Football Zebras
Week 14Packers burn both challenges in the first 3 plays

Packers burn both challenges in the first 3 plays

Week 14: Falcons at Packers

Packers interim head coach Joe Philbin hasn’t held a challenge flag in 2⅞ seasons, and he managed to use both of his challenges in the first 3 plays (or 4 if you count the touchback on the kickoff).

The first challenge was an extraordinarily curious one. Falcons receiver Julio Jones was ruled to have caught a 28-yard pass and subsequently lost control. Given the angles the officials had, it is understandable that this would be ruled a catch on the field. Replay, however, had a chance to review Jones’s control of the catch, which should be an easy overturn. Given a choice of control or no control, SVP/officiating Al Riveron (or one of his deputies) created an Option 3: “stands,” no conclusive evidence.

This is not a supportable conclusion whatsoever. I understand giving deference to the call on the field on a tight call, but in this case, the completed catch ruling was defaulted to because the lack of a good angle. Replay provided a good angle and defaulted to the call in real-time.

In the offseason, a rule change made a momentary loss of control (such as one that would only be detectable in slow motion) would not overturn a catch call. This is not an example of that, as a full-speed replay shows that there is a total loss of control, which can be confirmed by slowing down the video. There also is no way that Jones has time to make a football move, so that aspect cannot be under dispute from the replay command center.

Replay is expected to make these corrections, and this is a very questionable decision by those who are tasked to make these calls consistently for 267 games a year. In this case, they failed.

On the next play (with a false start penalty in between), Philbin challenged a Jones catch on the opposite sideline. The best angle available is from behind Jones at ground level (not shown below). It looks like Jones might be stepping on the sideline, but it is still not enough to get an overturn. If I’m in the coach’s ear, I’m not advising a challenge even if the coach has both. With the failed challenge on the prior play, Philbin knows that he has used up all of his challenges — at 1:23 into the game — even if he wins it. If he won the first challenge, as he should have, he still would be out of challenges for the remainder of the game.

This should not present a case for extending the number of challenges a coach has. The idea was to give the coach discretion in the challenges, and recognize that there are some situations are not going to be overturned. This is why a timeout is also a part of the challenge equation, because a coach with more challenges would be more likely to engage in fruitless challenges.

Instead of a rule change in the challenge system, the focus must be on the centralized replay system that failed in the first place and the coaching decision that was made on the second challenge.

Green Bay Packers photo

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)

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