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Original Issue

The Day Instant Replay May Have Saved Itself

Having been cursed by coaches during the season and facing yet another threat of repeal by the owners, instant replay was put to the test early in Super Bowl XXVI, and it came through with a clutch performance. With about six minutes left in the first quarter of a scoreless game, a catch by Washington Redskins wideout Art Monk in the back of the end zone was ruled a touchdown by the game officials. But Cal Lepore, the replay official, saw on his monitor what the rest of the world saw on TV: The edge of Monk's right foot was on the thick white end line—out of the end zone (above). Lepore nullified the TD, marking only the second time that a call had been reversed by instant replay in the Super Bowl.

On Monday, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said that that one play could save instant replay when it is put to a vote for the seventh time at the annual league meetings in March. "Lets say the last play of the Super Bowl some year is a fumble, and we didn't have replay," said Gibbs. "Everybody at home would see the fumble, and we wouldn't be able to correct it. How would we justify having thrown this thing out? We're going to be taking a really big risk if we throw something out that insures us of making the right call. In the end, I think, that's what'll win out."

For instant replay to survive, three quarters of the league's 28 teams must vote to retain it, and in each of the last two years, instant replay hasn't had a vote to spare. Both times the count "was 21-7. Anti-replay forces got a boost last Friday, when former Pittsburgh Steeler coach Chuck Noll, who as a member of the NFL's rules-making Competition Committee previously did not voice his opinions publicly, stated that the use of replay compromises the effectiveness of on-field officials. "The answer is people, not machines," Noll said. "We have some good officials, but they have to have that other stuff [all the distractions that accompany replay] out of their way."



Monk beat Kirby Jackson (47) in the end zone, but he didn't get the best of instant replay, which detected his toe landing on the line.



[See caption above.]