ASHBURN, Va. -- For those watching on television, it appeared the Washington Redskins scored their final touchdown on fifth down.
For the players on the field, there was no such confusion.
A slight error by a member of the chain gang was one of the reasons the Redskins seemed to catch a break in the final seconds of their 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday.
When Washington got a first down on a pass to Santana Moss late in the game, the ball was spotted outside the Buccaneers' 12-yard line. However, the auxiliary down marker was set at the 3 -- less than the requisite 10 yards.
When Anthony Armstrong caught a pass at the 2½ on the next play, officials awarded a first down. The game's official statisticians, apparently unaware of the first-down ruling, awarded Armstrong only a 9-yard gain that would have created a second-and-1, throwing off the reporters in the press box as well as the announcers on the Fox broadcast.
The Redskins and Buccaneers players were aware that it was a first down and played accordingly. The Redskins ran four more plays, scoring a touchdown on a 6-yard pass on fourth down with 9 seconds to play.
"Believe me, there was no confusion to anybody except the people that were in the press box and the people watching on TV," coach Mike Shanahan said. "Because on the sideline it said first down right away. On the field, the one thing we look at is the markers on the sideline. Both markers said first down."
Any chance that the so-called "fifth down" would turn into a full-blown controversy was negated when the Redskins botched the extra point that would have sent the game to overtime.