Keep checking here for rolling coverage throughout the day on Sunday. If you see anything confusing, unusual, or controversial, please let us know.
U44 Jeff Rice knocked out of the game
Patriots at Broncos (video). On a punt, umpire Jeff Rice got tangled in some post-kick blocking, had his legs knocked out from underneath him, and slammed his head on the turf. Rice will be evaluated for a concussion and is likely done for the night.
The crew will adjust through 6-man mechanics. There is no magic formula, rather every crew determines in advance how they would fill any vacancy, based on the crew’s strengths and past experience. In many cases, the back judge position is left vacant, but in this game, line judge Kevin Codey moved to umpire, leaving the one sideline under the responsibility of the field judge, and the down judge only on the line of scrimmage.
There are no alternate officials for regular-season games.
No flag for push
Patriots at Broncos (video). Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise gives a slight late shove, borderline at best, but one that could draw a penalty. Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler tries to oversell the push, and flails his arms as he falls to the ground. Any benefit that Osweiler might have gotten in calling a defensive foul is lost by the Razzie Award-worthy performance.
Touchdown reversed to touchback
Bengals at Titans (video). Field Judge Greg Gautreaux initially rules Corey Davis scored a touchdown. But instant replay properly ruled that Davis lost control before crossing the goal line and the ball was recovered out of bounds in the endzone, making the ball out of bounds and a touchback for the Bengals.
Walt Coleman hot potato
Patriots at Broncos (video). A routine kickoff into the end zone is caught by the Patriots returner Dion Lewis, who does not make an attempt to advance, and tosses the ball to referee Walt Coleman. Coleman catches the ball and gives it back to Lewis, likely telling him to take the knee to make the touchback official.
Should Coleman have just let the ball bounce off of him and consider it a live ball? That’s a bit of an overreach, as it was clear that Lewis has “given himself up” — kickoffs are different than scrimmage plays when it comes to determining a player surrendering — but to just tie up the loose end, Coleman wanted the kneeldown to be without doubt.
An ill-timed taunt
Chargers at Jaguars (video). Marquise Lee is flagged for taunting after an incomplete pass and hard hit. One officials initially ruled a personal foul on the Chargers for the hit to Lee. Lee, either happy for the flag or gloating that the hard hit didn’t hurt him, did a taunting dance in front of Chargers’ defenders drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct flag.
But, Lee ended up with egg on his face. After a huddle between officials Greg Yette, Scott Edwards, Mark Steinkirchner, and Rick Patterson, they picked up the personal foul flag. But, referee Ron Torbert enforced the taunting foul on Lee.
Celebrate — but not too long
Steelers at Colts (video). New rules this year, let NFL players do some choreographed celebrating, as long as it doesn’t taunt the opponents. The Steelers get an interception and pose for a faux group photo in the endzone.
This year, that celebration is fine by rule as long as it doesn’t unduly delay putting the ball in play.
At the end of the video you can see a member of Clete Blakeman’s crew encouraging the Steelers to put a wrap on the photo session.
Half ends before snap
Browns at Lions (video). The Browns, knocking on the goal line door at the end of the first half, call a run up the middle. The play ends short of the goal line with :15 on the clock. The players unpile and the clock runs out before DeShone Kizer can snap the ball.
Kizer protested to referee Carl Cheffers to no avail. After the half expired, Duke Johnson, Jr., removed his helmet and spiked it in frustration, drawing a flag.
The officials can penalize a team for delay of game, or can order the clock stopped temporarily if the defense deliberately prevents the offense from snapping the ball (by kicking the ball away, or laying on top of an offensive player and refusing to let him up). Cheffers’ crew did not rule any delay by the Lions.
Vontaze Burfict ejected
Bengals at Titans (video via Jeremy Rauch, Fox 19/Cincinnati). Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict was ejected for impermissible contact with an official. Despite his long rap sheet, this is his first ejection in his pro career.
From the video, it looks like Burfict might have incidentally contacted down judge Jeff Bergman. Bergman was trying to keep separation, and kept Burfict at bay, likely recognizing the linebacker’s ability to stir the pot. Burfict tried to disengage from Bergman, but didn’t do so by going away, but to push his arm away; therefore, Burfict tends to lose the argument that this is incidental.
Despite his history, this is likely not going to be a suspension, but it will certainly be a fine. After taking his time to trash talk with some Titans fans in the front row, he might have just upped his bill. Ironically, Burfict was rubbing his fingers together as a “money” sign, but it likely will be changed to a “counting out the money” gesture by the end of the week.
Burfict was the 11th player ejected this season. Jeff Triplette was the referee.
Worst challenge … ever
Packers at Bears (video). Bears coach John Fox thought he would get a reversal to a touchdown, and at the worst the play would stand, 1st and goal on the 1. It got much worse.
Running back Benny Cunningham was ruled to have stepped out at the 2, and then subsequently lunged for the end zone. On the review, Cunningham’s step was in bounds, so the rest of his effort to get to the end zone is counted. (Even though the step out makes the play dead, they are allowed to consider a step or lunge to the end zone as being live.) In Cunningham’s effort to reach for the end zone, he loses control of the ball and fumbles into the pylon. The Bears now don’t get the touchdown, but they lose the ball on a touchback.
There was a possibility that Cunningham dragged his toe out of bounds, but there is no clear shot to establish that. If there was evidence that his shoe was touching the sideline paint, it is an out-of-bounds ball at the 1, as long as he’s at least touching the ball. Since the original foot out of bounds is clearly in, this means the initial out-of-bounds call is still reversed; it is not all upheld on the inconclusiveness of the toe drag.
Oddly, since there was a change in the ruling on the play, the Bears are considered to have “won” the challenge, even though it blew up in their face like a Looney Tunes package with a fuse.
Jets at Buccaneers (video). The kickoff of the game was delayed by a few minutes because of what was described as a communication issue, which was apparently resolved before kickoff.
If the command center in New York has lost a video or communication feed with the stadium, the referee and replay official are permitted to conduct reviews without the replay designee from New York.
Fumble reversed to a touchdown
Vikings at Redskins (video). Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins appeared to fumble the ball at the goal line after a quarterback run and it was scooped up and returned for a Vikings touchdown. The replay official reviewed the fumble and determined that Cousins had already crossed the goal line before he was down and reversed the play to a Redskins touchdown.
Vikings at Redskins (video). On the Redskins first possession, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw a pass to wide receiver Maurice Harris that was ruled incomplete as fell through the end zone and out of bounds. Washington challenged the ruling on the field and the play was reversed as replay showed Harris secure the ball going to the ground and coming down in bounds just before hitting the pylon.
Thank you, veterans
There are 9 veterans and 1 active military personnel on the officiating staff.
- U64 Dan Ferrell* to Triplette’s crew (CIN-TEN)
- U71 Ruben Fowler to Allen’s crew (NYJ-TB)
- DJ98 Greg Bradley to Cheffers’ crew (CLE-DET
- DJ100 Tom Symonette to Boger’s crew (NYG-SF)
- DJ134 Ed Camp to Hochuli’s crew (DAL-ATL)
- LJ68 Tom Stephan* to Vinovich’s crew (MIN-WAS)
- FJ15 Rick Patterson* to Torbert’s crew (LAC-JAX)
*Swing officials that are assigned to different crews each week