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Head of officiating: Nate Solder TD should not have counted

Left tackle Nate Solder’s touchdown reception in the third quarter against the Colts was an illegal play, according to the NFL’s head of officiating.
Left tackle Nate Solder’s touchdown reception in the third quarter against the Colts was an illegal play, according to the NFL’s head of officiating. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/Boston Globe

Dean Blandino, the NFL’s head of officiating, said Nate Solder’s touchdown in the AFC Championship game should not have been allowed, and instead the Patriots should have been penalized for illegal substitution.

The confusion arose from the Patriots’ use of ineligible and eligible receivers. Offensive tackle Cameron Fleming reported as an eligible receiver on the play before Solder’s TD, but returned to an ineligible lineman on the next play. NFL rules state Fleming can only switch from eligible to ineligible, or vice versa, if he sits out for one play or if there is a stoppage in the game.

But there was no stoppage, Fleming didn’t sit out a play, and the play should have resulted in a 5-yard penalty for the Patriots, not a touchdown.