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Odd ruling saves Cruz from being NY goat

Referee Jerome Boger has his hands full with some controversial calls, most notably, a rarely used call on the Giants drive for the game-winning   touchdown (video). Giants receiver Victor Cruz lands to the turf and walks back to the huddle as if the play was over. However, he was not contacted on the way to the ground, so ordinarily, this remains a live ball. The ruling on the field, as explaned by Boger:

The ruling on the previous play was that the receiver gave himself up by going to the ground. That cannot be challenged. So there is no challenge allowed by Arizona. It is first down, New York.

From the video, it appeared as if the initial ruling was made by headlinesman Jerry Bergman. (Back judge Tony Steratore is shown in a replay covering the play as a fumble, but he did not throw his beanbag marker that would indicate he was ruling it that way.)

From the NFL Rulebook, Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1:

An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended:

(e) when a runner is out of bounds, or declares himself down by falling to the ground, or kneeling, and making no effort to advance

A player need not slide, as what was commented on some broadcast outlets, in order to qualify for declaring himself down under Item (e), because the criteria for a slide is contained in Item (d).

The fact that Cruz stayed to the ground for a brief period allows this interpretation of declaring himself down to be made. But was he down long enough?

Take another example where a player on the receiving team catches an onside kick. He secures the catch and immediately flops to the ground. Play is over immediately, because the receiver declared himself down. In the case of Cruz’s open-field catch, he must demonstrate an intention to change his status from runner to declared down. In Cruz’s case, we would expect to see him down longer than the hypothetical onside-kick receiver who is never considered a runner.

It is an issue of perception, just like when a player’s forward progress is stopped. Once the official makes that snap judgment that the player is giving himself up, there is no swallowing of the whistle, even if contrary evidence is provided.

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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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3 thoughts on “Odd ruling saves Cruz from being NY goat

  1. How could he more show that he was giving himself up than by putting the ball on the ground and walking away?

  2. That sounds very reasonable … but that is not considered a criteria for a player giving himself up. It is just going to the ground and not advancing. Implied in there is that you have to stay on the ground for a while.

    There is a reason why putting the ball on the ground is not used as a criteria. A player who falls without being touched could spring to his feet and lose the ball in the process. It could be interpreted that the player was dropping the ball because he intended that the play be over.

  3. Yeah, I can’t really buy that there, I mean…he goes to ground for like a second. That’s…a crazy tough call.

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