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NFL senior VP of officiating Al Riveron defends decision to overturn Zach Miller TD

The NFL has defended its decision to overturn a Chicago Bears touchdown on Sunday, a call so controversial that two former officiating chiefs denounced it this week and openly questioned whether replay standards had changed.

NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron released a video demonstrating what he said was evidence that Bears tight end Zach Miller never had control of the ball.

Riveron also said the video showed the ball hitting the ground as Miller fell, before he rolled over in pain after dislocating his left knee.

"It's an incomplete pass," Riveron said Wednesday, "regardless of what happens after."

When watched frame by frame, the video does show a slight movement of the ball while Miller is in the air. With the video stopped, it's possible to see the ball move again, presumably but not definitively when hitting the ground.

But that interpretation is in direct contrast to how a pair of Riveron's predecessors viewed the decision. Noting the NFL's long-established standard of "clear and obvious," both Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino said on the digital show "Last Call" that they would have upheld the touchdown call if they had been in Riveron's spot.

Neither saw indisputable evidence that referee Carl Cheffers' initial ruling was a mistake.

Blandino took it a step further, saying it was so obvious to him that Miller caught the pass that, had the on-field ruling been incomplete, he would have recommending reversing it to a touchdown. He said that, to his eyes, Miller completed the process of the catch and didn't lose control until after that point.

Blandino is largely responsible for developing the NFL's current replay system and for establishing its catch rule. He said the spirit of replay is not to "nitpick" calls frame by frame for accuracy and, in an oft-used analogy, said the replay system was designed to ensure calls that matched with what "50 guys in a bar" would agree on.

Relay reversals have spiked in 2017, the first year of Riveron's tenure and also the first season that final authority for replay decisions is held by a league official rather than the on-field referee.

"I just hope," Blandino said, "that we're not going away from that philosophy where if the evidence is there, overturn it, by all means. But if it's not, don't get too technical, don't analyze it to the nth degree. And I think that's part of the issue right now that we're seeing on some of these plays."

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