Dean Blandino released the weekly officiating video covering a number of calls in the Patriots vs. Ravens Monday Night Football game (video). He covered the forward progress rule when it pertains to a sack, as opposed to a run. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was hit early in the game in the pocket and was driven backwards. While going to the ground, the ball was pulled from Flacco’s grasp in what would appear to be a fumble. A quarterback becomes a runner when he’s being sacked and the play is dead where contact is made. Blandino stated:
We have to have, for consistency purposes, a spot. Where are we going to put the football? Are we going to allow the defenders wrap up and drive the quarterback 5 or 10 yards downfield and put it where he eventually goes to the ground? No, that’s a safety issue. You stop the play where he’s first contacted and driven backward.
Another play from Monday night involves the down-by-contact rules. A Patriots defender intercepted a pass and after he gained control, the receiver’s hand grazed the Patriots defender’s hand as he was going to the ground. The key distinction to having down-by-contact is the player having complete control of the football and not being in the process of completing the catch. Contact by a player on the ball carrier does not have to be contact that sends him to the ground. Blandino stressed that this adds another layer of judgment and creates less consistency. The play was allowed to continue because it was too close to call on the field. During the return there was a holding penalty. After the play was reviewed, it was determined the runner was down by contact at the spot of the interception and that therefore wipes out the holding penalty because it occurred during a return that should not have happened.
In another play during the same game that we covered here, quarterback Tom Brady asked for a clock reset and the play clock was reset to 25 seconds. This only happens when enough time has run off the clock, usually due to a delay in getting the ball set, to put the offense at a disadvantage and keeps them from any pre-snap motions or shifts. In this case, the umpire did not get the ball set until there were 17 seconds left on the clock. If the play clock is under 20 seconds, the head referee can use his discretion and give the 1-arm “pump signal” to reset the play clock.
Blandino also covered the Thursday night Seahawks-Rams game. If a runner goes out of bounds and still extends the ball beyond the line to gain marker, the ball is spotted where it crosses the sideline, not where it actually lands when the runner goes down. In this case, the Seahawks receiver was short of the sticks despite getting the ball out across the first down marker.
Lastly, in a play that caused quite a stir on social media, a Rams linebacker appeared to fight for, and win an interception battle with Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham.
The play was ruled incomplete and on further review, the call was upheld due to Graham touching the ball while out of bounds while the Rams defender tried to gain possession of the loose ball. Any time a player who is out of bounds touches a loose ball that is in the field of play, it automatically puts the ball out of bounds. While it looks like the Rams have the ball, the process of the catch has not yet been completed, and this means it is treated as a loose ball, just the same as a fumble, a kick, or a pass in flight. Once the catch process is completed, it is not a loose ball, but in this case, the out-of-bounds touch preceded that. More on the loose-ball ruling from an earlier Green Bay Packers game here.