Check back here for a rundown of the calls we saw and video highlights of the officiating. If you see something, let us know in the comments section of this post or reach us on Twitter @footballzebras. Be sure to let us know time and quarter.
Squawking gesture earns a 15
Chargers cornerback Desmond King made a gesture to Bills receiver Zay Jones as he left the field, which was later described as mocking his talking to the official about a perceived foul. This drew an easy 15-yard taunting foul as the Chargers stopped the Bills on third down. Additionally, it put King one step towards an automatic ejection for 2 similar unsportsmanlike fouls.
While described by some as a “ticky-tack” call, in reality there cannot be one for taunting. To excuse this invites a proportionate response at minimum. Before long, games spiral out of control of the officials, and it becomes difficult to equitably assess the over-the-line call when some have been allowed to pass.
King claims that it was all in good fun, as he and Jones know each other. Of course, officials cannot gauge that, and must take the gesture pointed at an opponent at face value.
Good teamwork on long TD
Down judge Kevin Codey and side judge Eugene Hall work well on this long Dede Westbrook touchdown catch and run.
Codey is responsible to make sure Westbrook stays in-bounds all the way to the goal line. Hall’s job is to defend the goal line. Hall judges of the ball broke the plane and Codey rules in or out of bounds.
As Codey was watching the sideline, Hall was looking at the blocking while making a break to the goal line.
Good work by the sideline tandem.
Ejection for unnecessary roughness
LeGarrette Blount was ejected from today’s Lions-49ers game for coming off the bench and shoving 49ers linebacker Elijah Lee after Lee hit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford as he was running out of bounds. Stafford was still in bounds so there was no penalty for a hit on the quarterback out of bounds.
Good goal line mechanics
Nice job by line judge Greg Bradley to break for the goal line at the snap inside the five yard line.
It is important for the wing official to be stationary at the goal line when the ball gets there.
Rare face mask penalty on the ball carrier
D.J. Reed of the 49ers returns the opening kickoff of the third quarter for a touchdown, but is called for a personal foul face mask penalty. Reed stiff-armed the defender…but never let go. The defender fell and Reed actually dragged the defender by his face mask.
First-year referee Shawn Hochuli on the call.
Incidentally, Reed’s return is one of the longest non-scoring plays in the NFL.
2 illegal forward passes in the same game
Titans quarterback Blaine Gabbert tried to channel his sidelined teammate Marcus Mariotta. In last year’s wild card game, Mariotta caught his own deflected pass and scored a touchdown. Gabbert caught his pass, but found himself 12 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He then attempted a second forward pass, which is nothing but illegal, but was actually somewhat fortuitous.
A second pass behind the line is 5 yards from the previous spot, and repeat the down. Presumably, the rule is accounting for a confusing play and not a tactical advantage, therefore a lighter sentence for the double pass. An illegal pass beyond the line is a spot foul and loss of down, because the offense gets credit for the play up to the illegal throw, which is a sensible assessment under the circumstances. In this case, the Texans can accept the foul for a 1st-and-15 or decline for a 2nd-and-10.
I would expect this rule to be changed in the offseason.
With 17 seconds remaining in the game, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson consumed the entire amount of time on one play, completing to DeAndre Hopkins for 31 yards. On the play, Watson crossed the line of scrimmage, returned to the line and threw the ball. This is an illegal forward pass.
Once the ball crosses the line of scrimmage, there cannot be a legal forward pass for the remainder of the down, even if the ball goes back behind the line. In this case, the ball is deemed to have crossed the line if the ball carrier has his entire body beyond the line. No flag was thrown, and I can understand holding the flag on the final play when it doesn’t change the result, even though I don’t support that. Although it is reviewable, replay will not initiate a review if there are only fantasy implications.
Had there been time, this would be penalized the same as Gabbert’s pass: 5 yards from the previous spot and repeat the down. This would not be a 10-second runoff.
Roughing the passer negates INT in Green Bay
Late in the fourth quarter Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews was hit with a roughing the passer penalty to extend the Vikings game-tying drive. (See separate post.)
