NFL senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino reviewed three calls from the Conference Championship games in his weekly officiating video.
Momentum rule/touchback. The touchback ruling on the Falcons fumble recovery was discussed, essentially covering the points in our previous post. The momentum rule that was invoked on this play was expanded from only applying to interceptions to include recoveries of fumbles and kicks in 2001. Blandino cites a game in 2000 that triggered the rule change, which I also mentioned in my book, So You Think You Know Football; Blandino was the replay official that day.
Challenge fumble and recovery. The Steelers challenged a down-by-contact ruling that there was a fumble. Replay showed that there was a loss of possession, but did not show the Steelers gaining possession. Blandino reiterated a player leaving the pile is not used in replay as evidence by rule. Referee Terry McAulay announced the premise of the challenge was that there was a fumble plus a clear recovery, not that the clear recovery was already ruled. Jim Nantz heads CBS’s top football broadcast team, yet this point seemed to allude him, insisting that McAulay announced otherwise; a correction was made much, much later in the game (liveblog, 11:43/3rd qtr.).
Defensive pass interference/faceguarding. A dropped touchdown catch by Steelers receiver Cobi Hamilton was examined for potential interference by Patriots cornerback Logan Ryan. On the play, Ryan had his hands in front of Hamilton’s face prior to the ball arriving; this is faceguarding and is legal in the NFL. The contact was examined as being nearly simultaneous with the arrival of the ball, therefore it is not considered pass interference. The fact that a cornerback is making a play on the receiver rather than the ball is irrelevant in this context; that would be a factor for contact that occurs clearly prior to the arrival of the ball.