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Remainders from Super Bowl 50

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We still have a few leftovers on our Super Bowl buffet, so we will warm up some more analysis before we put the rest in the freezer for a long offseason.

Before we begin, we will be discussing the proposed rule changes and tracking incoming/outgoing officials during the offseason. We will also be re-posting some of our general-discussion items you may have missed during the regular season. The best way to keep up with things (other than checking the site every day, which I’m not discouraging) is to subscribe to our e-mail updates and like our page on Facebook.

Let me also thank my fantastic staff of writers for their contributions this season: Mark Schultz, Marcus Griep, and Josh Lewis. Each year surprises me as to what we accomplish. I can’t wait to see what next season brings.

And, now that the NFL has switched back to the red-blue shield logo on its website, let’s take one last look at the golden Super Bowl.

Talib’s facemask penalty

11:52 | 2nd qtr. Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib hogtied and tackled Panthers receiver Corey Brown inside the Broncos 2-yard line. This immediately drew three flags from the covering officials, and a collective “oh” from even the non-fans at your Super Bowl gathering. It was a pretty blatant foul, and resulted in a paltry 1-yard half-the-distance mark-off.

Talib obviously knew what he was doing, as he used an illegal act to prevent the touchdown, with the 1-yard penalty being of trivial consequence to saving six points. Some people thought this should be an ejectable offense. Despite Talib’s deliberate actions, as he admitted to reporters after the game, a facemask penalty must be exceptionally violent to be considered “flagrant,” the term used by the rulebook to describe a roughness foul that rises to the level of an ejection. While the very definition of flagrant indicates a deliberate action, this was still a tackle of the ball carrier, and not an extracurricular offense. That’s not to say that it is impossible for a player to be ejected for a live-ball tackle, but there is an extraordinarily high bar for ejecting a player to begin with.

That said, Talib’s actions are, on its own, subject to a fine. Add into the mix Talib’s confession and his prior record of discipline for on-field offenses, and it looks as if Talib could be suspended for at least one game in the 2016 regular season. It is a very unusual algorithm for discipline — the foul is not worthy of being tossed from the remainder of a game, but under serious consideration for being benched for multiple games without pay. But, officials cannot apply the contexts that the league executives rely upon for disciplinary action, nor should they.

Ealy mixes it up

wp-1455039342135.jpg13:55 | 2nd qtr. On a scramble by Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, linebacker Von Miller tackled Newton at the sideline. The Panthers bench took umbrage over the hit, feeling that Newton was out of bounds, but this was not the case. Even if Newton had touched the sideline, he was presenting himself as an advancing runner, and can expect to be hit without penalty, absent some other roughness call.

Defensive end Kony Ealy defended his quarterback and gave Miller a shove. Referee Clete Blakeman zipped in and is seen here having stern words for Ealy. Side judge Scott Edwards (without hat, behind Blakeman) then came in to do some follow-up preventative officiating and probably put Ealy “on notice” that future infractions would be penalized.

Alternate official Jerry Bergman (in black warm-up jacket with headset) was also descending on the scene to provide support for the crew. The five alternates assigned to the Super Bowl assist on sideline management, among other things. Seeing a potential flare-up, Bergman was there, but stood back when he saw the crew handling the situation themselves.

Head linesman Wayne Mackie is maintaining the ball spot, so he cannot be involved in the post-play activities.

This was a good job by the crew and Bergman to have acute awareness of the situation, and handled it through preventative officiating. The reaction by Ealy was instantaneous, was confined to the bench area, and did not include anything that was really “roughness,” so a no-flag situation with a warning is certainly appropriate here.

Talib’s taunting foul

5:10 | 1st qtr. Contrasting to Ealy’s sideline stir goes back to Talib, prior to the facemask penalty. After the Broncos stopped the Panthers on a third-down sack, Talib was flagged for taunting, giving the Panthers an automatic first down.

In Talib’s case, he crossed a bright line in the rulebook which specifically enumerates his helmet being removed. That’s not to say that every time a player removes his helmet after a play is a foul, but doing so in a confrontational or celebratory way definitely is. Both he and Corey Brown were in each other’s grille after the play, but Talib removed his helmet to get in Brown’s face, drawing the immediate flag.

(Too) tight punt coverage

9:29 | 2nd qtr. | video. Jordan Norwood turned in a Super Bowl record longest 61-yard punt return (although in 50 Super Bowls, we still have not seen a punt returned for a touchdown). At the outset of the return, it appeared that Panthers safety Colin Jones interfered with Norwood, but no flag was thrown. The lack of a flag is a moot point, because it is assessed 15 yards from the spot of the foul (not from the end of the run). Because Norwood’s return exceeded the penalty yardage, it would have been declined.

