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2 missed fouls at :00 erase Vikes’ 2nd life

Week 14: Vikings at Lions

4th quarter | :09 remaining | Lions 34-28 | Vikings ball | 1st & goal @ 1 | video

The Vikings were on the comeback express, having trailed by 21, and were one yard from overcoming the deficit against the Lions with seconds remaining.

Vikings quarterback Joe Webb fumbled the ball on the final play, and after a mad scramble, the ball was recovered by the Lions with the time expired. Game over.

However, the officials missed two fouls committed by the Lions on the play.

Facemask penalty. Coinciding with the fumbled ball was a grasp and twist of Webb’s facemask by Lions DeAndre Levy. While this should have been caught, referee John Parry, who has coverage on the quarterback, obviously was not in position to see it. (Webb’s back was to him.) However, this is a huge missed call given to the entire crew.

Illegally batting the ball. In the scramble to pick up the loose ball, Steven Tulloch swatted the ball downfield. That is an illegal bat, and should have also been penalized. Because the game was under two minutes remaining, the rule for fumbles is that the fumbler is now the only offensive player who can pick up the loose ball and run. In this case, Webb was close to potentially recovering the ball, until Tulloch deliberately pushed the ball downfield. In my opinion, there was no intent to recover the fumble, as Tulloch hit the ball with his left hand, while his right hand remained at his side. In real time (without the benefit of replay) this is a hard judgement to make; therefore, it is rarely called.

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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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2 thoughts on “2 missed fouls at :00 erase Vikes’ 2nd life

  1. i would like to know, when vikings lost ball with 9 seconds left, fumbled before the face mask was grabbed, if the penalty was called would they have got the ball back? i know under the 2 minute warning they have some different rules. it is confusing to me. thanks. robert s.

  2. I see the facemask foul simulataneous to the the fumble and, likely, the cause of the fumble.

    For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that it is fumble first, then facemask. Because there is no recovery until well after the “penalty,” the Vikings are still considered the “offense.” The fumble itself is not the change of possession, only the recovery of the fumble.

    Because it would have been a loose ball foul behind the line of scrimmage, there should have been a half-distance penalty assessed from the previous spot (the 1-yard line). The Vikings would then have an untimed down because a defensive penalty cannot end the half (unless the offense declines the untimed down). This would have applied if either the Vikings or Lions recovered the fumble.

    As for rules after the two-minute warning: the only applicable one for this play is that only the fumbler can recover the ball and advance. If any other Vikings player recovered the ball, the play would be whistled dead at that spot. But, assuming that the penalty is called, that outcome would also be irrelvant, as the penalty enforcement would be the same as I indicated above.

    Hope that clears it up.

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