Author Topic: Under Further Review!  (Read 2529 times)

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Vette

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Under Further Review!
« on: December 08, 2015, 09:32:08 PM »
We are excited to announce that BayAreaGiant has agreed to post a weekly article that discusses the Officiating of Games in the National Football league. As you know he has extensive experience in this area at the Division I level and has put this experience to the study of the NFL Rule Book. After consulting with our Moderator Emeritus Group we decided to create a thread where BayAreaGiant can discuss the rules, game calls over a weekend that became controversial and to answer questions from our members. If you have a question that you would like BayAreaGiant to give his interpretation, send him a Personal Message. This will be a locked thread and not a discussion thread. He asked that I submit his first Blog that he prepared as we introduce this weekly feature. We hope you enjoy it!

« Last Edit: January 04, 2016, 02:51:30 PM by Vette »
"There is a greater purpose...that purpose is team. Winning, losing, playing hard, playing well, doing it for each other, winning the right way, winning the right way is a very important thing to me... Championships are won by teams who love one another, who respect one another, and play for and support one another."
~ Coach Tom Coughlin

Vette

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Re: Under Further Review!
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2015, 09:33:02 PM »
Article One
By: BayAreaGiant

I always find it interesting when a week-end goes by with a Giants loss and no one seems to blame the officials. It appears that the past week-end was just such an event. Although there were at least two calls that could be construed as going against the Giants (not including the silly challenge by Coughlin which would have only been two yards one way or the other), there were a significant number of non-calls that actually went in the Giants favor. The first was the 2 or 3 (or more) instances where JPP used his taped and padded arm to club the Jets tackle about the head and neck area. This should have been called each time and I would suspect that it well may be in future games once the officials get a chance to look at the tape. Next came the (almost) piling on penalty that could have been called on Moore as once again he was out of control and landed on a runner that was already down right in front of the Back Judge.  And finally there was a number of instances where Flowers could be seen holding on for dear life, especially with his left arm, but he was only called once as I remember.

The calls that went against the Giants were "hands to the face" call that was obviously wrong (I thought that it was interesting that the LJ was obviously not sure of the call based on the look on his face but finally decided to go with his initial judgment) and the placing of the ball after the DPI penalty down near the goal line which should have been closer to the 8 or 9 than the 12 yard line where it was actually placed.

The other calls (or non-calls) that raised questions were related to some of the antics  of Jets receiver Marshall. It appears that Marshall's swings at Giants DB's were considered to be normal "handfighting" although I do not agree. It will be interesting to see if the NFL office levies a fine for his actions in Sunday's game. 

One of the basic tenets of officiating is that you need to be prepared for just about anything on the field at any time. Two examples of this occurred in Sunday's Eagles - Patriots game. The first occurred on a kick-off when the Patriots kicker Gostkowski, after being handed the ball by the back judge (which starts the play clock), immediately pitched the ball back to safety Nate Ebner who (pooch) dropkicked the kickoff. A kickoff may be kicked by a placekick (using a tee is optional) or by a dropkick. The second play occurred when QB Tom Brady acted as if he was changing the play and re-aligning his wide receivers as he walked down the behind his offensive line only to have the ball snapped directly to a deep back who handed off to Amendola on a reverse who then threw a pass to Brady. (Had Brady taken the snap under center he would have been ineligible to receive a pass on the play.) It would be interesting to know whether these trick plays were discussed with the Referee during the pregame discussion or whether the crew just had to adjust on the fly. In any event, they are examples of the strange things that can happen in a game that the officials must be prepared to address.     

Finally, there was a situation that occurred in Monday night's game that reminds one that the old adage "the ground cannot cause a fumble" is not totally true. On the ill-advised punt return by LeSean Jackson near the end of the game, it appeared that his hand and wrist hit the ground with the ball in his hand and the contact caused the ball to come free. As a runner is not down until a part of his body other than his hand or foot hits the ground and as the wrist is considered part of the hand, Jackson was not considered to be down by contact and the ground may have caused him to fumble the ball. [It is noted that this play was so close that I believe that replay would have gone with whatever had been ruled on the field as the available views appeared to be inconclusive. However, on the play at least three of the officials threw their bean bags signifying that from their respective viewpoints, it was a fumble. A really tough call made in real time with various bodies flying around.]  So in this instance, it could be (correctly) said that the ground did cause a fumble.   
"There is a greater purpose...that purpose is team. Winning, losing, playing hard, playing well, doing it for each other, winning the right way, winning the right way is a very important thing to me... Championships are won by teams who love one another, who respect one another, and play for and support one another."
~ Coach Tom Coughlin

BayAreaGiant

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Re: Under Further Review!
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2015, 10:18:43 AM »
Under Further Review #2

The one play that I saw of officiating interest in the Giants  - Miami game was the challenge by Coughlin regarding whether the Miami runner was down by contact. Although it is unclear exactly what part of the play was challenged by the Giants, it needs to be remembered that when a play is reviewed all reviewable aspects of the play are looked at. In this instance (I believe), the ruling was that the Miami player had fumbled the ball but was then down by contact after having recovered it. As such, the Giants challenge was wrong and they were charged a time out. Had the Giants recovered the ball, it would have been their ball after the challenge with no timeout charged.   

Also worth noting is that Flowers is lining up well into the backfield on numerous pass plays and may be flagged for this failure in the future. Also, from what could be seen on TV, it appeared to me that the block by Williams that put a Miami player out of the game should have been called illegal (despite the comment by Gerry Austin). However, it was never shown from a different angle (typical of ESPN) so it was impossible to determine the legality with any certainty.

Often I hear or see complaints from "bloggers" about the number and length of conferences among officials on the field during a game. However, football is a complex game and many plays have multiple parts to them necessitating such discussions.
On many situations involving penalty flags, the Referee has little idea of what transpired until he talks to the covering official(s) as he was focused on the QB during the play. An excellent example is one or more fouls on a long pass play. Arriving downfield after such a play, the Referee will  typically need to know (and will ask for) the following from the covering official(s):

What is the flag for (i.e., holding, illegal contact, DPI. face mask, etc.)
What was the status of the ball when the foul occurred?
Was the pass complete or incomplete? 
Did anyone else see anything different?
Was the receiver eligible?
Was the pass catchable?
Was the QB in the pocket at the time that the foul was incurred?
Where did the foul occur? (What yard line? Inside or outside of hash marks?)
What was the time on and the status of the clock?

Input on these questions may come from multiple officials. Then he has to instruct the Umpire where to place the ball before giving his announcement to the crowd. Digesting and processing this information takes time especially when there might be divergent opinions among the crew members. As a result, the conduct of such conferences is really an example of good officiating and not of any problems or weakness on the part of the crew.             
Conferences will also often occur between officials on the sideline when a toe-tapping catch is made. This is because the closer official typically watches whether the ball is caught while the official further away focuses on the receivers feet. The need for such a mechanic is that it is virtually humanly impossible for a single official to span the 8-10 feet with his eyes simultaneously to see all aspects of the play in real time.     

As an example of the complexity of a play with multiple opportunities for fouls by one or both teams, the following play that occurred late last season is provided as an example (and as a rules quiz):

Second and 10 at the opponents 40 yard line. Offensive team QB A11 throws a long pass that is intercepted by defensive player B23 on the 3 yard line. His momentum carries him into the end zone where he attempts to run out but he is grabbed by the face mask by A50 and fumbles the ball. The ball rolls out of the end zone into the field of play where it is recovered by A88 at the 6 yard line. However, A88's foot is touching the sideline when he first touches the ball. A17 was illegally in motion at the start of the play. Where will the ball next be put in play and by which team? [Answer to be provided next week. Feel free to PM me with your guess.]

