5 Moments That Might Have Played Out Differently With NFL’s New Optical Tracking Technology

As the NFL begins to test optical tracking for line-to-gain rulings, there's no denying that the technology may have altered these five moments.

After years of living in the stone age, the NFL is finally evolving and embracing the new era of technology with a potentially massive change.

According to Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports, the NFL is preparing to test optical tracking for line-to-gain rulings this preseason. If the test is successful, the league may implement the technology during the regular season in 2024.

5 Moments That May Have Been Altered by NFL’s New Optical Tracking Technology

As the NFL begins to test optical tracking for line-to-gain rulings this preseason, they’re actually lagging behind other sports and leagues around the world. Several other sports have embraced the new technology, and it’s helped take officiating to another level.

While the NFL is taking the next step with the introduction of optical tracking, it’s hard to forget key moments that may have been impacted by the existence of this technology in the past.

Now let’s take a look back at five moments that may have been altered by the NFL’s new optical tracking technology!

Tennessee Titans vs. Buffalo Bills (1999)

There’s nothing worse than a playoff game being impacted by officiating. Yet, that’s exactly what happened back in 1999 between the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills. Titans quarterback Steve McNair appeared to be short of a first down on a fourth-down play late in the fourth quarter.

Yet, the chain gang’s measurement awarded the first down to the Titans, despite the Bills trying their best to protest the spot of the football. It would prove to be a historic blunder that eventually led to one of the greatest plays in NFL history, the “Music City Miracle.”

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Miami Dolphins (2007)

The Pittsburgh Steelers were the beneficiary of another questionable spot by the chain gang in 2007. Pittsburgh was trailing the Miami Dolphins by three points late in the fourth quarter when Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger initially appeared short of the line-to-gain on fourth down.

As the chain gang took the field, it seemed like the football was just short of the first-down marker. Instead, the Steelers were awarded a first down and eventually went on to score a game-winning touchdown on that controversial drive.

Washington vs. New York Giants (2013)

Once again, another QB running play was at the center of a questionable line-to-gain call. Washington was in a close matchup with the New York Giants in 2013, trailing by six points late in the fourth quarter.

In a crucial 4th-and-1 situation, Washington’s Robert Griffin III attempted a quarterback sneak, and officials ruled that he gained the first down. They would eventually score the game-winning TD.

Television replays showed that the spot was likely incorrect, as the ball may not have reached the line to gain.

Oakland Raiders vs. Dallas Cowboys (2017)

In case you didn’t realize it by now, QB runs are at the center of several controversial line-to-gain calls in NFL history. That trend continued in 2017 in a matchup between the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys.

On 4th-and-1 late in the fourth quarter, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott kept the ball himself and seemingly converted a run for a crucial first down. Yet, the spot was close, and referee Gene Steratore called for the chain gang to take the field.

In what would become one of the most hilarious moments in NFL history, Steratore pulled out an index card to measure the space between the ball and the first-down market. Steratore ultimately signaled a first down for the Cowboys, and Dallas would soon kick a game-winning field goal.

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Los Angeles Rams (2023)

The NFL doesn’t have to look back very far to find situations in which optical tracking technology may have helped. The Steelers and Los Angeles Rams went toe-to-toe in October 2023, as Pittsburgh attempted to hold onto a seven-point lead late in the fourth quarter.

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On a crucial 4th-and-1 play, Steelers QB Kenny Pickett called his own number but ultimately appeared short of the first-down marker. The Rams believed they got a potential game-altering stop, but the officiating crew gave Pittsburgh a generous spot.

The chain gang took the field and ruled that Pickett gained enough yardage for a first down. Unfortunately for Los Angeles, the team was out of timeouts and unable to challenge the ruling. Pittsburgh was then able to run out the clock and win the game.

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