Week 14: Eagles at Giants
We have three calls for analysis—all three called correctly—from the Eagles–Giants game that will likely end up on this week’s “Official Review.” View the highlights of the game in addition to our analysis:
McNabb incomplete or fumble?
On a second-and-10 from the Eagles 42, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is hit with the ball going forward. The ball was nearly caught out of the air by the Giants and rolled dead (1:24 into highlight reel). Confusion reigned, as the ball was spotted 10 yards back following the play. Here is what each official ruled on the play:
Referee John Parry considered it a forward fumble by (A) tossing a beanbag marker to show the spot of the fumble.
- After the ball hit the ground and as it rolled to a stop, umpire Dan Ferrell assumed a “hovering” position (B) anticipating a recovery and a possible pileup on the loose ball.
- The line judge, Ron Marinucci, covering a possible interception, ruled it incomplete (C). However, since McNabb’s hand was empty as it was coming forward, it should not have been ruled incomplete. But, once an incomplete pass is called, the play is dead at that point—although if there was an immediate recovery by the Giants after the incomplete call, it would have been Giants possession at the dead-ball spot.
- The replay official could not call for a review because no player picked up the loose ball as the play was killed.
In this case, two rules come into play, with the applicable rule/section/article:
7–4–2. If a loose ball comes to rest anywhere in field and no player attempts to recover, official covering the play should pause momentarily before signaling dead ball (official’s time out).
8–7–6. If a fumble by either team occurs after the two-minute warning … (b) The player who fumbled is the only player of his team who is permitted to recover and advance the ball. (c) If the recovery or catch is by a teammate of the player who fumbled, the ball is dead, and the spot of the next snap is the spot of the fumble.
With no one recovering the ball, loosely this translated to an Eagles recovery, as they retain possession. Therefore, they were given the ball at the spot of the fumble, 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
Fumble recovery at 2 seconds?
On a kickoff return, the Giants fumbled with a recovery by Moise Fokou of the Eagles as the first half expired, but with the aid of the television replay, approximately two seconds remained in the second quarter (no video available). So why were the Eagles denied the possibility of a field goal to end the half?
- The replay official cannot intervene in a solely clock-based call or for a fumble recovery in the field of play.
- A fumble recovery does not immediately kill the clock. There has to be evidence of a recovery or a significant pileup of players to blow the play dead. By examining the replay, we are able to get the snapshot, but an official would be irresponsible to immediately blow the whistle. What if the ball were to somehow squirt out after the official called it dead?
- When the play is ruled dead, the line judge (primarily) is responsible for seeing that the clock is stopped in a reasonable manner. This could cause a delay, and, as is often noted, may go in the favor of the home team on occasion. (We cannot back that assertion up with anything statistical, but prove us wrong if you can point us to evidence.) This delay also is seen when the play clock runs to zero: there is usually a “beat” before officials throw a flag, because their eyes can’t observe both at the same time.
Manning’s fumble not down by contact
Giants quarterback Eli Manning, while scrambling for a 15-yard gain, went into a forward dive and lost the ball as he contacted the turf (video is at 2:50). This was ruled a fumble, as Manning was not contacted as he dove forward. The ground cannot cause a fumble when a player goes down by contact (which can be as little as a defensive player’s finger).
The replay review could have made a compelling case for the fact that Manning had his jersey grabbed, which caused him to go down. Counting the number of steps is not entirely relevant; if a player stumbles ten steps down the field after contact, it is still down by contact.
But, “could” is not good enough, as Parry was looking for “indisputable visual evidence,” and so the play, correctly, stands. But in an alternate universe, this play has two different outcomes:
- I think, had the play been called down by contact by virtue of the jersey tug, that there would not have been indisputable visual evidence to dispute that call.
- Had Manning slid feet first, he would have taken advantage of a dead-ball ruling, which would have not resulted in a fumble had he dropped the ball upon hitting the ground:
7–4–1. An official shall declare dead ball and the down ended: … (c) whenever a runner declares himself down by sliding feet first on the ground. The ball is dead at the spot of the ball at the instant the runner so touches the ground.
Trent Cole was ejected with five seconds remaining in the game for throwing a punch. While there were offsetting personal fouls, a disqualification is never withdrawn because of offsetting penalties.