One of the plays receiving special attention from the officials this year is the offensive pick play. Typically it involves an inside receiver (covered by the wing official) making contact with a DB allowing the outside receiver (covered by the SJ or FJ) to get free. As a result, there have been many more OPI calls than there have been in the past. However, not all "picks" can be called as it requires the official to read the intent of the initiating player, not just the fact that there is contact. This is an especially difficult call to make when the DB steps up to jam the receiver and as a result initiates the contact that results in picking off his team mate. Unfortunately, there was a (non) call on a play of great significance towards the end of the Eagles - Bills game that certainly looked like a illegal pick from the views shown on TV. I am sure that the play will receive significant attention and comments during this week. 

Similarly, there has been a rise in the number of calls for blockers making contact downfield on wide screen passes before the ball is caught. Although NFL rules (Rule 8-5-4) indicate that the blocks cannot occur more than 1 yard downfield before any pass (i.e., behind or beyond the  LOS) is caught, typically some leeway was given on such plays. This year the officials are tightening up on such calls although like the pick play this is a difficult call and not all fouls are being called. [It is noted that the NCAA rule is a little different in that the restriction only applies on passes  that cross the LOS.]     

During the Bengals - Steelers game, Referee John Parry could be seen escorting two players off the field due to possible health concerns. Officials have been directed to do so by the NFL office when they see a player who appears to be hurting. Expect to see more such actions taken by the officials no matter the game situation and/or players involved.  Once the concussion protocol begins, it can be expected that the involved player will miss, as a minimum, at least 4- 8 plays and more if he is escorted into the locker room for further testing.

BayAreaGiant

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Re: Under Further Review!
« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2015, 07:45:52 PM »
Under Further Review #3
     

I have already posted and discussed my opinion regarding what I believe to be the egregious behavior of Beckham in Sunday's game in one or more of the topics so I will not repeat myself. But needless to say, I felt that he could/should have been thrown out of the game in the 3rd quarter, even though NFL officials have only ejected two players this season, (or taken out by Coughlin and told to take the rest of the day off.) I also believe that Terry McAuley's crew did just about all that they could do to control the game short of ejecting Beckham (but not Norman) and had they done so, there would be a similar uproar today.

One of the things that may have gone unnoticed in Sundays game was that when DRC blocked the Field Goal attempt by Carolina, the ball actually went up and over the overhead camera before coming down and being recovered by the Giants. Had the ball hit the camera or one of the camera support wires, the ball would have been dead at that point and the play would have been replayed with Carolina in possession.

In the Raiders -Packers game yesterday a situation similar to one that occurred to Manning earlier in the season occurred just before the half. With 2-3 seconds left, Aaron Rogers made a motion with his hands apparently asking for a time out. The motion was not recognized by Walt Anderson and time ran out in the half. You may remember that earlier in the season Manning made a motion with his hands that was interpreted to be a request for a time out. I also told the QB's that if they wanted a timeout to raise their hands above their shoulders and give me a clear "T" signal. I am surprised that two veteran QB's did not understand that the Referee is not a mind reader and here is a need for a clear time-out signal (or that no other signal or motion with their hands should resemble a time out signal) if they want the Referee to interpret their actions accurately.       

Last week I posed the following question: Second and 10 at the opponents 40 yard line. Offensive team QB A11 throws a long pass that is intercepted by defensive player B23 on the 3 yard line. His momentum carries him into the end zone where he attempts to run out but he is grabbed by the face mask by A50 and fumbles the ball. The ball rolls out of the end zone into the field of play where it is recovered by A88 at the 6 yard line. However, A88's foot is touching the sideline when he first touches the ball. A17 was illegally in motion at the start of the play. Where will the ball next be put in play and by which team?

Although only a very limited number of readers attempted to respond to the question, none have suggested the correct answer. This situation demonstrates that there are multiple factors and rules that go into actual calls that are made on the field.

To start with, there are two fouls against team A. If the illegal motion foul is accepted, A will remain in possession while if the face mask foul is accepted, Team B will have possession. So there is no reason for Team B to accept the first option. As the fumbled ball is first touched by a Team A player who is out of bounds (i.e., foot on the sideline) and as touching always precedes possession, this was a forward fumble out of bounds by the Team B player. As a result, the ball is returned to the spot of the fumble which is the end zone and is declared dead at that location. Now, as the Team B player intercepted the ball at the three yard line and it was his momentum that carried him into the end zone, the ball is now returned to the spot of the interception as a result of the momentum exception. This establishes the three yard line as the basic spot. As the defensive face mask foul occurred behind the basic spot, it is assessed from the three yard line. As a result, the next play will be B's ball, first and 10 at its own 18 yard line.         

A question for this week: Team A punts to Team B. Player B20 stands at his 20 yard line and signals for a fair catch. However, he muffs the ball into the air and it is caught in the air by player A55 who is directly in front of B20 and he then runs towards the end zone. A55 is then pulled down by B45 at the 15 yard line with a horse collar tackle. Where is the ball next put in play and by which team? As with last week, if you feel you know the answer, feel free to send me a PM.     
« Last Edit: December 22, 2015, 01:37:05 PM by Vette »

BayAreaGiant

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Re: Under Further Review!
« Reply #4 on: December 29, 2015, 05:22:09 PM »
UNDER FURTHER REVIEW #4

A number of interesting situations and calls from the games this week and thankfully without much of the angst that resulted from last week's Giants - Panthers game.

First, the coin toss in the Jets - Patriots game. The options that are presented to the Captains at the coin toss to start an overtime period are: 1) You can choose to receive; 2) You can choose to kick-off; and 3) You can choose which goal you want to defend.  The team winning the toss only gets to select one choice. So when the Patriots announced that they wanted to kick-off, they could not choose which goal they wanted to defend until after the Jets had their choice. Obviously, there was no need for the Jets to opt to receive so they chose the goal that they wanted to defend. Had the Patriots opted to defend their desired goal with their first choice, the Jets would have in all probability opted to receive and everyone would have been happy. [Two things worth noting are: a) at the start of the game the first question that is asked of the team winning the toss is "Do you want to make your choice now or defer to the second half?" and b) at the start of the second half, the team losing the toss or deferring has the same options that exist at the start of OT. So a team might opt to kick-off to start both halves for some reason.] Finally, I was once asked by a Captain whether there were any other choices. You never know what these players might say.   

In the Lions - Saints game last Monday night, LJ Sarah Thomas granted a time out to the Lions even though they had already used up all three timeouts much to the obvious chagrin of Referee Pete Morelli, who has been saddled with a less than stellar crew this season resulting in numerous problems. Once the mistake was recognized, Morelli quickly made an announcement and got the teams lined up again and started play. There is no penalty for such an error by the officials unless it is judged that the request was intended to ice the kicker in a kicking situation. The officials should have just ignored the request and allowed the play to continue.

In the Chargers - Raiders Thursday Night Game last week, the Raiders had to punt from their end zone with about 10 seconds left in a tie game. The Chargers put two receivers back at about midfield with obvious directions to make a fair catch if at all possible. If the fair catch had been successfully made, the Chargers would have had the option to attempt a place kick from the spot of the fair catch for a field goal to win the game. There would be no rush and the raiders players would have needed to be 10 yards away from the spot of the kick. Fortunately for the Raiders, the punt went over the heads of the potential receivers and rolled to about the 30 yard line eliminating the potential for such an attempt. Two such kicks were attempted in 2008 and Phil Dawson of the 49ers attempted such a kick from 71 yards out in 2013.           

