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CallsSeahawks get unintentional benefit, and no penalty, for back-to-back timeouts

Seahawks get unintentional benefit, and no penalty, for back-to-back timeouts

Week 8: Seahawks at Cowboys (video at 1:04)

After a timeout, the Cowboys were lined up to attempt a field goal. There was a mad scramble in the Seahawks backfield with too many players on the field, and the Seahawks called another timeout. The timeout should not have been called, but there oddly is no consequence.

“Seattle had called timeout, and we should not have granted the second timeout,” referee Carl Cheffers said in a postgame interview with a pool reporter. “There is no penalty for that. We just made a mistake, and we just put the ball back where it was and started things back up again without granting the timeout.”

It is not a penalty when a timeout is called when a team cannot do so (no timeouts remaining or after a charged timeout in the same dead-ball period) — the lone exception is an attempt to ice the kicker. While an argument could be made that the timeout did that, this is not technically the case, as the defense is clearly attempting to avoid the 12-man penalty. Rule 4-5-1:

Item 3. Consecutive Team Timeouts. Each team may be granted a charged team timeout during the same dead-ball period, but a second charged team timeout by either team during the same dead-ball period is prohibited. Such team timeouts may follow a Referee’s timeout or any automatic timeouts.
Item 4. Unsportsmanlike Conduct. An attempt to call an excess team timeout or to call a second timeout in the same dead-ball period by Team B in an attempt to “freeze” a kicker, will be considered unsportsmanlike conduct and will subject the offending team to a 15-yard penalty (See 12-3). This will apply to field goal or Try attempts.
Note: If an attempt is made to call a timeout in such situations, the officials shall not grant a timeout; instead, play will continue, and a penalty will be called, with customary enforcement. If a timeout is inadvertently granted, the penalty shall also be enforced. See 12-3-1-x.

The note only applies to Item 4, not to all instances of a prohibited timeout attempt. The reference to Rule 12-31-1-x in the note reinforces that this applies to icing the kicker only.

The Seahawks are also not penalized for 12 men, because the snap never occurred, for obvious reasons. The Seahawks are also not charged with 12-in-formation, because a player was attempting to exit the field, not lined up against the offense with the snap imminent. It essentially is a wash.

The actions of the Seahawks certainly caused a situation that benefited them. However, the officials cannot undo the whistle, they cannot assess another timeout, and they cannot enforce an unsportsmanlike or too-many-men foul.

Look for this to show up on the Competition Committee’s agenda in the offseason.

Image: Cowboys coach Jason Garrett arguing about the two-timeout situation with line judge Tim Podraza. (Getty Images)

Pool report with referee Carl Cheffers

Cheffers: This is Carl Cheffers. We have a pool reporter at the Dallas vs. Seattle game on Nov. 1. The pool reporter is Clarence Hill with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Q: The play in question was at the end of the first half with the timeout [by Seattle] and then 12 men on the field or a penalty for a second called timeout.

Cheffers: That’s a good question. There are two issues that we have. One is the timeout issue. Seattle had called timeout, and we should not have granted the second timeout. There is no penalty for that. We just made a mistake, and we just put the ball back where it was and started things back up again without granting the timeout.

The second issue on that pay is the defense with 12 men on the field. There are two types of [fouls for the] defense with 12 men on the field. The first type is where the defense, all 12 players, they are in formation; they are ready to go. No moving around; they are ready to go with the snap imminent. So the offense is on the ball and the snap could happen at any second. That’s the first scenario, and if that’s the scenario we judge it to be, then we would throw the flag, and we would kill the play at that point. The second scenario, and the scenario that happened in this case, is that we felt the defense was still milling about, trying to figure out where they were supposed to go. The 12th man realized he was not supposed to be on the field and he was making a legitimate effort to get off the field. In this case, it would have been a live-ball foul had he not made it off the field. We were going to give him every opportunity to make it off the field whether the snap went or not. When the snap went, it would have been: “was he on or was he off the field?”.

Q: I guess the discrepancy is, Seattle called the second timeout, which you granted or didn’t grant, because they felt they were going to get flagged for 12 men on the field. So, it’s kind of double jeopardy at a certain point.

Cheffers: It is double jeopardy. We just have to handle the two issues separately. The timeout, we should not have granted. We put the play back, restored the play to where it was prior to the timeout being called. The defense with 12 men, we ruled he was trying to get off the field. We were going to allow him every opportunity to get off, waiting for the snap to happen. Obviously the snap did not happen. At the time the timeout was erroneously granted, it was not, by rule, 12 men on the field, just yet. We were going to allow him to get off the field.

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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6 thoughts on “Seahawks get unintentional benefit, and no penalty, for back-to-back timeouts

  1. What a load of bologna.

    Part-time employees bailed out because the one mistake they made offset the the other.

  2. “unintentional benefit”? What a nice way to say “these part timers screwed up yet again”

    The apologists for the league on here like to continually say “You don’t know the rules”, yet, it seems like everyone but the guys in striped shirt know you are not allowed to call timeouts like that.

  3. The very last line of the rule states “If a timeout is inadvertently granted, the penalty shall also be enforced. See 12-3-1-x.” They erroneously granted the time out so why wasn’t the penalty enforced. It’s clearly covered in the rule book. Yet Blandino doesn’t even know it. He should have read the whole thing before quoting it. These guys are really really bad. And the CYA is even worse.

  4. Not only was this a bad call so was the (very late) penalty the crew threw against the Cowboy punt return team defender who injured the Seattle special teams player (who had to be carted off the field). It was a clean hit, as the Fox officiating guru stated over and over again. Unfortunate, but they penalized the Cowboy player anyway. After a few minutes of the injured Seattle player lying on the field, only then does the officiating crew decide to flag the Cowboys for this hit? What? These NFL officiating crews seem to be making it up as they go along, and it happens every week. It’s a disgrace.

  5. It is one thing when you know the rule and its a matter of a judgement call in terms of was there pass interference or was there not….its a totally different matter when you don’t know the rule and blow the whistle to grant a time out you weren’t supposed to grant….totally ridiculous that this happens in the NFL…..obviously the referee who blew the whistle didn’t know the rule or forgot it, either way its unacceptable when bad calls have impacts on the outcome of games……..hopefully this official does not see the field again…..

  6. The second timeout called clearly iced the kicker; that is the result of the play. The rule doesn’t establish an exception saying that it is not applicable in case a Head Coach is trying to avoid a penalty. Hence, it is obvious that the referee can’t judge the Head Coaches’ intentions because that is not in the rules. It is not logical to say that it was ok for the Head Coach to ice the kicker because he was trying to avoid a 12 men on the field penalty. If someone in the sideline obstructs the game they should get a call.
    The bad thing with this call is that the referees admit making a mistake by stopping the clock, but they don’t admit doing so by not calling a clear penalty. Tecnicalities and interpretations that go against the spirit of the rule ruin the game.
    The worst thing that can happen to a referee is to have an impact in the result of the game and I think this crew had a bad day in this regard. The Touchdown called without crossing the plane and the blind side block that wasn’t on a punt return were also questionable calls, but I guess the crew also had some good calls that should be considered.

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