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Foul at end of half administered correctly, automatically declined, even if unfair



Week 13: Cowboys at Giants

On the final play of the second quarter, the Cowboys were short on a 57-yard field goal attempt. While the Giants tried to advance the missed kick, the play was whistled dead. After the play was clearly over, Cowboys lineman Flozell Adams dealt a cheap shot to Justin Tuck (update: video). As Adams racked up four fines in the first three weeks of the season for flagrant personal fouls—including a leg whip that injured Tuck in Week 2—Adams likely faces a fine of repeat-offender magnitude and possibly suspension.

The personal foul was called on Adams, which was declined. Unfortunately the Fox Sports supposed “star” production team (another argument for another day, perhaps) was heading to commercial when announcer Joe Buck declared over unrelated video that a fight broke out. Without any visual, the network went to commercial, leaving the studio commentators on the other coast to explain what happened, with a short follow-up at the start of the third quarter.

It was explained, secondhandedly, that Bill Leavy announced the penalty on Adams was declined. While, as a technical matter, the penalty was vacated due to the end of the half, the Giants did not decline the penalty. (We reported as the Lions celebrated a comeback during an untimed down, if there had been any excessive celebration penalty, it would not be marked off because of the conclusion of the quarter.) Fox analyst Troy Aikman questioned why the Giants were even allowed to decline the penalty, even though the rules state that a team can decline any opponent’s penalty, as long as there are not offsetting penalties (ejections cannot be declined, even though the penalty that caused the ejection can be).

Since the field goal was no good, and the Giants were to assume possession on the next play if the clock did not read 0:00, the ability to extend the second quarter by a down was not available to the Giants. From the Rulebook, 4–8–2(c):

If there is a foul by the offense, there shall be no extension of the period. If the foul occurs on the last play of the half, a score by the offense is not counted. However, the period may be extended for an untimed down, upon the request of the defense, if the offensive team’s foul is for: …

(4) a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct foul committed prior to an interception of a forward pass or the recovery of a backward pass or fumble; or

(5) a foul by the kicking team prior to a player of the receiving team securing possession of the ball during a down in which there is a safety kick, a scrimmage kick, or a free kick.

Since Adams hit came in the action following the play, it is essentially unpenalized. If, hypothetically, a player goes after an opponent while the teams are heading for the locker rooms (perhaps a difference of five to ten seconds), that penalty is not part of the “continuing action” of the play. In addition to be a possible disqualification, Paragraph D of the same rule–section–article:

If there is a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct foul that (1) is not in the continuing action immediately after the end of a down and (2) occurs between the end of the second period and the beginning of the third period (or between the end of the fourth period and the beginning of an overtime period), the penalty shall be enforced on the ensuing kickoff.

We are placing this in our clip and save file for our end-of-season Competition Committee mock agenda.