In the Eagles - Redskins game last week, the Eagles tried to trick the Redskins by having 10 players on the field on a punt play and lining Sproles up well to the right of center in the hope that the Redskins would kick to their right, an area that appeared open. The Eagles then ran a player in off of the sidelines into the open area as the ball was kicked and Sproles attempted to fool the Redskins cover team into thinking that the ball was going towards him. However, all was for naught as the 11th Eagles player had not been on the field when the snap was imminent and as a result it was a substitution infraction.     

Finally there were two plays that involved a potential 10 second runoff that were of interest. In the Rams - Seahawks game with approximately 30 seconds left, the Seahawks were called for an illegal shift. In the last minute, this foul is administered as a False Start foul and is subject to a 10 second run-off if so desired by the defensive team. Coach Fisher of the Rams, who is one of the few coaches with an excellent understanding of the rules, was right on top of the call and reminded the officials of the need for the run-off.

In a second incident, there was an Intentional Grounding foul called during the last minute of a game. Although the pass was incomplete causing the clock to stop, in the last minute of either half, the penalty for Intentional Grounding includes a 10 second run-off. Although the fouling team in both situations above can avoid the run-off by taking a time-out, in many situations the team no longer has a time out left and as such, the run-off will occur.    The defense always has the option to decline the 10-
second runoff and have the yardage penalty enforced, but if the yardage penalty is declined, the 10-second runoff is also declined.

At the risk of re-opening a sensitive issue, I believe it is worthwhile to briefly address the process that is implemented to assess the performance of officials and players during and after a game. The process and criteria for evaluating the performance of officials and the behavior of players are established in the respective Collective Bargaining Agreements. These are well thought out procedures that are intended to eliminate the emotion of the moment and the bias of the fans (and all fans by definition are biased) from the process in an attempt to arrive at an appropriate judgment and conclusions. As with any performance assessment of individuals in any industry, such assessments can only be conducted by individuals with appropriate experience and knowledge and an understanding of the situation(s) and the applicable criteria. Although the conduct of players may be judged on a game by game basis, the performance of the officials is not only judged on that basis but also across the season as they work the 16 games on their schedule.

As occurred in the Giants - Panthers game, the officials on the field will make (or not make) a call on each play based on their judgment and the provided guidance. Those calls (or non-calls) are reviewed and evaluated by Supervisors and Observers assigned to the game, who turn in their reports following the game. The performance of each official on every play is then evaluated by one or more individuals in the league office with respect to positioning, judgment, correct enforcement of the rules, correct interpretation of any provided guidance, etc. and a grade for each play is assigned and then compiled for the game. These grades are discussed with the individual official and a DVD showing his performance during the game is provided to him typically before he leaves the game site. Any perceived major problems with players that are identified by the officials or the observers are then further reviewed by Merton Hanks before the assessment of any fines or suspensions.

As a result, the grade assigned to an officials performance is the result of a collective effort of the covering official(s) and the observations of typically 4-5 other individuals with extensive officiating experience. The performance of players receives an even further level of scrutiny before fines or suspensions are levied. All of this leads to the fact that the initial action between Norman and Beckham at the approximately 13:00 minute mark of the first quarter (i.e., the alleged "vicious body slam") was deemed to be mutually initiated and it was almost unanimous that Beckham had exaggerated his fall in an (unsuccessful) attempt to draw a foul against Norman. The first action that was deemed to warrant a Personal Foul that was not called occurred about 2 minutes later when Beckham went after the head of the Carolina player on a pass over the middle. In addition, it was indicated that he should have incurred at least two Unsportsmanlike Conduct fouls for twice taking  his helmet off while still on the field including his actions after the TD that tied the score. In virtually all of the confrontations, Beckham was considered to be the initiator. As a result of all of the above, I believe that the overall behavior of Beckham was sufficiently unacceptable that the actions taken by Hanks and James Thrash, who heard the appeal, to suspend Beckham were correct. 

Many calls in a game are based on judgment and the action is often seen with differing perspectives by the fans of both teams and members of the media. The evaluations of the officials serve as the basis for post-season assignments and for rehiring in subsequent years with both actions having the potential to have adverse financial implications for the official. 

The rules question last week was as follows:

Team A punts to Team B. Player B20 stands at his 20 yard line and signals for a fair catch. However, he muffs the ball into the air and it is caught in the air by player A55 who is directly in front of B20 and he then runs towards the end zone. A55 is then pulled down by B45 at the 15 yard line with a horse collar tackle. Where is the ball next put in play and by which team?

Per Rule 10-2-2-3, after a valid fair-catch signal, the opportunity to catch a kick does not end if the ball is muffed. The player who signaled for a fair catch must have a reasonable opportunity to catch the muffed ball before it hits the ground without interference by members of the kicking team, and regardless of whether the ball has been touched by the potential receiver or strikes another player or an official.

As a result, when A55 catches the kick that had been muffed by B20, the ball is dead and it is a foul for Fair Catch Interference. The ball is awarded to B at the dead ball spot (assumed here to be the 20) and a 15 yard penalty assessed. So it will be B's ball at the B35, first and 10. [The horse collar tackle foul will typically be considered a continuing action foul and as B can only accept one penalty, it will be declined.]

A rules question for this week:

Third-and-10 on A30. B1 intercepts a forward pass at the B30, runs to the B35 where he fumbles the ball and Team A recovers at the B40. Prior to the pass, A3 holds B26. Whose ball is it and where is it next put in play?


BayAreaGiant

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Re: Under Further Review!
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2016, 01:02:09 PM »
Under Further Review #5
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As I have mentioned in previous write-ups, I always find it interesting when fans remark that they heard the announcers say something or interpret a rule and as a result it is considered to be gospel. However (and unfortunately) often this is not the case. On Sunday, during the 49ers - Rams game, the Rams attempted a fake punt throwing a long pass down field. The intended receiver was clearly interfered with and announcer Tom McDonald and color man Adam Archueleta went on and on that the officials had missed a blatant  DPI call. Unfortunately, neither individual knew the rule and apparently Mike Pereira was not around to set them straight.  As is noted  in Rule 8-5-3 (e) Note 3:

"Whenever a team presents an apparent punting formation and until the ball is kicked, defensive acts that normally constitute pass interference are permitted against the end man on the line of scrimmage, or against an eligible receiver behind the line of scrimmage who is aligned or in motion more than one yard outside the end man on the line, provided that the acts do not constitute illegal holding."

This rule was put in based on the assumption that in this situation it was impossible for the defensive backs to know whether a kick was being made or not and as such whether they could contact the gunners as they came down the field. As a result, the officials were correct in not calling DPI even though significant contact with an eligible receiver was made by the defense while the ball was in the air.   

An interesting scoring situation arose on the play that turned Sunday's game around although it is of little significance except in Fantasy Football and contract negotiations. On the play, Gene Steratore threw his bean bag immediately meaning he had it as a fumble, not a pass as called by the announcers, as it was not in Manning's possession as his hand made the transition to forward motion. As so happens too many times, the announcers screwed up the call (not a unique situation as is noted above). It is worth noting that as specified in the rule book, "An interception is made when an opponent who is inbounds catches a forward or backward pass or a fumble that has not touched the ground. A recovery is made when a player inbounds secures possession of a loose ball after it has touched the ground." As such, although Manning is considered to have "fumbled" the ball, technically Thurmond "intercepted" it for a TD.   

