some time later this week, it's likely someone in the league's officiating office will comment on the controversial fumble play that effectively ended Sunday's game in the Patriots' favor. If Jack Del Rio and Jaguars fans are lucky, the league will confirm that the right call was made, but I have my doubts.

On this, Christmas Eve, the one day of the year reserved for good cheer, I have almost none to share with you. In fact, I have no cheer at all. I hope I'm wrong – I sincerely hope I'm wrong – but I think the officials blew it on that last call.

You know the play. Garrard was scrambling up and out of the pocket to his left, avoiding the rush and looking for a receiver who might've found a soft spot in the Patriots secondary. The Jaguars needed to make a play as they attempted to rally against the Patriots defense inside the two-minute warning.

Some will say Garrard made the mistake of trying to do too much and letting the ball get away from his body, but I can't imagine how one might throw a pass without moving the ball away from his body, and there is no doubt in my mind that Garrard was attempting to throw a pass.

Garrard was hit by defensive lineman Jarvis Green, who knocked the ball out of Garrard's right hand. It was ruled to have been a fumble, which Rodney Harrison recovered for the Patriots. Then came replay review and, at that point, there was no doubt in this reporter's opinion that the play was going to be ruled an incomplete pass and the ball would be given back to the Jaguars. I was sure of it.

Why? Because replay review showed that the arm was moving forward. In fact, I thought Garrard was bringing his hand back toward his body, which I thought would invoke the "tuck rule" call Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made famous in the 2001 playoffs.

Referee Walt Anderson, however, spent very little time under the "hood," and when he emerged, he simply said the "ruling on the field stands." Huh?

The quickness with which Anderson arrived at his replay decision is the only hope I have that the league will confirm later this week that the right call was made. I'm figurin' that because Anderson came to his replay decision so matter of factly, there's something I'm missing in all of this and when the league explains it I'm going to say, "Oh, I get it now."

Please be that way, for the sake of Jaguars fans everywhere in this season of good cheer. Please don't make Jaguars fans begin 2007 wondering what might've been had the wrong call not been made in the loss to the Patriots.

As I head into the evening glow of this Christmas Eve, however, I have my doubts. I hope I'm wrong, but I think they blew it. I think the ball should've been given back to the Jags.

I think Del Rio believes the officials blew it, too.

"David was trying to keep that play alive. When I saw the replay, I had hope because his arm was moving forward," Del Rio told reporters following the Jaguars' 24-21 loss to the Patriots on Sunday. "I know what I saw on replay and I had hope. You have to deal with it."

Del Rio felt another call should've gone his way.

"On the touchdown pass to the tight end, the ball hit the ground and moved. In the end, there's a hand moving forward. It wasn't ruled that way," Del Rio said.

"I thought we should've had the ball back," safety Deon Grant said. "When the dude hit his arm, it was already forward."

Most of the Jaguars locker room was showered and gone by the time reporters entered. Losing will cause that kind of exodus. Marcus Stroud, however, was still on site.

"I saw the replay and I thought he was passing it. I hate to lose the game on a play like that," he said.

Fred Taylor really hated it.

"That's 'America's Team.' They're going to protect Tom Brady," Taylor said.

Merry Christmas? Are you kidding me? Not for the Jaguars. Not for their fans. This one hurts because it will likely keep the Jaguars out of the playoffs. This franchise took a hit on Sunday and Christmas '06 will never be what it could've been.

What do I want for Christmas? I want the league to say the right call was made.

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