LANDOVER, Md. -- The Washington Redskins thought they had a first down, as did the chain gang on their side of the field. One group did not think so, and ultimately, it was the group that mattered: the officials.
And that led to controversy near the end of the Redskins' 24-17 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday night.
It started with a second-and-5 completion to receiver Pierre Garcon to the Redskins' 45-yard line with 1:37 remaining. Although the confusion started because at least one official felt Garcon had a first down, according to Washington coach Mike Shanahan, Garcon was marked short -- yet the chains on the Redskins' sideline were moved as though he'd been awarded a first down.
There was little doubt among Redskins players that they had a first down. There was no doubt for referee Jeff Triplette that it was third down.
"We signaled 'third down' on the field," Triplette told pool reporter Zac Boyer of The Washington Times. "The stakes were moved incorrectly. After that play, we said it was still third down. We had signaled third down prior to the play starting. The chains just got moved incorrectly."
Redskins players saw the chains and thought Garcon made a first down.
"The chains moved right away and it was first down," guard Kory Lichtensteiger said. "Next thing I know, it's not. ... We thought it was first-and-10, so we ran the play. Next thing we know, it's fourth-and-1 all of a sudden. I don't know how they can take it back. I feel if it's marked, you have to go with it. That changes everything for our offense."
Shanahan said he asked for a measurement after Garcon's catch but that an official told him it wasn't necessary.
"He said, 'You don't have to, it's a first down,'" Shanahan said. "I saw it as a first down on the other side, and he signaled to move the chains on our side. I asked him if it was third down. He said he already told me it was a first down. ... After I saw it was fourth down, I asked him, 'You already told me it was first down.' That was quite disappointing."
Shanahan said the official, whom he did not name, didn't respond.
His claim that he was told it was a first down was relayed to Triplette.
"I can't respond to that," Triplette said. "I don't know what happened. I just know that we had signaled third down."
Giants players didn't think Garcon had gained a first down.
"When I saw the marker said 'first down,' I was trying to signal to Coach [Tom] Coughlin, like, 'You might want to challenge that.' Because it was not a first down," defensive end Justin Tuck said. "He was short. Lucky for us it worked out, but it wasn't a first down. Everybody on the field could see that."
Said Giants linebacker Jon Beason, "What it looked like, they marked it first down on one side and not on the other side, so they thought they had a first down even though they didn't. He [Shanahan] was upset, and he's over there yelling, and I was talking to him saying, 'But you didn't get it.' I don't think he could hear me, but I was pointing. It wasn't a first down. Everybody makes mistakes, I guess."
On third-and-1, the Redskins called a downfield pass to tight end Fred Davis, who dropped it at the New York 30.