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Muffed kickoff gives Lions an easy 2 pts; Chargers, similar play, down at ½-yd line



Week 17: Lions at Packers

1st Quarter | 13:00 remaining | Lions 7-0 | Lions kickoff | video

Updated below to include similar play from Chargers–Raiders.

Tough break for the Packers, as Patrick Lee muffs the Lions kickoff in the end zone. Lee remained in the end zone, but the ball rolled out to the 1-yard line. Lee pulled the ball back into the end zone for an apparent touchback.

Referee Walt Anderson had a lengthy conference with line judge Mike Spanier and headlinesman Ed Camp. Camp can be seen very clearly articulating the case for a safety, which is how it was ultimately ruled on the field.

On any play involving a touchback or safety, the ruling pivots on how the ball enters the end zone. If the kicking team puts the ball into the end zone, it is a touchback. When the ball is muffed, even though the direction of the ball changed, the force behind the ball still came from the kick. Once Lee pulled the ball backwards, it was Lee that forced the ball into the end zone, regardless of the fact that Lee was standing in the end zone.

Had Lee left the ball on the 1-yard line and kneeled, the ball would have been dead at the 1-yard line. It was close, but the kneel came after the ball returned to the end zone.

Also a consideration on the play (and confirmed by replay) is if the entire ball exited the end zone. If a point of the ball was still touching the goal line, Lee would have had a touchback.

Good, tough call in real time by the three officials on the play.

Week 17: Chargers at Raiders

4th Quarter | 9:32 remaining | Chargers 31-26 | Raiders kickoff @ 50

Chargers kick returner Richard Goodman allowed a kickoff to hit the ground and roll towards the end zone. He needed to get the loose ball, as either team could recover. Goodman scooped up the ball at the 1-yard line, retreated into his end zone, and barely got the entire ball out of the end zone.

Referee Clete Blakeman announced the ball was out of the end zone and down at the ½-yard line.

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)