The overturned ruling helped steer the Cardinals clear of damage in a 17-14 win over the Chiefs
When quarterback Alex Smith found tight end Travis Kelce for a 19-yard gain in the fourth quarter on Sunday, the Chiefs looked to be in business. It gave them a first down at the Cardinals' 22-yard-line, easily in range to tie or take the lead. A few moments later, the Cards were awarded the ball after a replay review confirmed a forced fumble by safety Deone Bucannon and a recovery by cornerback Justin Bethel. Bucannon, Bethel, outside linebackers coach James Bettcher and Director of Football Administration Mike Disner broke down the crucial sequence in this week's Cardinals Film Room.
The situation: Kansas City faced a third-and-4 from the Arizona 41, trailing 17-14 with 5:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Bucannon wonders if a quick pass is coming since the Chiefs are close to the first down marker:"I was thinking screen to (De'Anthony Thomas) but naw, that wasn't the play."
Bettcher has the replay responsibility, but that's not on his mind at the snap:"I'm locked in on the call, the guys I coach, the play, everything that's going on. Not as much looking to see if there's going to be a replay. Just let those things happen when they show up."
Kelce sits in an unmanned area and makes an easy catch for the first down. Bucannon: "I thought he was coming underneath, but instead he stopped. That's my guy. He caught it so I was like, 'The only thing I can do now is hustle up and make a play. Get him down and fight another day.' I already made a mistake, so the only thing I could do was make up for it."
Bethel plays deep and then comes up for support: "One of the tight ends didn't come out, he set down, so I was trying to stay deep on (Thomas). Once (Kelce) caught the ball, I was trying to break toward him and I saw Buc making the tackle."
Kelce cuts inside to avoid safety Tony Jefferson and Bucannon tackles him from behind: "I was mad. At that point I was just trying to hit him as hard as I can and get him to the ground. I hit (the ball) with my right hand, and coming around to the left I felt that it was loose."
Bettcher doesn't see the fumble happen in real-time: "He caught it, got tackled, went down and we're on to the next play. I saw the ball kind of squirt out at the end, and I didn't see it as the ball was coming out for a fumble because you don't see the replay at first. Mike Disner was in the back and pointed it out, 'Hey, take a look at this. It might be out.'"
Disner had a different angle because he was watching the coaches film used for in-game adjustments: "What I do during the games is the still pictures, so what I'm looking at is different than what the guys are looking at. I have two screens in front of me. I have the sideline view and the end zone view in the All-22. So a lot of times what you see there can be a little bit different from the coaches. I saw on the end zone view the ball come out. I've always been taught if you see something, say something. So I saw it, I said something. Bettch and the other coaches looked at the replay and saw the same thing and threw the flag."
Bucannon thought it was a fumble, so he continued to knock the ball away after Kelce was down: "You can see it loosens up when I hit him with the right hand. The ball wasn't in his hand. When I came around, I wouldn't have been able to get my hand on it if he had possession. Thankfully I was able to get it out."
Bucannon, however, wasn't about to lobby for the challenge flag: "It's really not my place to say, 'Hey Coach, challenge this or don't challenge it.' That's not my place. That's what the coaches are there for. They understand football a lot better than I do."
When Bettcher saw the replay he felt confident, because the situation had recently come up twice around the league: "When I was in Indianapolis with coach B.A. and Chuck Pagano, I was the replay guy. I coached the outside linebackers and then had rules and replay, and I did the same thing last year and this year. Every week on Saturdays, part of what we do is a little presentation to the team, talking about penalties, game situations and things like that which can help us be a smarter team. I had a chance to watch that (situation) with the team and we talked about it."
The Cardinals couldn't have won the challenge without Bethel's quick recovery: "When it flipped over, all I saw was the ball moving around so I just picked it up. When you see a ball on the ground that looked like a fumble, pick it up. I looked to the sidelines and was thinking of running but they blew the whistle."
If the call was not overturned, Disner knew it would cost the Cardinals their final timeout: "It's always a risk-reward. Very rarely is it 100 percent."
Bettcher is the one who interacts with Arians through the head-set, but he said it's a group effort in the booth: "Those guys do a great job of, 'Hey, here's a play.' Guys point it out and give me a chance to take a look at it and talk to Coach."
The Cardinals subsequently burned clock offensively and the Chiefs were stopped on their hurried final possession. Bethel: "Definitely a big play, a turning point of the game. Being that we won by three, if they scored or get that three it could have changed the whole outcome of the game."