For the second week in a row, the NFL acknowledged an officiating error in a nationally televised game.
This time, the problem was twofold: 18 seconds were incorrectly run off the clock late in the fourth quarter Monday night in the Steelers' 24-20 victory at the Chargers — and none of the game officials noticed the gaffe and corrected it.
In a statement emailed Tuesday, league spokesman Michael Signora said that "an error by the clock operator" after a touchback let extra time tick away, and "it is the responsibility of the side judge to supervise the timing of the game."
The statement added: "Had the side judge or any of the other six on-field officials noticed the timing error, they could have corrected it."
On Oct. 5, an official missed a late-game call in Seattle's 13-10 victory over Detroit, giving the Seahawks the ball even though one of their defenders intentionally knocked a fumbled ball out of the end zone, which should be a penalty. NFL's head of officiating Dean Blandino admitted the error.
This time, San Diego kicked a field goal to take a 20-17 lead with 2:56 left. The ensuing kickoff sailed out of the end zone for a touchback, so the clock never should have started. But it ticked down, and by the time Pittsburgh lined up for the first play of its crucial drive, only 2:38 remained.
"When you see a kick go over the end line, never in your wildest dreams would you think the clock is going to start. Neither team was aware of it. ESPN wasn't aware of it. Nobody was aware of it. The clock operator is the one who should take the hit," Mike Pereira, Blandino's predecessor at the NFL, said in a telephone interview.
"It does happen where a few seconds tick off; it doesn't happen very often where 18 tick off. It shouldn't happen," Pereira said. "Ultimately, the officials on the field are responsible. ... Everybody needs to be cognizant."
With back-to-back prime-time problems, it might seem as officials are more prone to miscues these days.
Pereira, though, noted that those miscues are easier to catch now.
"Social media has made it so much more difficult right now, because everyone is tracking everything."
Despite the clock fail, the Steelers made it downfield in time to score the go-ahead points on the final play from scrimmage, a 1-yard touchdown run by Le'Veon Bell.
"Everyone is probably lucky the Steelers won on that last down," Pereira said.
And, not surprisingly, Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin's take was, essentially: All's well that ends well.
"It didn't define the outcome of the game," Tomlin said Tuesday, "so I'm moving on with my workweek."
Hernandez trial delayed: A judge agreed to postpone the double murder trial of former Patriots and Florida player Aaron Hernandez while prosecutors try to obtain evidence held by a law firm that previously represented him. The trial in the 2012 killings of two Boston men was scheduled to begin Dec. 1. Judge Jeffrey Locke moved the start date to Jan. 19.
Bills QBs in air: Tyrod Taylor's status is uncertain after the Bills' starting quarterback hurt his left leg Sunday against the Titans. CBS reported that Taylor has a sprained MCL and might miss next week's game against the Bengals. The Bills signed former Bucs quarterback Josh Johnson as a precaution.
Panthers: Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly returned to practice for the first time in a month and is expected to start Sunday against the Seahawks.