Football Zebras™

Live blog: Ravens at Patriots (2011)

AFC Championship

We will be live blogging the calls and rules interpretations from the Ravens-Patriots game.

If you have any questions or comments, use the comments section of this post, or tweet us @footballzebras.

Today’s crew is headed by Alberto Riveron. His crew contains members from other officiating squads that were rating in the top three this season. The full crew list is at the bottom of this post.

the Football staff
Mon Oct 24 • 1:23 am EDT

Seahawks at Cardinals (video)

Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner was able to sneak over the offensive line on an overtime field goal kick by the Cardinals. The contact, again, is incidental, and it is not a leaping foul. The casebook that accompanies the rulebook makes this clear under Approved Ruling 12.85:

On a Try that is successful, defensive player B1 runs forward four yards and leaps in an attempt to block the kick. He comes down with little or no contact to a teammate or opponent.

Ruling: Try is good. No foul since the contact by B1 was incidental.

As for the kick that ricochets off the upright and back into the field of play, this is immediately a dead ball. The only exception is that a ball that hits the upright can still go through for a successful field goal.

The game ended in a 6-6 tie, which is the third time this happened in the NFL since 1940. The previous two occurrences happened before overtime was used in regular-season games. The Cardinals were involved in all three:

  • 1970 St. Louis Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs
  • 1972 St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Eagles
  • 2016 Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals
the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 10:34 pm EDT

Seahawks at Cardinals (video)

Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner leaps over the Cardinals line and blocks a field goal attempt. A leaping foul, one of a suite of scrimmage kick fouls contained under the unsportsmanlike conduct rules, is called if a player runs to the line, leaps, and lands on a player (either an opponent or a teammate). Wagner’s foot tapped the back of the center, but this is not a foul. Incidental contact with another player is not considered in a leaping foul. If Wagner put any weight into the contact, such as a step, then this would be leaping. Referee Terry McAulay conferenced briefly and determined there was no leaping foul and no kick-formation foul on the defense.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians sought to challenge the call. Arians really knows better, or his advisor on rules/challenge matters failed him miserably. There is some referee discretion if the challenge flag is thrown when there is genuine confusion over a reviewable aspect of a play. However, penalties (other than 12 men on the field) are not reviewable, and McAulay was not going to extend that benefit of doubt to Arians. The Cardinals are charged a timeout so that they don’t lose the challenge, and it would have been a 15-yard penalty assessed between downs if they didn’t have a penalty to give.

Update: Coach Arians addressed this in a postgame interview:

He definitely touched him. You know, I’m sure — we’ll talk to the league, and we’ll get some kind of explanation that’s all bullshit like normal

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 10:32 pm EDT

Washington at Detroit (video)

Field judge Terry Brown and back judge Terrance Miles call a field goal attempt no good after the ball bounced off the top of the upright. 

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 9:42 pm EDT

Chargers at Falcons

Falcons receiver Julio Jones cannot catch a break on interference in the waning seconds of regulation. Last week, an unseen pass interference by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman restricted Jones and no flag was thrown. This week, with 11 seconds remaining in a tied game, Jones was interfered with again on a pass that sailed over his head. This was ruled uncatchable, and the Chargers luckily dodged a flag.

Jones stopped his route and the ball was clearly overthrown. If the interference in any way prevented Jones from getting to the ball, the radius of catchability gets wider. Since Jones was leaping for the ball, the contact did not hinder Jones’s ability to get to the ball.

To be clear, this was not a held flag due to the game situation. It has everything to do with the trajectory of the pass in relation to the receiver.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 9:32 pm EDT

Chargers at Falcons

After presiding over an overtime game last Sunday night, referee Bill Vinovich opened the microphone at the coin toss, and said, “Well, gentlemen, this is my second one in a row.”

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 8:33 pm EDT

Buccaneers at 49ers (video)

Nick Bellore of the 49ers runs down to make a play….without a helmet. On the play, it is suspicious how Bellore lost his helmet; was it a missed facemask or hands to the face? Bellore didn’t seem to be upset that there was no flag.

In the NCAA if a player loses his helmet he has to go out for a play (unless he lost his helmet because someone fouled him). High school rules are the same and then NFHS adds another wrinkle. If this was a high school game, Bellore would have gotten a flag for participating in the play after his helmet came off.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 7:44 pm EDT

Chargers at Falcons (video)

Nice close up view of field judge Michael Banks calling a potential game-winning field goal no good.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 7:39 pm EDT

Bills at Dolphins (video)

Jarvis Landry of the Dolphins delivers a devastating block on Aaron Williams. Landry went in with the shoulder pads at chin level. The NFL wants this type of hit out of the game. Side judge Tom Hill flagged the personal foul. Umpire Fred Bryan called an offensive hold on this play and the Bills chose to enforce the 15-yard penalty.