Jones did arrive early, so he certainly should have been penalized for interference, even though it would be declined. Kick-catch interference is a foul when the contact occurs “before or simultaneous to the receiver touching the ball.” Back judge Keith Ferguson was screened from the point of contact by Norwood, so any call from him would be a supposition of contact. Because Jones only brushed Norwood, without a physical disruption of the catch, the back judge has to make a gut call on contact/no contact. Had the catch been muffed or if Norwood adjusted his stance demonstrably, the case would be a little clearer for a flag, and there is no doubt there would have been one in such a case.

Because Jones approaches from the side, the kick-catch interference foul is essentially triggered on contact only. Despite widespread belief, there is no “halo rule” in the NFL for any punt catch, whether a fair catch or not. The defender must not impede the path of the receiver attempting to make the catch, and this side approach by Jones on a forward-moving Norwood does not impede the path.

This is also the likely reason that Beyoncé performed “Formation” at halftime and not “Halo.” One is a football term, the other is not.

Was Talib offside?

10:54 | 3rd qtr. Aqib Talib makes another appearance on a disputed call. Panthers kicker Graham Gano missed a 44-yard field goal that bounced off the right upright. When CBS returned from commercial, their theoretical top broadcast team floated the possibility that Talib was offside on the kick attempt, an infraction that he was flagged for on an extra-point attempt. But the broadcast abdicated any responsibility to critically review the charge, and essentially lit the fuse and ran, allowing social media to sort it out. Further frustrating the situation is that a former referee was in the broadcast booth, but they apparently muted his microphone.

The photos below show that Talib (#21 and nearest to the camera) did jump early in anticipation of the snap, but he did not crash the neutral zone before the snap. This was done by advancing the video one frame at a time — a granular level of detail that is obviously not required during a live play. Talib perfectly timed his actions to gain a few fractions of a second of an advantage on the offensive line.

Fumble pops out of pile

4:16 | 4th qtr. | video. Newton fumbled in the fourth quarter, causing a mass scramble (of which he notably shied away from) for the loose ball. When it appeared to be secured, Blakeman was approaching the pile-up to ascertain the ball was, indeed, dead and in possession. A quick whistle here can be disastrous, so it is incumbent upon to the covering officials to ensure there is a dead-ball situation. This play showed why this is the case, as the ball quickly scooted out of the pile, heading for Blakeman, who dove to get out of the way of the recovery.

The speed in which that ball emerged and was obviously propelled was under discussion in the comments section of this site. The point was made that this was an illegally batted ball by Miller.

The default position on any action on a loose ball is that it was legally muffed. From there, any intentionally muffed recovery is a batted ball, and a batted ball (in the field of play) that goes in the direction of the opponent’s end zone is illegally batted. Was Miller’s action on the ball an attempt to recover or an attempt to clear it out to the Broncos’ advantage? I rewound that portion dozens of times from multiple angles, and there is no action that can clearly be defined as an intentional muff. This is up to the discretion of the covering official, but there really isn’t anything under consideration. It was a legal recovery by the Broncos.

If an illegal batting penalty had been called, this would have been assessed from the previous spot (under a 2014 rule change), and Carolina keeping the ball, as illustrated below.

2-run_cop

 

 

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)

24 thoughts on “Remainders from Super Bowl 50

  1. I think the helmet-to-helmet contact and grazing of Cam Newton’s face mask on the “play of the game” (Von Miller’s forced fumble for a defensive touchdown at 6:30 in the first) would also be worthy of discussion!

  2. Ben,
    As i told you when we last met you need to stop making things up. Just like when i scolded you and the si.com writer who even used your comment as some validation, when you incorrectly stated that standing still was a football move; you are making up what the default position is. There is no default position the ref views it as he sees it….. if he is not out of position….

    I want you to look closely at the 1st replay cbs showed. Miller clear scoops the ball with his left hand in an unatural way AWAY from his body and toward the opponent’s end zone. Look at the angle of his hand.
    Huge miss by Clete. His umpire should have stepped in ut is almost never correct fir theref to get in the pile.

  3. Sorry, as someone who was watching the Super Bowl Commercials with a sports break in between, I can’t justify an illegal bat in this case. First off, he was in an awkward position, and possibly lost his balance as he pulled the ball. He put his knee on Newton’s calf, which if you weren’t expecting it, would throw you off your balance too. Second, in real time, on the field, it is hard to see that this was intentional. If replay could review this, it is possible they may overrule the call. But I think there isn’t enough certainty to call it intentional. Too many possibilities; too many reasons why it could’ve happened, and as an official you have to be certain in your calls. Not to mention intent is purely a subjective call as we can’t read minds.