It appears that the Panther's Josh Norman managed to contribute to the meltdown of another star receiver during the Panthers - Buccaneers game on Sunday. Norman was covering Michael Evans on a pass play at the back of the end zone and Evans thought that the coverage was a bit tighter than allowed. He commented to the Back Judge using profanities and was flagged for the language directed at an official. He continued his tirade and was flagged a second time for the same offense by the Side Judge. As both fouls were well after the play and were directed at an official, both fouls were assessed and Evans was ejected from the game.  This was one of the limited situations where the both fouls are enforced. The result was a 30 yard loss for Tampa Bay and the end of Evans' day. 

An interesting play occurred in the Redskins - Cowboys game when Cowboys TE Witten caught a pass at about the 2 yard line while moving parallel to the goal line and just before he went out of bounds at the  2 he reached out and the ball broke the plane inside of the pylon. Witten himself never challenged the goal line and had he touched out of bounds before the ball broke the plane it would have been spotted at the point of forward progress. But in this instance, even though he physically never approached the goal line and went out well within the field of play, the touchdown counted as the only thing that is important is whether the ball itself breaks the plane within the pylons while in possession of a player in the field of play.

As the season has gone on, we have seen a number of defensive holding calls go against the defensive linemen during the last 5 minutes of the game. Up until a few years ago, this was a common call when a D-lineman grabbed one or more O-linemen and held on giving the LB a chance to shoot the created gap. When the NFL moved the Umpire into the offensive backfield, there was no official in position to see this play and the defense took advantage of the situation. During the last five minutes of the game, the Umpire moves back to his traditional position behind the D-line and it is easier to see the foul. This is a major disadvantage of moving the Umpire although it has certainly increased the safety of the Umpires throughout the year.       

I am often asked which rules in the NFL that I would like to see changed and we all have our favorites. However, two of the lesser known rules that always bother me are related to hurdling and assisting the runner. Given the increased concern about player safety, I am surprised that the NFL has not re-instituted the rule regarding hurdling (defined as jumping with one or both feet forward over a player who is standing on both feet) that was eliminated a few years ago. Besides the risk to the defensive player who may get a knee to the head or a foot to the face, there is a significant risk to the jumper/hurdler as he gets upended and lands on his head or shoulder from an elevated position. Although this is an exciting play, it is also an unsafe one and I believe that it should be eliminated from the game. My second pet peeve is the rule that allows offensive players to push the ball carrier forward in an attempt to gain additional yardage. That is not football, it is rugby and it also causes potential injury problems when both offensive and defensive players get caught up in the scrum and get bent into strange and unnatural positions. Although it is a foul to pull a runner forward, there are no restrictions on pushing the same runner from behind but I think there should be. As always, the Competition Committee will look at possible changes to the rules in the Spring and make recommendations (I believe that changing the timing rules after a foul in the last 2 minutes is one such change) and I do not think that these two will be high on the list but I believe they should be.     

Last Week's Rules Question

Third-and-10 on A30. B1 intercepts a forward pass at the B30, runs to the B35 where he fumbles the ball and Team A recovers at the B40. Prior to the pass, A3 holds B26. Whose ball is it and where is it next put in play?

Answer:

As the defense (Team B) got possession of the ball with "clean hands," they will retain the ball at the spot where their running play ended, the B35. The 10 yard holding penalty is then assessed resulting in B's ball, 1st and 10 at the B45 yard line.   

This is the last UFR of the regular season. I hope that it has provided some insight into the NFL rules and the manner in which the league expects the games to be officiated. If anything of interest arises during the play-off/post season games I will be glad to provide further clarification. I hope that you have found the rules questions to be of interest although the received responses have demonstrated that the level of rules knowledge is overestimated. If you would like to see this feature continued throughout the offseason or next year, feel free to notify Rich or Ed.   

BayAreaGiant

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Re: Under Further Review!
« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2016, 02:11:49 AM »
The opinions expressed below are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the operators of this site.

Under Further Review #6

Play-Off Assignments

The referees for this past week-end's wild card play-offs were Gene Steratore, Walt Coleman, Ron Tolbert and John Parry. Often the question is asked, how are NFL play-off officials selected and assigned? The actual process appears to be as complex and mystifying as the selection of a Pope but here are some of the details. 

The present methodology of determining playoff assignments was established after the  2013 season, in part as the result of the 2012 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the NFL Officials Association. Officials at each position are not ranked on a 1-17 (there are 17 crews plus 3 swing officials) but are placed in one of three tiers. The top tier includes the officials that are considered to be capable of working the conference championships and Super Bowl games. The second tier includes those officials that are considered to be qualified to work lower level play-off games and the officials in the third tier are officials that do not get on-field play-off assignments. The placements change from year to year depending on an officials performance during that season. 

Tier placement is based largely on the grades that each official receives for each game he works during the season but there is also some subjectivity to allow Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino, who has never officiated a football game at any level, to  consider certain intangibles. Why this subjectivity, which introduces the possibility of favoritism impacting the assignments, is allowed in the process is unclear.

The Referees for each play-off game are assigned to mixed crews (i.e.,  the Referee is not working with his in season crew but with a mixture of individuals from various in season crews) in the postseason. Although John Madden often referred to these crews as all-star crews, the term is not really applicable until the Conference Championship games. Up until the 2013 season, crews were assigned as a whole unit for the first two rounds of the play-offs but this practice was ended by the 2012 CBA.

There are a number of other caveats that impact which officials work which games and some of them are discussed below. 

First year officials and first year Referees do not qualify for any playoff assignment.

The Super Bowl officials are selected from the Tier 1 officials. An official at each position in that tier that has not previously worked a Super Bowl will get first preference. However, if an official was graded at the top in the previous postseason, and skipped over to award a first preference, he will not be skipped again if he ranks first in the current season. The minimum qualifications for the Super Bowl Referee are as follows:

•   5 years of NFL experience
•   3 years as NFL referee
•   1 playoff game as a referee

For the officials at the other positions, the minimum criteria are:

•   5 years of NFL experience
•   1 career conference championship game or 3 playoff games in the previous 5 years

Finally, no official cannot work consecutive Super Bowls.

The officials for the two Conference Championship games are selected from the remaining Tier 1 officials. Conference Championship officials must have three years of seniority and a prior playoff assignment. If there are Tier 1 officials who are not selected to work the Super Bowl or the Conference championship games, they are assigned to Divisional Playoff games.

The officials who are selected to work the Super Bowl crew will all be assigned to divisional playoff games although they will not all be on the same crew. It is unclear why this is the case as having a game together would give them a step up for the Super Bowl. The Referees for the coming week-end's divisional playoffs are Craig Wrolstad (#4), Tony Corrente (#99), Clete Blakeman (#34) and Terry McAuley (#77). The Giants saw all of the crews headed by these officials during the latter part of the season with McAuley working the Giants - Panthers game. One of these Referees will be assigned to head the Super Bowl crew. Tier 2 officials then fill in the remaining divisional and wild card assignments. 

Tier 3 officials do not get a playoff assignment. There are some indications that an official ranking in the third tier for three years in a row can be dismissed.

For the Wild Card, Division, and Conference Championship games, three alternates are typically assigned although this is not always the case. The three alternates typically come from one of three groups: referee/umpire, line officials, and deep officials. The Super Bowl has five alternates: referee, umpire, line officials, deep wings, and back judge. Typically, the Super Bowl alternates had an earlier assignment during the play-offs.