Although it was a hard hit, it is not one that rises to the level of ejection. In-play ejections are extraordinarily rare, as contact is expected, as compared to post-whistle when there should be none.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 7:26 pm EDT

Chargers at Falcons (video)

Bill Vinovich’s crew with great clock awareness as the Falcons call time out with the score tied. While the clock ran out, the officials determined that the Falcons called timeout with one second left. The 58-yard field goal was no good and the game went to overtime.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 7:20 pm EDT

Raiders at Jaguars (video)

Marquette King makes lemonade out of lemons after scrambling for a first down on a bad snap from center. These are difficult plays to officiate as both teams are spread out and the officials have to widen their field of vision.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 7:12 pm EDT

Saints at Chiefs (video)

Head linesman Tony Veteri, Jr., picks up a flag for offensive pass interference. While the Saints did throw a pick at the line of scrimmage, the pass was caught behind the line of scrimmage, thus no foul.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 7:11 pm EDT

Raiders at Jaguars (video)

triplette-double-thumbsRaiders receiver Johnny Holton and Jaguars Jalen Ramsey started swinging punches at each other. Both players were ejected, and referee Jeff Triplette introduced the double-ejection signal.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 6:05 pm EDT

Bills at Dolphins (video)

A Reggie Bush touchdown was reviewed as he lost both the ball and his helmet as he crossed the goal line. By rule, when the helmet is completely off a ball carrier’s head, the play is dead immediately.

When the Bills running back loses control of the ball, it is not exactly clear where the ball is positioned, as he has it tucked inside his elbow. (It is also roughly the same time Bush’s knee came down, but there is still no definitive spot that takes the touchdown away.) Reviewing the helmet, it does appear to pop off prior to the ball breaking the plane. In order to make this determination, the helmet must be seen separated from the head. The freeze frame that shows his helmet askew can still be on Bush’s head, so the indisputable standard is not met. The touchdown call stands on both counts.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 4:26 pm EDT

Vikings at Eagles

At the 1:54 mark of the 4th quarter, the Vikings had the ball 1st and goal from the eight yard line. On the ensuing play, the Vikings were flagged for holding, and then were also penalized for an unsportsmanlike conduct foul, most likely for a foul against an official. Fouls against an official are not treated as part of a multiple foul, so they will stack on any other fouls in the play . Both penalties are enforced in this situation, and the Vikings then had 1st and goal from the 33 yard line.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 4:02 pm EDT

Vikings at Eagles

During the first half, there was a flag thrown for defensive pass interference on a long throw down the sideline to Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs. The flag was subsequently waved off, presumably because it was judged that Diggs simultaneously pulled on the shoulder of the defensive back. The initial call looked to have been the correct one however, because replays showed that the defensive back initiated contact with Diggs before ever turning to play the ball.


the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 2:54 pm EDT

Raiders at Jaguars (video)

After Raiders receiver Michael Crabtree scores a touchdown, he immediately throws the ball over his head, then brings his hand up to his neck/shoulder area. Crabtree was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct foul for a throat-slash gesture.

I did not see the flag from the back judge who was in the frame before the TV cut away to another shot. The announcers said this was where the alleged foul occurred, and it is unclear if there was an additional unseen gesture that drew the foul. If this is not the case, then this should not have been a flag.

Because of the new unsportsmanlike rules, this action (or nonaction) is even more costly. Crabtree faces an automatic ejection for any other similar unsportsmanlike foul in the remaining half of the game. This is an incredibly harsh penalty if the first infraction was in error.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 2:41 pm EDT

Vikings at Eagles

The Vikings were flagged for roughing the kicker on a successful extra-point kick by the Eagles. Rather than kicking off at the 50-yard line, the Eagles opted to take the 1 point off the board and assess on a 2-point try. This gives the ball to the Eagles at the 1-yard line, and quarterback Carson Wentz carried the ball for the 2 points.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 2:11 pm EDT

Colts at Titans (video)

After scoring the touchdown on the tackle-eligible play, Titans punter Brett Kern bobbles the hold on the extra-point attempt. Kern attempts a pass to kicker Ryan Succop, who is an eligible receiver by virtue of lining up in the backfield. If Succop was able to get to the end zone, it would have been a 2-point conversion, even though it was a 1-point play.