  4. I don’t think we’ve met, T bone bone, because I don’t ever remember being in your mother’s basement. But thanks for drunk commenting. Have a happy offseason.

  5. @ Alan- there is no penalty in the Von Miller tackle of Cam Newton. Cam is a 6’5″ 250 lb man. You can not take him down without violence. Learn some football and then… Get real!

    @ Ben – the biggest controversy and missed call of the game was the Cotchery catch. First, it looked like a catch. Second, why was the HL making that call on a downfield pass?

  6. Ben ww have met. If you want i can resend you your resume.

    Sidlines the reason the hl made the call is because he wanted to be on tv.

    Also the same with the usless penalty with 11 seconds left. Maybe trump was right.

    Also on the bat his hand is key. He had his palm facing away from the ball not towards it like catching a ground ball.

    Also 10 yards how? How is there that much force when trying to bring it into your chest?

    Clete should have stayed back and observed. He needs to learn his place and responsibilities

  7. @From the sidelines
    As far as “looked like a catch,” there are 2 separate elements: how it was called live, and how it was handled in replay. On the live play, when Cotchery lost control of the ball upon going to the ground, there has to be a split-second decision. Mackie made a call based on the actions of the receiver and the temporary loss of control of the ball and rules incomplete. In replay, they could not come up with irrefutable evidence for an overturn. Replay did not rule it incomplete, rather there was a lack of evidence to uphold the challenge.

  8. @Ben

    His left hand was clearly under the ball and in firm control as he bounced off of the ground. Challenge should have reversed the call. IMHO, anyway.

    Unlike tbone, I don’t suspect Wayne made the call to get on tv. That is actually an asinine comment. But, I do wonder where the wings were and I agree with crusty from prior commentary that the BJ looked befuddled.

    Question….on SB Sunday- who makes the ultimate call on challenge – Clete or NY office?

  9. So, there is irrefutable evidence that the ball did not touch the ground? Or, does it look likely to have hit the ground? If you answered yes to the first, it is a reversal. I think the answer is yes to the second one, which equates to stands

  10. I would say it is 100% irrefutable that his left hand was under the ball. How much more do you need to know?

  11. As for the replay decision, on paper it is the referee’s decision, but Blandino had been less of the “consultant” as the rulebook indicates, and more like the “decider.” The referee is free to go off on his own and make a ruling his chief evaluator disagrees with.

  12. 100% irrefutable that the ball did not touch the ground (or if it did, he maintains control of the ball)?

  13. To save you a click, Pereira agrees with my rationale on incomplete for the replay call. He also thinks Fox would have done a better job than CBS, freezing it at the part where the ball touched the ground (subtext: lifeline to Carey that he got a bad replay roll)

  14. I am not an NFL official and do not hold myself out to be the most expert commentator here. But, I am expert enough to know the following.

    1- It was a catch.

    2- While I would never say that Mackie made the call to get tv time (that is just stupid). Mackie had no business making the call from his perspective. An HL is supposed to be on the LOS watching his area… and that play was pretty far down the field.

    3- Carolina ends up screwed because one official makes a call that is wrong when he is not in best position to see and three other officials just whiff on their responsibility to make a call, and then Clete or Dean gets litigious with the “irrefutable” crap.

  15. T bone tone
    really unnecessary to bother with Miller bat ball. clearly he is still trying to rip ball away from Newton and ball slips out of Miller hands. he tries to fall backward and score on his own.
    NFL Micd first half

  16. Ben where was the 100% irrefutabke evidence that the dez Bryant catch hit thr ground? How about the bifurcated analysis?

    From the sidelines its not irrefutable crap the original call gets the deference and it should.

    Mark what are you looking at if he wanted to score Himself he would habe brought the ball into him not away from him.

  17. Tbone- It was a catch! Period, the end!

    Wayne Mackie should not be making that call from his HL spot… but…You lost all credibility when you say a ref is angling for tv time. That is just asinine.

  18. I didnt say it trump did. I just say that many actions appear to substitute the claim. Like the call with 11 seconds left.

    My point which roger has told me is correct is clete was out of position on the most important play of the game. Cams fumble he ran into the pile…to be on tv? If he stayed back and watched the play he would have seen von?millers illegal bat

  19. I looked hard at replays of the fumble too, and I couldn’t see any proof of an illegal bat. God knows, it was the kind of situation where you’d expect it.

  20. Referee Blakeman and his SB crew called an excellent game. I did not know that there were 5 alternates.

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