Kudos to Walt Coleman's Play-Off Crew

Walt Coleman, who is the senior NFL Referee, drew the short straw when he headed the crew for the Vikings - Seahawks game played in zero (or below) temperatures. Often it is forgotten that the officials are on the field for 90 minute stretches in such weather with no chance to take a break, warm themselves at the sideline heaters or go to the bathroom. other problems  occur when saliva freezes inside your whistle making it impossible to blow or when attempting to pull ones flag out tucked deep in your pants with gloved hands. [Officials will often use 2 or 3 whistles during the course of the game tucking the used whistle inside your pants to allow any saliva buildup to melt before being reused. In some instances, there is not even a whistle at the end of a play.] The new black pants, which replaced the knickers some years ago, and weather shirts are intentionally oversized to allow the officials to wear extra clothing under their uniforms but I can tell you from experience it still gets really cold. Coleman's crew managed to keep their focus and worked a fairly incident and criticism free game.       

Play Situations

There were three very interesting calls from the Steelers - Bengals game. In the second quarter, a Bengals fumble was picked up by a Steelers player who appeared to fumble the ball during his runback. The ball was picked up by a second Steelers player who advanced the ball into the end zone and began to perform a previously choreographed dance (if that is what it is called) for which the Steelers were correctly flagged for Unsportsmanlike Conduct. When the play was reviewed, it was ruled that the original Steelers player had been down by contact before his fumble and as a result any further advance was wiped out. However, the Unsportsmanlike Conduct foul was still assessed at the spot where the Steelers player was ruled down as 15 yard fouls (Personal fouls and Unsportsmanlike Conduct fouls) are not ignored in such a situation even though the play was deemed to have ended earlier.     

Late in the 3rd quarter, Steelers LB Shazier tackled Cincinnati RB Bernard after Bernard had caught a pass and the tackle caused some controversy. From what I can see after reviewing the tape multiple times, Bernard catches the ball and takes 2 or 3 steps while turning upfield to run. At that point, he is considered a runner and not a defenseless player. Shazier comes in high and ducks his head to the left while his helmet made glancing contact with Bernard's head/chest area knocking Bernard to the ground and out. Shazier is clearly attempting to wrap up Bernard although that action would have been moot if Bernard had been ruled to be a defenseless player. In such a situation, if Bernard was considered a defenseless player, Shazier could have/should have been called for a foul. However, it was ruled on the field that as Bernard had taken more than two steps while in possession of the ball and had completely turned upfield at the time of the contact, he was a runner at the time of the initial contact.

Although some have attempted to make the case that Shazier "speared" Bernard, that term typically applies only to a player that is already on the ground. So the question is whether Shazier illegally contacted Bernard when their helmets collided. As I look at the play, I do not feel that the contact rose to the level warranted a flag as Shazier's head starts off to the side of Bernard's head and it is my opinion that the officials on the field called the play correctly although it is a close, bang-bang play, especially in real time. The play was reviewed to determine if a fumble had occurred and it was ruled that it had and the ball was awarded to Pittsburg at the spot of the recovery. [It is noted that if Bernard had been ruled to not have established himself as a runner, it would have been an incomplete pass and no fumble would have occurred.]       

Just inside of 2 minutes in the 4th quarter, Cincinnati LB Vontaze Burfect, who had been out of control since the earlier hit on Bernard, launches himself at a Steelers receiver making contact with the receivers neck and head area. This was an easy call by the BJ who had the play unfold directly in front of him. [It is noted that despite the comments of some that Burfect made contact with his shoulder and not his helmet, the subject is moot as the applicable rule 12-2-7 states that it is illegal to: "forcibly [hit] the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, even if the initial contact is lower than the player’s neck, and regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him."  [Emphasis added] ] [It is also noted that Burfect has/had a reputation for playing out of control in college and that was one reason that he went undrafted despite having obvious talent.] 

Following the hit by Burfect, a number of squabbles broke out on the field and players from both benches as well as coaches came onto the field, the latter to supposedly help to restore order. Although not allowed by rule, often the participation of coaches and assistant coaches tends to defuse the situation as they pull players towards or keep them on their own sideline. In looking at the tape of the incident, it can be seen that many players and coaches have come off their respective sidelines following the event. One of the Steelers Assistant Coaches, Joey Porter, lingered a bit longer than required as the officials attempted to restore order and appeared to have some words with a number of Bengals players (although the game tape from CBS does not appear to show him speaking).  Apparently Cincinnati CB Adam Jones took exception with something that was said and tried to get at Porter who was being walked away by Referee John Parry as Parry and two other officials were attempting to get things under control. While attempting to get at Porter, Jones apparently bumped one of the officials drawing a well-deserved flag for Unsportsmanlike Conduct. One of the questions is whether Porter deserved to be flagged as well but apparently the three officials in the vicinity did not feel that he had instigated the incident and were satisfied to just get him back to his sideline. This action by Parry and crew was subsequently echoed by Dean Blandino.     

College Championship

At the end of the first half of the NCAA Championship game, a clock mix up caused Clemson to use their last time out and placed the on-field officials in an unwinnable position. With about 18 seconds on the clock, Clemson ran a play that resulted in a first down and under college rules the clock should have stopped until the chains were reset and the ball spotted for play by the Umpire or Center Official. Although there were 15 seconds left on the clock when the play was blown dead, the clock continued to run to 12 and then inexplicably was restarted before the ball was spotted and the Referee gave the wind signal. Clemson managed to call a timeout when the clock read 6 seconds and the officials put three seconds back moving it to 9 seconds.

The problem was that the timer was not associated with the Pac-12 officiating crew and instead was more familiar with the NFL rules as the game was played in the Cardinals home stadium. In the NFL, the clock would not have stopped as a result of a first down and the timer apparently failed to realize the difference from the college rules. So he hesitated to stop the clock and then apparently had second thoughts and started it again. Unfortunately for Clemson, the typical college mechanic is that you do not put more than 3 seconds back on the clock at any time that there is a timing problem unless you have exact knowledge of the correct time. The problem that the officials had was that if they stopped the game to reset the clock prior to the Clemson time out, it would have, in effect, given Clemson a free time out and Alabama would have howled. If they let the clock run (as they did), Clemson howled. In such a situation, there was nothing that the on-field officials could do that would satisfy everyone but given the importance of the game you would think that the NCAA or BCS or whoever was responsible would supply a qualified timer knowledgeable in NCAA rules to work the clock.       

« Last Edit: January 13, 2016, 01:33:14 PM by Vette »

BayAreaGiant

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Re: Under Further Review!
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2016, 05:44:19 PM »
Under Further Review #7

[The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the position of the management of this website]

For those of you that watched the Patriots - Chiefs game on Saturday, you had a chance to see Dan Fouts, the ex-Charger QB, pitch a perfect game as an announcer. During the course of the game, Fouts  expressed 12 opinions regarding NFL rules and rules interpretations and managed to be WRONG on every single one of them. In multiple instances, he was contradicted and/or corrected by Mike Carey on the air, an unusual situation. Fouts' performance was actually fairly consistent with his performance during the year so it should not be considered to be surprising but one would figure that the law of averages would enabl him to get at least one opinion correct.  Listening to Fouts and his partner Ian Eagle often is painful and if this is the best announcing team that CBS had to assign to a play-off game, they should have turned the coverage over to some other network. Until then, someone should suggest to Fouts that he remain quiet when it comes to NFL rules and officiating.     

