Keep checking here for rolling coverage throughout the day on Sunday. If you see anything confusing, unusual, or controversial, please let us know.
Officials ready for a trick play
49ers at Colts (video). In every pre-game, the referee asks the head coach if they are have any trick plays. Officials want to be aware of any trick plays so they aren’t surprised.
The Colts tried a trick play on a punt return today. It didn’t go well. Back judge Terrance Miles and side judge Scott Novak were on top of the call and were ready to make a proper ruling.
Also, Novak exudes a calm exterior as he signals the end of a strange play.
Almost an inadvertent whistle
Chargers at Giants (video). Eli Manning loses a fumble.
First of all, when Manning was tackled, his posterior sat on a defender. He was not down. Referee Jeff Triplette started to put the whistle in his mouth, but quickly, and properly ruled the play was still live.
Second, rookie line judge Danny Short does a good job staying out of the way as the pile careens toward him. He rules possession and then assists Triplette in unloading the pile.
Forward progress saves a safety
Titans at Dolphins (video). Referee Bill Vinovich and line judge Mark Perlman (out of the photo) properly rule quarterback Matt Cassel’s forward progress stopped at the one yard line. No safety.
Whistle while you work
Chiefs at Texans. Many of you, I’m sure, remember Ron Winter used an extra long lanyard so he could use proper whistle technique. Referee Ron Torbert also sports the extra long lanyard.
“I’ll tell you guys now!”
Chiefs at Texans. Ron Torbert gets turned around and gives the first two penalty announcements with his back to the camera. It happens.
Tight call at the goal line
49ers at Colts (video). Nice call by down judge Derek Bowers on this catch and tackle at the goal line.
Reverse mechanics on interception
49ers at Colts (video). Things usually get chaotic on interception returns. Ray Ray Armstrong picks off this Jacoby Brissett pass and returns it about 30 yards. The defense is suddenly the offense and the vice versa. No one is doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
The wing official has to watch for a step out of bounds, illegal blocks and not get run over. Kudos to the 49ers bench for getting back out of the white.
Finally, referee Walt Coleman hustles over to the sideline to help make sure everyone behaves as the wing official is holding the spot.
Chaotic play officiated well by the Coleman crew.
Reversals on the same first-down line
Packers at Cowboys. Reversals are especially hard to come by on first-down calls, but that didn’t stop both sidelines from challenging the same line to gain.
A pass to Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley was challenged by the Packers, and the reversal brought up 4th-and-1.
On the next play, Ezekiel Elliot attempted to punch it up the middle. The Cowboys challenged that he was ruled short. On the play, Elliot stretches out and then retracts the ball. Since he makes no additional effort to gain yardage, he gets the forward progress spot of the ball, despite the fact that he voluntarily retracted it to protect the ball. This is always a judgment call, but in this case, the runner gets the advantage of the reach.
In the grasp and late hit
Packers at Cowboys. While being wrapped up for a sack, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers launched a quick pass back to the line of scrimmage. Being in the pocket, the pass looked like it was being ruled intentional grounding.
The Cowboys were flagged for a late hit, because contact by defensive end Benson Mayowa was initiated with one, possibly two steps after Rodgers released the pass. Mayowa also lowered his helmet, but there was no forcible contact, so there is no crown-hit foul. Although it was borderline, it looked more appropriate that this would not be a foul.
In reality, there never was a pass to begin with, as referee Terry McAulay ruled a sack due to Rodgers being in the grasp. This avoids a quarterback from being a vulnerable target when he can’t defend himself. The foul was enforced 15 yards from the spot of the sack and an automatic first down.
Trust falls are legal, but still dumb
Cardinals at Eagles (video). Eagles receiver Nelson Agholor punctuates his 72-yard touchdown by backing up to the goal line and falling backwards into the end zone. This is not considered taunting or unsportsmanlike conduct. If there had been some other action, such as pointing the ball at the defender, then the taunting would have been enforced as a dead-ball foul, even though the hypothetical foul would have occurred during the live-ball period; in this case that foul is enforced on the kickoff. (Also, that hypothetical case would be a foul towards the two-step ejection rule.) In college, this is enforced as a live-ball foul, with the touchdown being nullified, and the offense having the ball 1st-and-10 at the 16.
But, as we have seen, some of these showboating maneuvers can backfire.
