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ControversyHow is forward progress not stopped when player lands 3 yards back?

How is forward progress not stopped when player lands 3 yards back?

Week 4: Chargers at Steelers

In the Sunday Night Football game, the Chargers special teams player Jacob Hester is credited with a heads-up, 41-yard fumble-return touchdown. However, it is confusing how the Steelers punt returner Steve Logan was driven back three yards in control of the ball without being ruled down by forward progress.

The video of the play shows clearly that Logan achieved the 44-yard line, with the fumble occurring at the 41.

The covering official was back judge Steve Freeman, who marked the point of recovery with his beanbag. The field judge, Boris Cheek, was covering the sideline at the 25 (you will see his hat marking that a player stepped out of bounds), so he was in no position to judge forward progress.

Update: As stated in the comments, the side judge, indeed has coverage on kicks to determine forward progress. I was unable to see his positioning from the video. The side judge in this game was 19-year veteran David Wyant.

There was a coach’s challenge, but forward progress could not have been overturned on replay.

Ben Austro
Ben Austro
Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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One thought on “How is forward progress not stopped when player lands 3 yards back?

  1. The covering officials are the back judge, field judge, and side judge. The back judge can rule if the ball comes out before the player is down by contact, but the field judge and side judge have responsibility for forward progress. This is referred to as “reverse mechanics” because on a normal play from scrimmage, the umpire is in the middle and can rule on fumbles and the line judge and linesman measure forward progress.

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