It appears that the Referees for the Conference Championship games will be Ed Hochuli and Bill Vinovich. For Hochuli, the assignment marks a return to Tier 1 status after a number of less stellar seasons. For Vinovich, who was the Referee on last year's Super Bowl and thus ineligible to return, it is an indication that he is one of, if not the, top Referees in the NFL at the present time. Referees who did not receive an on-field post season assignment this year are: Jerome Bogar, Jeff Triplette, Pete Morelli, Walt Anderson, Brad Allen, John Hussey (who was ineligible as this was his first year as a Referee) and Carl Cheffers. Particularly surprising were Anderson and Cheffers, both of whom appeared to be having solid seasons.   

Packers - Cardinals

A number of interesting calls in the Packers - Cardinals game but the one that will probably standout in people's memories is the fact that on the coin toss for overtime, the coin tossed by Clete Blakeman did not turn over and so Blakeman re-tossed the coin without giving the Packers an opportunity to change their heads/tails call. Although it does not happen often, I have seen it at least once before in my career. I also had a coin go up and come down and stick vertically in the mud at midfield on a wet field. Although there is nothing specific in the rules to cover such situations, it is a well recognized mechanic that in any situation that effects the fairness of the coin toss, such as the coin not turning over, the coin inadvertently striking a player or official, or the coin landing in a vertical position, the toss will be repeated with the same choices as initially stated. Blakeman executed the situation correctly and the game moved on. 

It gets a bit tiresome to hear some coaches complain that they (supposedly) do not understand the NFL catch rule when a call goes against them but they are more than happy to accept the results when the call goes for them. (I've given up already on the complaints of the media and the fans so they no longer bother me.) In one such instance, Cardinals receiver FitzGerald possessed a pass, took 3+ steps in bounds and then after he had gone out of bounds went to the ground and bobbled the ball. Packers Coach McCarthy challenged the play but once it was ascertained that Fitzgerald had established himself as a runner inbounds, the fact that he lost the ball out of bounds was moot. Had he not established himself as a runner, then it would have been an incomplete pass. But whether he took 3 or 33 steps in bounds, he became a runner at that point and what occurred out of bounds was of no impact. [It is worth noting that when the ball rolled a bit in the Packers receivers hands as he lay on the ground in the end zone on the Hail Mary that tied the game, McCarthy had no problem with the rule or the manner in which it was enforced.]     

In the early 2nd quarter, the Cardinals intercepted an Aaron Rodgers pass and ran it back for a TD. On the play, the Cardinals were called for an Illegal Hands to the Face foul before the pass was thrown and then the interceptor was called for taunting as he waved the ball at a Packers player as he crossed the 10 yard line. Both fouls were legitimate calls. Although it sounded like Referee Clete Blakeman said that there were fouls on both teams, there were actually two fouls on the Cardinals. In this situation, the Packers had the choice of which foul to accept and obviously chose the Hands to the Face penalty which resulted in the play being replayed. If the Hands to the Face foul had not occurred, the TD would have counted as the taunting foul is assessed as a dead ball foul even though it occurred during live action. [It is also noted that if the same play had occurred in college, the taunting foul would have been assessed as a live ball foul so the TD would not have counted even if the Hands to the Face foul had not occurred.]     

With less than 30 seconds left in the 4th quarter, the first of two long Rodgers passes was completed to the Cardinals 36 yard line with the clock running while the Packers hurried to the LOS where everyone assumed Rodgers would spike the ball. However, Rodgers called a play that led to some confusion on the part of his teammates and the announcers. The resulting confusion involved two little known rules as follows.   
The Packers got to the LOS and the team came to a set position for one second as required. However, before the ball was snapped, TE Rodgers started to move forward to get in position for the called play and was moving at the snap. As a result, an Illegal Motion (live ball) foul was called. 

There was some confusion as to whether this foul should have killed the snap. Under one minute, an illegal shift foul is changed to a false start foul which should result in the play being stopped before it starts. However, this applies only when two or more players are moving prior to the snap and have not reset. If the clock is running at the time of the Illegal Shift/False Start foul, the clock is stopped and there is a 10 second run-off (unless declined by the defense).

However, in this instance, as the Packers had been set for one second prior to Rodgers going in motion and as he was the only Packers player in motion at the snap, it was not an Illegal Shift but Illegal Motion and the conversion to Illegal Procedure does not apply. As a result, the 5 yard penalty for the Illegal Motion was assessed but no additional time was run off of the clock after the play was completed.

Denver - Pittsburgh

At 13:05 of the 4th quarter, Peyton Manning dropped back to pass and was rushed while in the pocket. In an effort, Manning spun and fell to the ground. He then got up and threw a complete pass for a long gain. The Steelers attempted to challenge saying that either: a) Manning had given himself up when he went to the ground or b) he had been touched by the on-going rusher which would have meant that he was down by contact. Referee Terry McAuley explained that the question of whether he went to the ground voluntarily was a judgment call and not reviewable (I believe that McAuley was correct in ruling that he slipped and did not give himself up by going down on his own) and by that time it was clear that he had not been touched so Steeler Coach Tomlin just put the red flag away and the play on the field stood.

With almost 12 minutes left in the 4th quarter, Denver punted to the Steelers and the Steelers receiver muffed (not fumbled) the kick inside the 10yard line and it rolled towards the end zone. A Steelers player contacted the ball at about the 1 1/2 yard line and slid towards the goal line before fully gaining possession while the ball contacted the goal line. A number of interesting factors come into play on such a situation. First, it needs to be remembered that a kick remains a kick until it is possessed by the return team or it goes out of bounds. As such, even though it had been touched by a Steelers player, it was still considered to be a kick as it rolled towards and eventually touched the goal line. As a result, it is considered that the kick was the force that put the ball in the end zone and because it was a Steeler player that possessed ball, the result was a touchback. Because a the Steelers receiver had touched the ball in the field of play, the ball is still considered to be live and had a Broncos player possessed the ball in the field of play, it would have been Broncos ball at the spot of possession. Had a Broncos player possessed the ball in the end zone, it would have been a Broncos touchdown. Had the Steelers player possessed the ball in the field of play and then slid into the end zone, the ball would have been returned to the spot where it was first possessed as a result of the momentum exception.

The entire situation was quickly sorted out by Back Judge Shawn Hochuli, Ed's son, who had an excellent season as the Back Judge on Brad Allen's crew, and after all was said and done, the Steelers correctly started the next series with a first down on the 20 yard line.

Although I felt that all of the games that were played last week-end were well officiated, there were three plays where I felt the officials missed something that should have been called. In the Packers - Cardinals game, on the second touchdown pass to Michael Floyd, #13 of the Cardinals makes contact with a Packers DB just off the LOS and clearly maintains contact and pushes him at least 10 yards downfield prior to and as the pass is being thrown. As a result, I felt that OPI should have been called on the Cardinals. Also, with less than a minute left in the game, I felt that DPI should have been called on the Cardinals #28 on a long pass to the far side of the field. Although in play-off games, the officials tend to "let them play," in my opinion, OPI and DPI should have been called on the Cardinals in those situations.

Also, on the onsides kick that ended the Seattle - Carolina game, a Seahawks player clearly touched the rolling ball before it went 10 yards and as a result there should have been a flag. Based on the TV feed none was seen. Without a flag, if a foul had been called on Carolina, there was nothing to offset it. Although such a miss would have been easily picked up by the replay official, someone on the field should have gotten a flag down on the play.         

