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CallsQuick calls: Week 6

Quick calls: Week 6

We will update this post with some of the calls we see in today’s games. Did you see something or have a question on a rules interpretation? Use the comment section of this post or tweet us @footballzebras.

The big news today is that Bill Vinovich returns to the field as referee for the first time since 2006. You can see the remaining assignments here.

Ben Austro
Mon Sep 18 • 1:01 am EDT

Packers at Falcons

After a Falcons touchdown, Packers coach Mike McCarthy was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct foul for arguing with back judge Greg Wilson. McCarthy was on the field during the break, and vociferously arguing his case, with side judge Laird Hayes attempting an insert-and-separate maneuver. McCarthy launched some closing verbal salvo that must have crossed a line, and a visibly disgusted Wilson dropped a flag.

Under a new provision in the rule, a coach is now subject to ejection upon 2 unsportsmanlike conduct fouls in certain categories. Apparently, McCarthy is the first coach to receive a penalty under this 2-step ejection rule, and was able to avoid disqualification. No coach in the 98-year history of the NFL has been ejected.

The play McCarthy was arguing about was a flag thrown by Wilson on the previous Packers possession. An offensive pass interference flag came from Wilson — about 40 yards deep — for an infraction near the line of scrimmage. There was a question as to whether it was within the one-yard zone of legal contact — something that can be hard to detect from a deep position — and if the contact was an inadvertent collision, which is not a penalty. McCarthy does have a point, in that it would have been best for no flag at all. (He also contended that the Falcons should have been similarly flagged for offensive pass interference on the succeeding possession.) However, to chew out the official two possessions later was not only fruitless, but also put him near the wrong side of the history books.

Ben Austro
Mon Sep 18 • 12:36 am EDT

Packers at Falcons (video)

On a 33-yard touchdown by Packers, receiver Devante Adams touches the pylon with his foot as he goes into the end zone. The pylon does not put a player out of bounds; he must step on the sideline to be ruled out. Contrast this to a loose ball that touches the pylon, which is ruled to be out of bounds in the end zone.

This is consistent with a player out of bounds touching another player — the in-bounds player is not suddenly out of bounds. However, if a loose ball in the field of play touches an out-of-bounds player, the ball is dead and out of bounds.

Incidentally, this is different in the NCAA rulebook; the pylon does place a player out of bounds. It would be an incomplete still be a complete pass in college, since the receiver had not gotten his second foot down yet after the catch only has to get one foot down in bounds (sorry, late-night editing). If the first foot touches the pylon, then it is incomplete.

Ben Austro
Mon Sep 18 • 12:27 am EDT

Packers at Falcons

The ruling on the backward pass by Aaron Rodgers that was returned for a touchdown is a separate post.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 17 • 8:24 pm EDT

Washington at Rams (video)

Several several things to unpack in this video.

Again, hurdling is legal in the NFL. If Todd Gurley tried this Friday night, he’d get a flag.

Good sideline communication between field judge Eugene Hall and rookie line judge Mike Carr. Before going up with the touchdown signal, Hall checked to make sure Carr didn’t have Gurley step out of bounds. 

Finally, Hall shows that officials don’t have to have a whistle on every play. Everyone knew the play was over and he didn’t need to sound his whistle. He didn’t even have the whistle in his mouth.

Good work by Carr and Hall.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 17 • 8:08 pm EDT

Jets at Raiders (video)

The Raiders recover a muffed punt. The receiver gave a fair catch but then had the ball bounce off of him. Side judge Terry Brown was on the sideline and made the call. 

Sometimes an official will be quick on the whistle when a receiver signals fair catch to protect the receiver from being hit. Brown had good discipline to hold the whistle

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 17 • 7:52 pm EDT

Vikings at Steelers (video)

Dalvin Cook had a touchdown for a few moments. Side judge Boris Cheek gave Cook a touchdown, but instant replay ruled him short. Cheek would have had a hard time seeing Cook’s knee down since the Steelers’ defender was on the ground, screening Cheek from a good look.

Cheek was in proper position. That’s what replay is for.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 17 • 7:46 pm EDT

49ers at Seahawks (video)

Another own-fumble recovery by the defensive squad, this time by the Seahawks. The covering official at the fumble spot was not near the interception spot, so he still had a bean bag to mark the play.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 17 • 7:46 pm EDT

Eagles at Chiefs (video)

With seven seconds left, the Eagles try an onside kick and recover it. The ball had properly gone 10-yards, but an Eagles’ player touched the ball knocking it forward, and he then fell on it. Is this illegal batting?