While 2 points may be scored this way, a team cannot line up for a 2-point play and attempt a kick, either by dropkick or an improvised placekick. If such a kick goes through the goalposts, it is a failed extra-point attempt.

Before the implementation of the 2-point conversion rule by the NFL in 1994, a botched snap on the kick would result in a 1-point conversion if the kicking team was able to get the ball into the end zone.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 1:48 pm EDT

Colts at Titans (video)

Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan reports as an eligible receiver and catches a touchdown pass from Marcus Mariotta. Lewan was lined up legally at the end of the line, based on his reporting eligible.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 12:01 pm EDT

Giants vs. Rams (video)

London was treated to one of the most spectacular interception returns you’ll ever see. Giants safety Landon Collins ran an interception all over the Twickenham Stadium rugby pitch to the end zone, dodging tackles all the way. At the conclusion of the play, offensive guard Bobby Hart was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. But wait, the Giants were on defense; why is there a flag on an offensive player?

Hart entered the field to celebrate the touchdown, which is an unsportsmanlike conduct foul.

CBS analyst Dan Fouts said that Hart is one unsportsmanlike foul away from ejection, but this shows Fouts’ lack of understanding of the rule. There are many unsportsmanlike acts, but the ones  that count towards an ejection do not include celebration fouls, unless it involves an act of taunting.

the Football staff
Sun Oct 23 • 9:00 am EDT

Today’s officials


  • U 124 Carl Paganelli* to Morelli’s crew (TB-SF)
  • LJ 90 Mike Spanier* to Parry’s crew (CHI-GB/Thurs.)
  • FJ 95 James Coleman* to Hussey’s crew (MIN-PHI)
  • SJ 89 Jon Lucivansky* to Boger’s crew (IND-TEN)

*Swing officials that are moved between crews each week.

Today’s crew, listed with the referee they worked under in the regular season:

  • R — #57 Alberto Riveron (8th year, 4th as referee)
  • U — #115 Tony Michalek (10th year, Ron Winter)
  • HL — #79 Kent Payne (8th year, Carl Cheffers)
  • LJ — #47 Tim Podraza (4th year, Mike Carey)
  • FJ — #33 Steve Zimmer (15th year, Riveron)
  • SJ — #97 Tom Hill (13th year, Winter)
  • BJ — #61 Keith Ferguson (12th year, Leavy
  • Alternates — Walt Anderson (#66, R), Terry Brown (#43, FJ from Terry McAulay’s crew)

18 comments for “Live blog: Ravens at Patriots (2011)

  1. JennaJJ
    January 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    The non-intentional grounding call… The ball did not reach the line of scrimmage, not by any view on my box

  2. dilly
    January 22, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Jenna, I rewound my dvr, and watched the play again. You should do the same if you can. The ball bounced right on the blue line. While the line is not official, it does look like it’s lined up with the down marker and the line judge or head linesman (I couldn’t tell which it was).

  3. Ross
    January 22, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    4:45 p.m. “worth a challenge by the Ravens”? you mean challenge by NE? or else I’m confused

  4. dilly
    January 22, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Ross, yeah, that was a typo. He meant New England.

  5. Hoser
    January 22, 2012 at 6:34 pm

    Why was PI not called on the play before the field goal? Sure looked like the db had a hold of the recivers jersey

  6. Zach
    January 22, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    “The ball was knocked out by Sterling Moore just prior to Evans’ second foot came down.” And then, “A still frame of the foot being down doesn’t finish that catch immediately.”

    That’s moving the goal posts a bit, isn’t it? I don’t think it would’ve been overturned but was amazed it wasn’t reviewed.

    “Why was PI not called on the play before the field goal?”

    There was all sorts of holding/contact-past-5-yards on that play as well as that, but teams always get away with murder at the end of the game. I’m a Ravens fan and I’m not surprised or disappointed by that… we’ve won games with rough defense on last-second throws just as often as we’ve lost them.

  7. eepobee
    January 22, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    i’ve replayed that lee evans play several times and i have to say i think it was a catch. he had both feet down and held it for at least a second afterwards. ravens definitely got stiffed on that! not even a review????

  8. dilly
    January 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    I just reviewed the Lee Evans catch again, and it certainly was not one. The ball was knocked out just prior to his second foot’s heel coming down. It was most definitely not at least a second between securing the ball with both feet down, and getting it knocked out.

    You could make the argument that it was close enough to have been reviewed, but as it was inside of two minutes and the booth did not call for one, it means they did not see enough question to even review it.