BayAreaGiant

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Re: Under Further Review!
« Reply #8 on: January 25, 2016, 08:59:39 PM »
Under Further Review #8
[The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the position or opinions of the management of this website]

After two well-officiated games on Sunday it is time to look forward to the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl. For the former, the crew will be headed by Clete Blakeman, an attorney in his 8th year in the league, and will include Umpire Jeff Rice (21 years, Blakemen's crew, attorney), HL Wayne Mackie (9 years, John Hussey's crew, Director of Housing Operations and a native New Yorker), LJ Rusty Baynes (6 years, Ed Hochuli's crew, General Manager, Safety Services), FJ Boris Cheek (20 years, Walt Coleman's crew, Director of Operations and Management), SJ Scott Edwards (17 years. Ron Torbert's Crew, Environmental Engineer) and Keith Ferguson (16 years, John Hussey's crew, Sales Manager). Each of these individuals ranked within the top 4 or 5 officials (Tier 1) at their respective positions during the season.   

For the Pro Bowl, Pete Morelli will be the Referee. Pro Bowl assignments are given to the official with the longest longevity at their respective positions who were not assigned to another play-off game and have not recently worked a Pro Bowl game in Hawaii. Sort of a paid vacation for those assigned to the game.

Based on the play-off assignments given to the various crew members, it appears that Ed Hochuli's crew had the best season as all of the officials on the crew that were eligible received Division Championship assignments and above. Other crews having good seasons (based on their play-off assignments) were headed by John Parry, John Hussey and Carl Cheffers. Pete Morelli's crew apparently had the poorest season, a fact that came as no surprise given the overall weakness of his crew.     

As is always the case, the games on Sunday had a number of interesting plays although there appears to be very little criticism of the manner in which the games were officiated.

Looking at the Broncos - Patriots first, here are the key plays: 

At 2:27 of the 1st quarter, Manning threw a swing pass that was originally ruled incomplete. Upon replay, it was correctly ruled that the pass had gone backwards and as a result was recovered by the Patriots. (I felt that the whistles from the Umpire and Hl came a bit too quick on this play.) Even though the Patriots subsequently advanced the ball into the end zone, they are only allowed the recovery as the whistles stopped the play. It needs to be remembered that the key to whether a pass is forward or backward is a line from the spot where the pass is released to the spot where it is touched by a player or it hits the ground. In this case, the initial touch was at least a yard behind the point of release. Even if it had been directly parallel to the LOS, it would still be considered to be a backwards pass. The pass must go forward to be considered a forward pass.   

A somewhat unusual Unsportsmanlike Conduct foul was called at 5:29 of the 2nd quarter when #36 of Denver was forced out of bounds during a punt and did not attempt to return to the field of play until he was well down the field. As is noted in rule 12-3 - w: If a member of the kicking team is forced out of bounds, or goes out of bounds voluntarily, and does not attempt to return inbounds in a reasonable amount of time. Typically the officials will give the player 10-15 yards to return to the field of play but in this instance, he made no obvious attempt thus the penalty.

At 9:40 of the 4th quarter. Broncos safety Shiloh Keo was called for a personal foul for hitting Patriots receiver Edelman helmet to helmet. This was a solid call as Keo dropped his head and made direct contact with Edelman's helmet. There are some that claim that Edelman dropped his head causing the contact but that point is moot. It is the responsibility of the defensive player to avoid such contact no matter what the receiver may do.   

The play that had the potential to have the largest impact on the game in multiple ways occurred with 12 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter on the 2 point PAT attempt by the Patriots. When Brady's pass was intercepted, the Broncos player could have run it all the way back for a two point score which would have meant a 4 point lead and taken a field goal out of the equation if the Patriots had recovered to onsides kick. However, the Broncos player fumbled the ball as he ran it back. This ball could have been picked up/recovered by the Patriots and advanced into the end zone for a 2 point PAT that would have tied the game. Luckily for the Broncos, the Patriots player fell on the ball instead of trying to pick it up and the Patriots player was touched down ending the PAT. Had a Broncos player recovered the fumble, the play would have been dead at that point. Had the Patriots scored on that play, it would have been one of the strangest scoring plays in the history of the play-offs as the rule regarding the advance of a PAT play was just added this year. The officials are to be congratulated for holding their whistles and doing a great job of covering this unique situation as it unfolded.     

For those who believe that Tom Brady and the Patriots get all the breaks, on the 4th and 6 play that occurred just outside of the 2 minute warning, the Patriots receiver who was working the back line was pushed beyond the end line by a Denver DB right next to the BJ. This should have been called Illegal Contact which would have given the Patriots a new set of downs. However, no call was made and the ball went over to the Broncos.

Also, for those who questioned whether Brady should have been called for Intentional Grounding a few times, I would also point out that in each situation there was an eligible  receiver in the vicinity and the applicable rule 8-2-1-2 states that: [Emphasis added]

"Intentional grounding should not be called if:

(a) the passer initiates his passing motion toward an eligible receiver and then is significantly affected by physical contact from a defensive player that causes the pass to land in an area that is not in the direction and vicinity of an eligible receiver;"


In each of the instances where Brady was under intense pressure and managed to get a throw off, I felt (and the officials apparently agreed) that Intentional Grounding was not warranted. 

Cardinals - Panthers

At 2:09 of the 1st quarter, WR Fitzgerald of the Cardinals attempted a pass off of an end around play and obviously threw it away as no receiver was open. In the NFL this is a legal play. Had the same play occurred under NCAA rules, he would have been called for Intentional Grounding as the rule that allows the ball to be thrown away in such situations specifically refers to the QB and not the passer. As Fitzgerald was not the QB, in college it would have been a foul.   

For the second week in a row, the momentum rule came into play. The rule states that if a defensive player intercepts a pass or a fumble or recovers a fumble inside the 5 yard line and his momentum carries him into the end zone and the ball is declared dead in the end zone, the ball is returned to the spot where the defensive player is ruled to have possessed the ball. The rule was put in place to avoid a cheap safety as otherwise it would be ruled that the defense caused the ball to be in the end zone. 

At 11:48 of the 4th quarter, Carson Palmer threw an ill-advised pass that was intercepted at about the 1 yard line by Panthers safety Kurt Coleman. Coleman's momentum carried him into the end zone where he was tackled by the facemask drawing a flag. Initially, the officials ruled the play a touchback.

As the play resulted in a turnover it was reviewed by Replay and correctly determined that Coleman had possessed the ball in the field of play and that it was his momentum that had carried him into the end zone. As a result, instead of the ball being placed at the 35 yard line as a result of a touchback plus the 15 yard penalty, the ball was placed at the 1 yard line and then the 15 yard penalty was assessed to the 16. Obviously, had Coleman not been tackled by the face mask, the ball would have been placed at the 1 which would have put Carolina is a somewhat difficult position.

There will not be an Under Further Review column next week as there are obviously no games. (I do not consider the Pro Bowl a game worth watching.) If anyone has any questions about the rules or their implementation, please do not hesitate to contact me via a PM. Otherwise, I will have something after the Super Bowl.   


BayAreaGiant

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Re: Under Further Review!
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2016, 07:26:10 PM »
Under Further Review #9

[The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the position of the management of this website]

A well (and consistently) officiated Super Bowl with very few plays and calls that should have raised criticism (although that does not stop some in the media from criticizing).   

The one play situation that raised some questions was the incomplete pass call on a Newton to Cotchery pass over the middle that was subsequently upheld by Replay. Although the play was right in front of the Back Judge, Keith Ferguson, he did not have an angle on the play and he could be seen looking to both sides for help. The Head Linesman, Wayne Mackie, who had a side view to the play, came in strong signaling incomplete. From his angle, he felt that the ball had hit the ground and was then bobbled by the receiver. As the receiver had not established himself as a runner before he hit the ground, he was considered to still be in the act of catching the pass and as he lost control when he went to the ground, it was ruled incomplete.

