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Replay reviews automatic for turnovers



2012 rule changes

Coaches will have to resist the urge to keep their red challenge flags in their pockets on plays where there is a turnover.

Any play that involves a change of possession by a turnover is now only reviewable at the replay official’s discretion. If a coach tries to initiate a coach’s challenge on a turnover, not only will the request be denied, but the team will be assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (see update below).

Plays that are not ruled turnovers can, however, be challenged by the coach if he feels there was a change of possession, and the replay booth cannot initiate a review of a play that could potentially have a change of possession.

For the purposes of replay, the following plays are considered turnovers:

  • Interception
  • Lost fumble
  • Muffed catch of a kick recovered by the kicking team
  • Kicking team recovers an onside kick
  • Fumble that goes out of bounds through the opponent’s end zone (ruled a touchback for the opponent)

Not considered turnovers are routine punts and kickoffs, fumbles recovered by the offense, failure to convert a fourth down, and turnovers that are wiped out due to a penalty.

All aspects of the turnover play are under review, so long as the actual review takes 60 seconds or less. Therefore, if there is an unrelated reviewable aspect to the play, it may be overturned if the replay official requests the review.

In addition to the coverage of turnovers, a replay official also has sole authority to challenge all scoring plays, any play after the two-minute warning of either half, and any play in overtime.

Update 10/22/12: Improper challenge forfeits opportunity for review.  One additional aspect to a denied challenge that I have confirmed with two former NFL officiating supervisors is that the replay official may not review a play that was improperly challenged. Therefore, the play is to stand as called, because of a rule that states that the foul delays the ensuing snap. An exception is that the replay official may challenge an aspect of the play that benefits the team that did not challenge when the other team did. The rule was added to prevent a team from taking an intentional penalty to give the replay booth extra time to consider a review, although it did not exclude penalties during a dead-ball period after a score or change of possession.

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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