Browns score touchdown at the pylon
On a Browns pass to the end zone, line judge Mark Steinkerchner throws a flag on cornerback Patrick Robinson. Looking downfield, Steinkerchner had the view on the arm bar that caused running back Duke Johnson to lose his balance.
On the 3rd-and-goal play, Steinkerchner makes the call at the pylon as Carlos Hyde gets the ball across the plane of the goal for a Browns touchdown before losing possession. On the snap, you can see the officiating mechanics of this type of play, as Steinkerchner breaks for the goal line on the snap, signals backward pass, and is in place for the touchdown call.
Packers try to call timeout when they have none
Late in the first half and following a play that ended in bounds, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers tried to call timeout even though the Packers had none remaining. Referee Tony Corrente ignored the request and play continued without interruption. It is only a foul for an extra timeout if the officials stop the clock to administer the timeout, in which case it is a five yard delay of game penalty. Officials are instructed to ignore the request if they are aware that the team is out of timeouts, so Corrente handled this situation correctly.
You make the call on Bills punt recovery
On a Chargers punt, returner Marcus Murphy muffs the catch at the 5, which is then recovered by teammate Taiwan Jones in the end zone. Jones loses his helmet in the end zone and is tackled without his helmet there.
You make the call. How is this ruled?
As soon as Murphy touches the ball, either team may recover when it becomes loose. Because Murphy does not catch the ball — punt catches have the same process as a pass — he is not charged with possession. It is correctly ruled a muffed punt rather than a fumble. This distinction is key, because on all kicking plays, the following applies: “a kick is a kick until it is possessed.”
When the ball is loose in the end zone, it is still nominally a kick. That means that, by rules standards, the kick is the impetus that put the ball in the end zone. Therefore, a dead-ball is in the end zone treated as a touchback, not a safety, since the Chargers provided the impetus to put it in the end zone. (There are exceptions if a Bills foul occurs in the end zone after possession.)
When Jones recovers the ball, it is a declared dead ball in the end zone as soon as he loses his helmet and a touchback. If the play is a fumbled ball and not a muffed punt, this would be a safety.
Uchenna Nwosu on the Chargers punting team is charged with unnecessary roughness as well. Any ball carrier, regardless of whether he is still running around, cannot be hit when he loses his helmet, because the ball is clearly dead. This applies even if there is no whistle.
After the foul is assessed, the Bills have the ball 1st-and-10 at the 35.
No illegal forward pass on Steelers TD
As the first half came to a close in Pittsburgh, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a touchdown pass to James Washington to lessen their deficit against Kansas City. Roethlisberger came very close to crossing the line of scrimmage on the pass, but no flag was thrown, and there was no stoppage to review the touchdown. Although part of Roethlisberger’s body may have crossed the line of scrimmage, the ball was released prior to breaking the plane of the line of scrimmage, so it is a legal pass. Any part of the quarterback’s body can be on or behind the line of scrimmage when the ball is released to constitute a legal pass.
Roughing the passer
Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks was flagged for roughing the passer as he drove quarterback Aaron Rodgers into the ground immediately after Rodgers threw a pass. This is a point of emphasis this season with officials watching closely to see if players use all or part of their body weight to land on a quarterback during a hit. Officials will emphasize that defenders are responsible for avoiding these types of hits. This is a point emphasis after a hit by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr in Minnesota last season that injured Rodgers with a broken collarbone.
Falcons safety Damontae Kazee was ejected for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Cam Newton (see separate post)
Kemp’s regular season debut
Referee Alex Kemp has his regular season debut in the Eagles-Buccaneers game. Kemp’s crew was off last week. Kemp is one of four new officials promoted to the referee position this year.
Kemp is the son of the late Stan Kemp, who was also an NFL referee.
- LJ90 Mike Spanier (swing official) to Vinovich’s crew as DJ (CAR-ATL)
- DJ16 Kevin Codey and DJ94 Hugo Cruz swapped crews, and are on Cheffers’ (NE-JAX) and Hussey’s (OAK-DEN) crews, respectively
- SJ1 Scott Novak to Corrente’s crew (MIN-GB)
- FJ116 Mike Weatherford (swing official) to Allen’s crew as SJ (MIA-NYJ)