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Wonky rule in football robs Rams of touchdown, possession and at the end the game

The Los Angeles Rams are challenging the Seattle Seahawks in what’s suddenly a matchup for supremacy in the NFC West. And while the Rams held the edge early, they were victimized by the absolute worst rule in football: the fumble that becomes a touchback.

The story: The Rams’ Todd Gurley II was rumbling toward the end zone when Seattle’s Earl Thomas executed a perfect chop on the ball. Gurley lost control, fumbling as he stumbled out of bounds. The ball shot forward, tipping the pylon as it went.

It’s a bizarre, absurdly punitive rule, one that substitutes geometric chance (the height of the pylon over the field) for logistical sanity. Under rational circumstances, the ball would belong to Los Angeles on the goal line, and would be an eventual near-certain touchdown for the Rams. Nowhere else on the field is the ball turned over to the other team without that team seizing control of it, except for a safety.

Instead, we’ve got this wonky, badly applied appendix of a rule that warps the entire complexion of the game. What is this, golf?

The play had significant repercussions for the Rams, who ended up losing 16-10. It’s an unfortunate bad break that the NFL really ought to address.

“This might be meaningful to some”

Final play on MNF swings two key bets, over and under, flips fantasy.

When the Chiefs took a late 23-20 lead over Washington via kicker Harrison Butker‘s 43-yard field goal, four seconds remained on the clock. Prompting some to wonder whether Kansas City could end up regretting giving the road team one last chance to win the game.

Others ended up regretting it. And others ended up loving it.

The clumsy final-play, Stanford-band effort by Washington quickly disintegrated into a fumble that was recovered by Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston and returned for a touchdown. The extra six points (the Chiefs took a knee on the mandatory try) allowed the Chiefs to win by nine — and to cover the spread.

The play also allowed the game to flip from under the total-points prop bet of roughly 48 to over.

Sean McDonough of ESPN initially made a sly, Al Michaels-style reference to the development, saying, “This might be meaningful to some.” McDonough then became surprisingly more direct, mentioning the impact of the score on those who wagered on the game “legally,” and he also explained that the officials were insisting on the Chiefs conducting the post-touchdown try before ending the game, due to part to the integrity of the final score as it relates to gambling.

It’s one of the most direct references you’ll ever hear during an NFL game as it relates to a topic that typically is regarded as verboten about the NFL’s broadcast partners. But to the extent that the high-level employees at 345 Park Avenue blow a gasket over McDonough’s perceived gaffe, the league needs to remember that it has chosen to move one of its teams to the gambling capital of the world.

Even though the Raiders are a few years away from moving to Nevada, Las Vegas and the NFL now have an official relationship, and the league can no longer fairly complain about any indirect or direct references to the primary industry of one of the states in which the league will soon be doing business on a regular basis.

Ultimately, the league should be happy that there was no officiating controversy on the last play. If there were, this story would be about how much money changed hands due to a mistake that wasn’t rectified, which happened nearly nine years ago after a Chargers-Steelers game.