    Ben explained it well in his post. Besides just having two feet down, the receiver also needs to “have the ability to complete a football move. If the ball is dropped or knocked down there must be some recognizable amount of time possessing the ball after the second foot.”

    As for the following play, NE FS Sterling Moore did grab the jersey or BAL TE Dennis Pitta, but this did not alter Pitta’s route, nor prevent him from attempting the catch. Had Moore tugged on the jersey and changed Pitta’s direction, rather than just having some of it in his grasp, it would’ve been an easy call. If officials threw a flag every time this exact play happened, so many pass plays would be penalized that we’d all be asking the officials to lay off and let them play.

  9. Ben Austro
    January 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm

    You are never, ever going to get a pass interference on that kind of play unless you absolutely maul someone. Especially in a conference championship game.

  10. Hoser
    January 22, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I generally like it when they keep the flag in their pocket but there has to be some consistency. If it is a foul in the first minute, it’s a foul in the last minute. I’ve seen plenty of phantom PI calls too. This one clearly could have gone either way. And what is up with CBS not even mentioning it or showing a replay?

  11. Ben Austro
    January 22, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    @Zach … some variation here as we have two people typing and we are not in the same room. I was already responding to the argument that he might have held the ball for an infinitesimal amount of time after the second foot, and I was trying to head that argument off at the pass.

    I didn’t see if it was or not, but I was covering it as a moot point, while dilly was saying the ball wasn’t there at all prior to the second foot.

  12. truth time
    January 22, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    had both feet down. touchdown. F*CK this stupid game.

  13. dilly
    January 23, 2012 at 12:37 am

    NFL confirms that there was no need for a review of the Lee Evans non-catch on the final drive.

  14. Tom
    January 23, 2012 at 1:12 am

    3rd Qtr | 3:48. Pats game on the Ravens TD why was there no face mask call – he grabbed the face mask about the 9 yd line and never let go

  15. gcpike
    January 23, 2012 at 2:41 am

    as soon as i saw the play i knew they got it wrong i ran the play over 50 times both feet were down and he had the ball for 2.3 seconds with full cvontrol im a patriots fan but; hey….. lets get it right the ravens had the score!!!

  16. Ben Austro
    January 23, 2012 at 3:03 am

    It is legal for a ball carrier to stiff arm an opponent in the facemask, but they cannot twist or pull it. For a few steps, he has a stiff arm, but it looks like his hand gets tangled in the facemask, and there is some twisting to get the hand back.

    This call in this specific situation will be missed 100% of the time, and it is because of proper officiating mechanics. Because the ball carrier is headed for the end zone and he is running along the sideline, no official can focus on the facemask. The head linesman is watching the feet. The side judge is staring down the goal line. The back judge, likely in the center-back of the end zone, probably sees the stiff arm, and won’t see twisting and pulling from that distance, unless there is a violent movement of the defender’s head. The field judge is stationed on the other side of the field, and is likely watching the goal line and possession of the ball. The line judge is opposite the head linesman, but he is clear across the field, and cannot make that call from that distance.The referee and umpire are still back in the vicinity of the line of scrimmage, and won’t be able to see the defender’s facemask.

    The touchdown and the sideline become priority in this situation. Whether or not it is a facemask (it’s still borderline to me) would never be called in that play. And facemask fouls cannot be called on a replay review, even though the touchdown was under review.

  17. Tom
    January 23, 2012 at 9:05 am

    Few steps – he grabs the mask (look at replay again) between 8-9 yd line and doesn’t let it go
    until he hits ground at goal line – hoe can that not be a penalty?. If the object of replay is to insure that the correct call is made, then personal fouls should be able to be assessed on replay – in this case the correct call isn’t in or out of bounds, nor is it td or not td – the correct call is personal foul on the receiver.

  18. Ben Austro
    January 23, 2012 at 9:56 am

    I agree there is a grab there. If the play is at the 50-yard line in the middle of the field, does that get called? More likely. It’s not a slam dunk, though, because (1) the official still has to see it and (2) the ball carrier is given a lot of leeway to stiff-arm to the facemask, as long as there is no yanking or twisting of the grille.

    The object of replay is more accurately characterized as “confirming the call on the field.” That philosophy is important, because it helps set the framework for the rules of what is and is not reviewable.

    Only one penalty can be called in replay, and that is 12 men on the field. In isolated other circumstances, there can be a penalty, but it is only because it relates to the boundary and end zone line, which are reviewable criteria. Even if Riveron felt there was a facemask, he cannot even comment on it, because it is not reviewable.