In the judgement of the officials, the player didn’t bat the ball. They ruled he muffed the ball in a bona fide attempt to recover the kick. 

It’s a judgement call, but it looks like the officials got it right by ruling muff.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 17 • 7:37 pm EDT

Eagles at Chiefs (video)

Travis Kelce hurdles Eagles defenders for a touchdown. High school rules forbid hurdling for safety reasons. I’m somewhat surprised the NFL still allows hurdling.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 17 • 7:19 pm EDT

Browns at Ravens (video)

Defensive lineman Trevon Coley recovers a fumble for the Browns, and then he fumbles during the return, recovered by his fellow lineman Nate Orchard. The spot of the first fumble is marked by a beanbag, and two hats fly in to mark the second fumble. When there are multiple changes of possession on a play, it is possible for a penalty to be enforced or offset at the last change spot.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 17 • 5:24 pm EDT

Bears at Buccaneers (video)

The Buccaneers’ Mike Evans makes a nice toe-tapping catch for a TD. Side judge Scott Edwards with a good eye to award the six points.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 17 • 5:07 pm EDT

Cowboys at Broncos (photo)

Scattered thunderstorms in the area trigger a weather delay with 0:33 on the clock in the 1st quarter.

A league executive is assigned to be the on-site representative for Football Operations. That point person will communicate with the weather service and the commissioner to make a decision on when to resume play.

The game resumed after a 62-minute delay.

Patrick Weber
Sun Sep 17 • 4:58 pm EDT

Eagles at Chiefs (video)

Late in the third quarter, a reception by Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffrey made a catch as he was going to the ground, landing at the 1-yard line and sliding into the endzone. Jeffrey was initially ruled down at the one, but after the Eagles challenged the call it was reversed to a touchdown because Jeffrey was never touched by a defender after possessing the ball and prior to the ball crossing the goal line. 

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 17 • 3:56 pm EDT

Vikings at Steelers (video)

The Steelers are happy to have the rules relaxed for group celebrations, but they still were penalized after receiver Martavis Bryant scored a touchdown.

Bryant was seen motioning his teammates over to break out into a pantomimed game of back-alley dice. However, once the field judge drops the touchdown signal, the play clock is runs. Since the Steelers were opting for a two-point conversion, it would have been an 8 the hard way, because the delay of game foul craps on their conversion attempt, drawing snake eyes from coach Mike Tomlin, who will likely institute a new team rule.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 17 • 3:19 pm EDT

Cardinals at Colts

Both coaches have challenged calls on the first-down line, and both calls were upheld. The Colts challenged a short spot that was confirmed, and the Cardinals challenge of a first down did not have conclusive evidence to overturn. First-down spots are particularly tricky to win in replay without some other action like a player stepping out of bounds.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 17 • 2:35 pm EDT

Bills at Panthers

Side judge James Coleman collided with someone on the Bills bench while working down the sideline.

Because officials must watch the play and not where they are going, it is imperative to keep the sidelines clear. The entire width of the 6-foot border is the officials’ and chain crew’s area only. If someone encroaches into this area, an official can tell the team’s designated “get back” coach to corral everyone, and flag on subsequent violations. However, sideline interference can be called without a warning if there is contact or if the official is significantly impeded.

Coleman was taken to the locker room for evaluation, and it is possible he is in the concussion protocol that players are subjected to.

The crew has adjusted to 6-person mechanics. Basically, each crew decides how it will handle the vacancy, either leave the position open and adjacent officials would cover or shift 1 or 2 officials to new positions. In many cases, crews will opt to keep the back judge position empty. Walt Coleman’s crew has left the side judge slot open with the back judge and down judge covering. The broadcast crew stated that James Coleman won’t return to the game.

There are no alternate officials in the regular season.

Cameron Filipe
Sun Sep 17 • 2:02 pm EDT

Patriots at Saints (video)

A flag for offensive pass interference was thrown on a New England touchdown play. Referee Craig Wrolstad picked up the flag following a conference, however, stating that the foul occurred at the line of scrimmage. This is the classic pick play. Patriots’ receiver Brandin Cooks blocked a Saints’ defender in order to free up receiver Chris Hogan. Back judge Lee Dyer threw the flag for the seemingly illegal act, but the contact took place one yard beyond the line of scrimmage Rule 8-5-4 states that “blocking more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage by an offensive player prior to a pass being thrown is offensive pass interference.” Since the contact occurred only one yard in front of the line, there is no foul. The flag was correctly picked up and New England was awarded the touchdown.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 17 • 1:35 pm EDT

Cardinals at Colts

Cardinals defensive lineman Rodney Gunter was flagged for leverage on a Colts field goal attempt. Leverage prohibits a player from gaining height from an opponent or teammate. The contact does not appear to be much, but only incidental contact (not pushing down on the player) would be waived off.

