CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The NFL said the 76-yard punt return by Denver's Trindon Holliday against Carolina on Sunday should have been ruled a touchback, not a touchdown.
In the second quarter of Denver's 36-14 win, the Broncos' 5-foot-5 returner raced up the sidelines and appeared to score. Replays showed Holliday prematurely celebrating the TD by flipping the ball out of his hands before crossing the goal line.
Replay official Bob Boylston confirmed the touchdown and, as a result, referee Alberto Riveron did not stop the game for an instant replay review.
The NFL said Monday in a statement "Because the video showed that Holliday lost possession of the ball before it broke the plane of the goal line, Boylston should have stopped the game to initiate an instant replay review. Had that occurred, Riveron would have had the indisputable visual evidence necessary to overturn the on-field ruling. The result of the play should have been a touchback - not a touchdown - with Carolina gaining possession at the 20 yard-line."
"I thought I was actually in end zone this week but I wasn't," Holliday said Monday. "Coach (John Fox) told me next time, just bring in the ball."
Of course, all of that doesn't help the Panthers now.
Holliday's touchdown was a major turning point in the game and ushered in a Broncos scoring onslaught. At the time when he field the punt, the score was tied at 7, but the Broncos would go on to score 29 straight points to take charge and win going away in Fox's return to Carolina.
"He definitely flipped it before he got in," said Panthers special teamer Richie Brockel. "But that's the way it went, unfortunately. The call didn't go in our favor, but it still counted for six points."