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Ryan plans changes to challenge system

Rex Ryan once again refused to “name names” Monday when it comes to who exactly on his coaching staff is advising him on when and how to use the NFL’s challenge system.

But the Buffalo Bills’ coach said changes will be coming.

“There is a process in place,” Ryan said. “Did that process let us down (Sunday)? Absolutely did. It failed on a couple of occasions, obviously.”

As for what – or who – will change in regards to the process, Ryan refused to get into specifics.

“There’s something we clearly have to improve in,” he said. “I thought it was going well this year, but obviously we need to find a way to get it where it’s better, where something like where people at home can see something and we don’t see it. To me, that can’t happen. It won’t happen in the future.”

Ryan’s issues with the challenge system started in the second quarter of Sunday’s 30-22 loss to Kansas City. Chiefs receiver Jeremy Maclin made a 37-yard reception that set Kansas City up at the Buffalo 3-yard line, but television replays showed the ball briefly dragging on the ground before Maclin secured it. A total of 34 seconds ran off the clock before the next play – a 3-yard touchdown run by Spencer Ware – got off, but Ryan never went for the red flag.

“I had no idea about the catch by Maclin – the one that was not a catch – until I came down for the press conference and you guys asked me about it,” Ryan said Monday. “I had no idea that was even in question, so that ought to tell you that it wasn’t, um, for whatever reason, I was not informed of that.”

Ryan went 0 for 2 on the times he did throw the challenge flag, the first of which came when he unsuccessfully tried to overturn an incomplete pass to Robert Woods in the third quarter. As Woods got up, he signaled to the Bills’ sideline that he had made the catch, although replays clearly showed the ball hitting the ground.

Ryan was asked Monday whether taking a player’s word for it is a good way to challenge plays.

“Sometimes it is,” he said. “Like, a player sometimes will be totally adamant about it and he’ll know he caught that ball, or as an example, sometimes it will give you an indication, ‘hey, we got to look at this’ and all that type of stuff. Sometimes it’s a gut, you got to throw it out.

“Same thing on an incompletion. A player generally, if they see it hit the ground, they’re gonna be jumping up and down, letting you know that, ‘hey, that’s an incompletion.’ So that’s really it. I’ve had some where the guy clearly, ‘hey, I caught it, I caught it.’ Well, no, you didn’t. Because maybe you can’t overturn it, for instance. You may very well have caught it, but it’s inconclusive.”

Ryan said Woods’ lobbying wasn’t the only reason he threw the flag.

“I’ve heard it from up top as well, to challenge it,” he said. “Even people that were on the field . . . thought they had a good vantage point of it as well. That wasn’t necessarily the case.”

It wasn’t just unsuccessfully challenging plays that Ryan had an issue with Sunday. In addition to Maclin’s catch, he also failed to challenge two more plays that would have been reversed in the Bills’ favor. Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith was a full yard short of a first down on a third-and-12 scramble on the final play of the third quarter, with so much time passing between plays that TV viewers were tweeting pictures of where his elbow landed before the fourth quarter started.

Then, with 2:31 left in the game and the Bills down, 30-22, quarterback Tyrod Taylor appeared to complete a pass to Chris Hogan for a first down. Officials, however, ruled the pass incomplete – despite the Bills’ receiver taking four steps after securing the ball.

The TV broadcast showed James Trapp, the team chaplain/assistant director of player engagement, telling Ryan “no, no, no,” seemingly conveying the answer on whether the play should have been challenged.

Ryan said Monday that Trapp, who also serves as the Bills’ assistant director of player engagement, is “not in the process at all.”

“He’s down on the field and things. I think he’s echoing what was being said,” Ryan said. “But I get a lot of voices, but the one that is important to me is the one that’s in the headset.”

Ryan said he did not ask Hogan for his opinion on the play.

“That was something where, that happened in front of me,” the coach said. “I truly believe, I pulled the red flag out – I had it out – I was gonna challenge it, because I saw it with my own eyes, I believe it to be a catch. However, at that time, we had one timeout left. And I’m sitting back there, I know everybody talks about, ‘oh, what’s a catch.’ The Dez Bryant deal and all that stuff. Well, the thing that actually happens in it, you have to be able to survive the ground. So to make it a legal catch, you have to survive the ground.”

Ryan said it was clear that Hogan had made a “football move” after making the catch, but that he didn’t “survive the ground,” meaning he temporarily lost possession of the ball when he was tackled.

“In hindsight, I should have thrown it, regardless of how much help you get or don’t get in that case,” he said. “I saw it with my own eyes. I should have believed it.”

In effect, the Bills were 0 for 5 in challenge situations Sunday.

“Everything, ultimately, is my responsibility,” Ryan said. “No question about it. I’m not pointing fingers at anybody else. It’s my responsibility. It’s my responsibility to get a process in place that’s effective. . . . I think the process has held up until this, and what’s important now is we have to find a way to get better at it. I believe we have one in place now that will be more effective.”

email: jskurski@buffnews.com

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