Whiffed hit on a defenseless receiver
Packers at Cowboys. Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant unsuccessfully dives for a third-and-goal pass, but a flag comes out at the end of the play. It was judged that Packers linebacker Blake Martinez delivered a hit on a defenseless player.
Bryant is in a defenseless posture, and is protected from forcible blows to the head or neck area. There is no question that Martinez’s arm hits Bryant’s helmet, but is this a foul?
The key is a forcible blow, and this is clearly inadvertent contact with the helmet. This doesn’t mean accidental, because there can still be accidental contact that is a personal foul. But, in this case, the contact by the arm was not delivered by a forcible blow and should not have been a foul. Instead of kicking a field goal, the Cowboys scored a touchdown on the next play.
TD reversed to touchback … twice
Cardinals at Eagles (video). J.J. Nelson thought he had a touchdown for the Cardinals in garbage time near the end of the game. Turns out, they couldn’t even get that. On a replay review, Nelson lost control of the ball prior to the ball crossing the plane of the goal. Since the ball landed out of bounds in the end zone, it is a touchback. Not only do the Cardinals lose the 6 points, but they also lost possession of the ball.
Seahawks at Rams (video). Shortly after the Cardinals reversal, on the opening drive of the game for the Rams, running back Todd Gurley also scored a touchdown. Two things were under review: Did Gurley step out at the 1-yard line and when did he lose control of the ball. In replay, the ball came out prior to stepping out of bounds and prior to breaking the plane of the goal. The ball hit the pylon, which puts the ball out of bounds in the end zone. The Seahawks get the ball at the 20.
Tandem call on toe-drag interception
Cardinals at Eagles (video). Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea snares a Carson Wentz pass in the end zone. The initial signal from side judge Allen Baynes was incomplete, but down judge Ed Walker comes in with support to rule a touchdown. Bethea drags both feet in bounds, and there is no evidence of a loss of control, so the call is upheld.
Eye on the line
Chargers at Giants. Umpire Dan Ferrell has his gaze fixed on the end line to make sure the punter does not step out. As soon as the punter has the ball, he transitions to watch for offensive holding.
Safety on a botched snap
Chargers at Giants (video). Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers has to field an errant snap in the end zone. He takes the ball and essentially heaves a backward pass out of bounds for the safety. Contrasted to an illegal bat, this is not a foul. (In an illegal bat, the play would have still been a safety, but the yardage would not carry to the kickoff.) Because he takes control of the ball, this is considered a backward pass; if he at least attempts to grab the ball and it goes out of bounds, it is not an illegally batted ball, but a legally muffed recovery attempt.
See our partner site Quirky Research for an interactive list of the circumstances of every safety ever scored in the NFL.
Ineligible player downfield?
Panthers at Lions (video). Early in the second quarter, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw a shovel pass to Christian McCafferey for an apparent touchdown. There was a long discussion between the members of the officiating crew, likely over whether or not Panthers left tackle Matt Kalil was illegally downfield. Even though the shovel pass was caught behind the line of scrimmage, in the NFL all forward passes are treated the same so restrictions for ineligible receivers apply.
Ineligible receivers are not allowed to be more than one yard downfield. There is an exception if a lineman engages within one yard and stays engaged past that point. If the blocker becomes disengaged, he must remain stationary until the forward pass is caught. Kalil appeared to engage within one yard, but became separated from his defender and did not remain stationary between 2 and 3 yards downfield. He likely should have been flagged for being illegally downfield.
Forward throw ruled a fumble
Titans at Dolphins (video). Titans quarterback Matt Cassel releases a throw downfield, and no call is indicated for an incomplete pass. Dolphins safety Reshad Jones did not hear a whistle and astutely picked up the ball, running into the end zone untouched.
There were no angles that provided a good look at Cassel’s throwing motion to rule on whether the ball was propelled forward by an empty hand, which would confirm the call. Instead, replay allowed the fumble and touchdown return to stand.
- U64 Dan Ferrell* to Triplette’s crew (LAC-NYG)
- U129 Bill Schuster* to Steratore’s crew (SEA-LAR)
- DJ37 Jim Howey* to Coleman’s crew (SF-IND)
- LJ68 Tom Stephan* to Anderson’s crew (NYJ-CLE)
- FJ15 Rick Patterson* to Wrolstad’s crew (CAR-NYJ)
- SJ109 Dyrol Prioleau to Allen’s crew (BAL-OAK)
*Swing officials that are assigned to different crews each week