The Colts took the points off the board and got an automatic first down with the penalty, but ultimately kicked another field goal.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 17 • 12:53 pm EDT

Today’s officials

Week 2 referee assignments

2017 officiating crews


  • U64 Dan Ferrell to McAulay’s crew (PHI-KC)
  • U129 Bill Schuster to Coleman’s crew (BUF-CAR)
  • DJ37 Jim Howey to Cheffers’ crew (AZ-IND)
  • LJ68 Tom Stephan to Corrente’s crew (MIA-LAC)
  • FJ15 Rick Patterson to Boger’s crew (WAS-LAR)

(All substitutions are swing officials that are assigned to different crews each week)

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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14 thoughts on “Quick calls: Week 6

  1. Cowboys Vs Ravens….4th quarter, 24-20 Ravens. Cowboys ball 3rd and goal on the 8 yd line. Pass play….nobody open …Romo sacked and Cowboys kick a field goal. Fox replayed the play to show why Romo had to take the sack. The replay showed Dez Bryant going into the end zone where he was pushed out of bounds by the defender. The Ref was standing right there and thru his hat approx 1 yd line deep in the end zone to indicate where Bryant went out. When describing the play the commentator even stated Bryant was pushed out of bounds. My question: why was that not called “illegal contact” since Bryant was at least 9 yards down field from the line of scrimmage. Could have made a huge difference since Dallas would have had 1st and goal at the 3 or 4 yd line. Not making excuses for the Cowboys….they caused their own down-fall by repeatedly making crucial mistakes.

  2. Was Romo in the pocket? Once the QB is flushed out of the pocket the illegal contact rule is off.

  3. I’m sure this game will be replayed this week on NFL Rewind. Hopefully, they leave that part intact. I would like to watch for an evenhanded amount of hand wrangling between both players. Except for very odd occurrences, DPI and OPI are never called as offsetting fouls, so if both are pushing, there is no call.

  4. Did the refs blow 2 turnover calls in Miami today? Boh te plays seem to confirm fumbles but the refs overturned them anyway.

  5. Anyone catch the phantom holding call in the Dolphins-Rams game? It was a weird scenario… It was in the middle of the multiple hands-to-the-face penalties. Steratore was announcing the penalty when Jake Long appeared to walk up to argue him point. Steratore interupted himself mid-announcement to say “Stay back!”

    On the next play, he flagged Long for Holding, although there was none – even the announcers didn’t know what he was talking about. Could it have been a vendetta/revenge call?

  6. Seahawks v Patriots: the Intentional Grounding call that ended the first half was incorrect,
    I believe. The Pats QB threw the ball away to save the last few seconds, not to avoid a loss, thus no Intentional Grounding should have been called. What he did was no different than a spike play – thoughts?

  7. I didn’t see the intentional grounding, but in order to be equivalent to a legal “spike” to stop the clock, the pass must come immediately after the snap. This happened to the Bears last season, where QB Caleb Hanie delayed when received the snap, and then threw the ball to the turf to stop the clock. Not only was there a penalty, but a 10-second runoff.

    Our coverage of that call:

    From the comments here, it seems as though I should’ve been watching Rams-Dolphins, but who would have thought that?

  8. Pats v Hawks: Watch the video – the reason there is no receiver in that area is that Deion Branch, who is making the in cut to the middle of the field, is blatantly held by LB KJ Wright,
    you can clearly see the “arm bar” across Branch’s chest as he cuts inside and thus never gets into the area.

  9. I don’t see any hold there. It looked like both players ran into each other, and there could have been a moment of restriction by the Seahawks defender. However, the ball was being thrown 3 yards beyond the end line, and this contact was at the 1-yard line, some 14 yards away. So any holding would have no material affect on the play.

    From the looks of it (using the grainy video) the Seahawks linebacker seemed to step into the receiver’s route and grabbed him in the collision. Routes get interrupted like this all the time, and while still frames look like damning evidence, the video must take in the action prior to and immediately after the image.

  10. The quarterback spiking the ball does not result in intentional grounding if once he receives the ball from center, he take one step back and spikes the ball. If the quarterback spikes the ball after attempting to run or drop back to pass, the result of the play is intentional grounding. This results in a 15-yard penalty on the offense and a loss of down. In addition, there will be a 10-second runoff of the game clock if the penalty occurs inside of one minute remaining in the game.

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