When the play was reviewed, it appeared from one angle that the point of the ball may have touched the ground and the receiver had then lost control. However, despite the numerous cameras that CBS assigned to the game, there was not clear evidence one way or the other. As such, there was not enough to overturn the call on the field (which is exactly what Referee Blakeman said in his announcement and explanation to Coach Rivera) so the call on the field stood. If the call on the field had been a complete pass, I do not think that there would have been enough to overturn that call. It was just one of those situations where the official on the field must make an instantaneous call and there is nothing that can be seen on review (despite all sorts of camera angles) to change the on-field call.

Although much had been (incorrectly) written about Blakeman's handling of the coin toss in one of the Divsional Play-Off games, this coin toss went off without a hitch. It is often difficult for the Referee in such games to remember all of the names of the participants and the agreed upon procedure but Blakeman, who is an attorney, did an excellent job.

It was clear that Blakeman's crew was not going to tolerate any garbage on the field whether physical or vocal and they took charge very early. The face mask call against Talib was a very easy call as was the subsequent call along the sideline when he got into a heated discussion with a Panthers player. Although Talib later described the action as just a "conversation" between players, it was obvious that it was more than that and the officials quickly took charge. This could have resulted in one more incident where the trash-talking that goes on could have resulted in later retribution by one side or the other. The actions by the officials made it clear that such discussions would not be tolerated. Similarly, the late push in the back by a Panthers player was also quickly flagged letting the players know that such actions would not be tolerated.             

On two occasions, members of the crew went to the ground during plays although they both quickly recovered. BJ Ferguson was hit from behind when Broncos safeties were chasing a Cam Newton scramble but he got right back up and continued to officiate.  During the Cam Newton fumble near his own goal line, Referee Blakeman started to move forward to rule on possession but the ball squirted right back at him leaving him nowhere to hide. Blakeman stumbled trying to get out-of-the-way but luckily he was not contacted by any players as they went after the loose ball. With five Alternate Officials in attendance at the game, had one of the officials been injured, the appropriate alternate would have taken his place and there would have been few who noticed.

Early in the game on a Newton scramble, he was picked up and planted (legally) right at the Panthers sideline. As the players untangled, Panthers DE Ealy, who was not in the game, shoved one of the Broncos players and I felt that he should have been called for a Personal Foul. However, the covering officials just untangled the melee and got the Broncos player out of the Panthers bench area.

There are some that were of the opinion that Broncos DB Talib, who obviously had a busy day, had left early on a Panthers FG attempt and should have been called for offsides giving the Panthers a first down. However, it needs to be remembered that the defense can move as soon as the ball is moved and looking at the play in slo-motion that is exactly what Talib did. As there was no camera looking right down the LOS, it was impossible to tell where Talib's head was as the ball was first moved but to me it appeared that he was still onsides and the no-call was a good call.     

Umpire Jeff Rice became only the 4th official to follow in his father's footsteps and officiate a Super Bowl. The others were the Seemans, the Bergmans and the McKenzies.   

During the week before the game, there were two articles published that I believe are worth discussing. The first article reported on a pre-Super Bowl discussion with NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino related to the question of when is a catch a catch. In the article (found on NFL.com and written by someone named Kevin Patra), Blandino indicates that he doesn't anticipate a major overhaul to the rule as it is presently written and that: 

"We think that the rule is in a good place right now," Blandino said. "I really feel it's just communicating the rule and educating and showing video examples of what is and what isn't a catch. There's a subjective element to the rule so there's always going to be those plays where we debate that subjective element.

That's just part of it. That goes for other calls that are made during the game -- pass interference, offensive holding...

"Maybe there's another tweak that maybe we can make in the rule to make it easier to understand. But I don't anticipate any major changes."

Although in the past I have indicated repeatedly that I am not a fan of Blandino, in this instance I agree with him. Throughout the year, I have seen the rules regarding a catch enforced consistently and despite numerous comments and complaints by both electronic and media types such as Mr. Patra, the rules as they are presently written are well understood by the officials on the field. The one problem is that there are plays where the action happens so quickly, it is virtually impossible for a human being to process the information in real time so they make a call and then turn things over to Replay. And, as has been the case throughout the season, Replay has done a really good job of interpreting the rules consistently.

So what is the problem if there is one. As far as I am concerned, the problem is that the media types (as well as, in many instances, players and present and ex-coaches) and many fans have not taken the time to read and understand  the rule. Many of the 20- and 30 somethings who write these columns have never been on a football field in their life nor have they ever picked up a rule book. But that does not stop them from criticizing those whose job it is to enforce the rules that they do not understand. And so in their minds, there is a "problem" or as Patra puts it, the NFL catch rule (which by the way is basically the same as the NCAA rule) is  "currently the most confounding question in professional sports." But it is "confounding" only to those who have not taken the time to understand it. 

The second article of interest was written by someone named Victor Mather and published in the New York Times on January 25, 2015. The title of the article is "The 10 Times NFL Referees May Have Blown it This Season." [I would note that at least one website indicated that the title of the article was "10 Times Referees Have Screwed Up This Season," which is a significant difference.] Mather indicates that "Week after week this season, fans, coaches and players have been riled by calls that were questionable, erroneous or flat-out weird." Although I am unclear what a "flat-out weird" call is if it is correct, Mather goes on to list 10 instances including both the Beckham play in the end zone of the Patriots game and the failure of the officials to eject Beckham and Norman in the Panthers - Giants game. 

However, on closer examination of the Mather article, it is clear that in only three instances: a)  the missed Illegal Batting call in the October 5 Seahawks - Lions game; b) a mistake by a second year HL in the November 23 Bills at Patriots, where Bills receiver Watkins made a catch near the sideline and rolled out of bounds untouched but was ruled down by the second year Head Linesman and the clock continued to run and time ran out; and c) the November 15, Jaguars - Ravens game which should have ended on a False Start call as the Jaguars line was not set when the ball was snapped on the previous play. Unfortunately, the movement of the Jaguars linemen was missed by Line Judge Sarah Thomas and the Jaguars ended up kicking a winning FG. did the officials misinterpret a rule or miss an obvious situation. The other seven plays cited by Mather were either called correctly in accordance with the established rules or involved officials judgment or mechanics.   

And so to summarize, of the 10 occasions where Mather believes that the NFL officials may "blown it this season," only three of the 10 involved a misinterpretation by the on-field officials of  a rule from the supposedly (according to some) overly complex NFL rule book.  Given that there were 267 games played this season and that there are between 100 and 120 plays in most games (for a total of 26,700 to 32,040 plays), the fact that there were only 3 such instances that Mr. Mather was able to find actually speaks very well of the officials performance during the season. [I would also note that in the past week, Mr. Mather's New York Times printed 22 retractions/error notices despite the fact that their columns supposedly undergo fact-checking and the writers do not have to write their stories in real time as the events unfold. So I would question who really has an accuracy problem.]

Other "Under Further Review" columns will be posted during the off-season as events warrant.

Vette

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Re: Under Further Review!
« Reply #10 on: February 24, 2016, 09:59:32 AM »
I'm moving this thread to the Chalk Talk Board and opening it up for discussion. Let us know if you would like to see this feature continued next season. 
"There is a greater purpose...that purpose is team. Winning, losing, playing hard, playing well, doing it for each other, winning the right way, winning the right way is a very important thing to me... Championships are won by teams who love one another, who respect one another, and play for and support one another."
~ Coach Tom Coughlin