By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Nov 01, 2004 at 5:27 AM

{image1}Some Democrats have believed since 2000 that the Republicans stole the presidential election. Well, perhaps Republicans will accuse a NFL official of stealing this year's election for the Democrats.

Certainly, the illegal procedure call on James Thrash that called back a Redskins' touchdown with 2:35 left in Sunday's game helped the Packers win, 28-14, and get to .500 at 4-4.

Here's how the call could impact Tuesday's election. In the last 17 elections, the incumbent has won when the Redskins won their last home game before Election Day. If the 'Skins lost, the challenger won. It's called the Redskins' Factor. Sunday's result then should mean that challenger John Kerry -- even though he called Lambeau Field "Lambert" -- wins Tuesday.

While no self-respecting political analyst will cite that football call no matter what the election results are, football analysts will be looking to the play and raising questions. Replays did not really show any overt illegal motion.

Clinton Portis scored on the 43-yard play, which would have tied the game at 20-20. If the Redskins had made the extra point, they would have taken a 21-20 lead with only a couple minutes left.

But, the touchdown was called back, and on the next play from scrimmage Washington's Mark Brunell, who had a bad day, was intercepted by Al Harris. The Packers went on to score an insurance touchdown in the closing minutes.

"The guy on the far side called the motion penalty," Washington coach Joe Gibbs said of the crucial penalty call. "I asked for an explanation, and the one guy said the R-back moved. Well, the R-back was Clinton Portis, and he didn't move.

"Then another guy said it was James Thrash. But, Thrash didn't release on the play. It's a mystery to me. It was a big play. A lot went against us out there today."

The Packers probably never should have been in the situation where an illegal procedure call meant that much. They pulled out to a 17-0 lead but then sputtered on offense.

Washington struggled on offense all day, and trailed 20-7, until Brett Favre got careless and threw two interceptions on two successive series. The first led to a touchdown that made the score 20-14. The second looked like it had led to Portis' touchdown, but that play was called back.

"It's every play out there at a time," Harris said after the game. "Whatever happened on that play that took the touchdown back was an opportunity. Thank God, we made the most of the opportunity."

Players of the Game

Give the offensive honor to Favre, even though he had three interceptions. Favre completed 20 of 33 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown. That's not bad for a guy who was playing with a banged up hand, and with concerns about his wife, who has undergone surgery for breast cancer.

On defense, Harris was beaten for two touchdowns, but deserves the honor for his huge interception, and for even playing on a gimpy leg. Give honorable mentions to Bhawoh Jue, who filled in well for the injured Darren Sharper at safety, and lineman Grady Jackson, who for a second straight week made a big difference against the run and pass.

For Washington, give a mention to Shawn Springs, who had two interceptions of Favre passes.

Plays of the Game

They happened within seconds of each other. First was the procedure call that brought back what looked like the potential winning TD. Second was Harris' interception.

You also have to consider Favre's two interceptions, which allowed the Redskins to make a game of it. Favre's one weakness has always been throwing into coverage. The interceptions also might have been caused, in part, by the fact Favre banged up his already-injured hand.

Goats of the Game

Brunell was ineffective, overthrowing several open receivers. He ended up 25 of 44 for 218 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Depending on your outlook, the Redskins' James Thrash, who was called for the illegal procedure penalty for the 'Skins, was a goat, or the official was one for making the call.

Next week

The Packers are off for their bye week. They need it, since Favre could use time to heal emotionally and physically. Sharper and others also need time to mend.

When the Packers come back, they host the Minnesota Vikings, who were taken apart by the New York Giants on Sunday. A win would extend the Packers' winning streak to four. It would also put the Pack right back in the NFC North race.

But, for now, Packers' fans should just be happy their favorites got a break Sunday and pulled out a win that puts them at .500. At least one Packer also believes the win will help Kerry.

"Oh, yeah, he's going to win. It's guaranteed," said Sharper, a Kerry supporter. "I don't have to vote now. Don't even have to go to the polls. Saved me a trip on Tuesday."

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.