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Did Refs Make Correct Call on Bills QB Kyle Orton Safety Ruling?

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2014

Buffalo Bills quarterback Kyle Orton passes during the first half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

The Buffalo Bills were facing 3rd-and-long—3rd-and-24, to be exact—at their own 6-yard line with just over two minutes left in the third quarter against the Miami Dolphins Thursday night.

From the shotgun, quarterback Kyle Orton, under pressure from Olivier Vernon, dropped back into the end zone and, within a couple seconds, threw outside to the left sideline. 

Sammy Watkins, the likely intended target, broke inside—too far from the ball, presumably, since officials flagged Orton for intentional grounding, which resulted in a safety. 

Because scoring plays are not reviewable, those who felt the call was incorrect were out of luck. 

On the broadcast, CBS turned to in-house rules expert and former official Mike Carey to break down the call. Carey maintained that the call was correct even if Watkins simply ran the wrong route, because miscommunication does not justify intentional grounding. 

As it has on other occasions this season—including on another quarterback-caused safety by Andrew Luck against the Pittsburgh SteelersCarey's analysis did not seem to mesh with popular opinion. 

CBS Sports' Pete Prisco lambasted Carey on Twitter.

Pete Prisco @PriscoCBS

Terrible call. Come on, Mike. Quit defending those guys

The NFL rulebook does not specifically mention miscommunication between the quarterback and the intended target on the play.

The rule states that "intentional grounding will be called when a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage due to pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion."

However, it's important to note that it is impossible for the officials on the field make the designation of whether or not there was miscommunication on the play; instead, they must rely solely on what happened on the field and where the ball landed. 

Did Watkins have a realistic chance of catching that pass? Was intentional grounding the correct call? Weigh in here.