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Patriots draw unusual flag for FG line push, giving Jets 2nd shot in OT



Week 7: Patriots at Jets

Update: The rule change is included here, which we identified as a point of emphasis, not a rule change. However, it was an additional rule supporting the ones cited.

Update: Added the text of the pool report with referee Jerome Boger.

The Patriots were charged with an unusual penalty, but it is one that should be called on the first drive of the first quarter, or on in overtime. The video from the NFL’s Twitter feed:

There are a whole suite of rules in the “unsportsmanlike conduct” fouls that apply to field-goal attempts. The reason is that there is essentially an overloaded blitz that is unseen on standard scrimmage plays. There have been a collection of kicking play injuries (even on extra-point attempts!), and the league has made kicking-formation injurious situations a point of emphasis at the request of several players.

This specific language was added to the rulebook last year under Rule 9-1-3(b):

(2) Team B [defensive] players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.

This is in support of the existing unsportsmanlike conduct rules under Rule 12-3-1 regarding the defensive rush:

(n) Jumping or standing on a teammate or opponent to block or attempt to block an opponent’s kick.

(o) Placing a hand or hands on a teammate or opponent to gain additional height to block or attempt to block an opponent’s kick.

(p) Picking up a teammate to block or attempt to block an opponent’s kick.

(q) Running forward and leaping in an obvious attempt to block a field goal or Try Kick and landing on players, unless the leaping player was originally lined up within one yard of the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped.

If you are supporting another player to drive the offensive line, this will be called all the time. It is not a common penalty, either, but, arguably, this can be attributed to special teams players knowing this set of rules specific to those plays.

This doesn’t prohibit double blocking or even double attacking. Also, you are not going to see this called a foul during the normal bunch-up that occurs on the line. It will be the deliberate effort of a lineman or linebacker to latch on to a teammate to blow a hole through the kicking team’s line that triggers the flag.

Umpire Tony Michalek had his eyes right on the effort of the Patriots rush and did not hesitate to make the call. It isn’t clear if any of the Jets special team players gave the officiating crew a “be on the lookout” for this tactic. Michalek is no stranger to the deep recesses of the rulebook, calling a disconcerting signals foul last season on the Buccaneers.

Pool reporter interview with referee Jerome Boger

Q: Please explain the penalty that was called on No. 94 [Patriots defensive tackle Chris Jones] on the field goal.

Boger: The call was that No. 94 on the defense pushed his teammate into the formation. That is a rule change for 2013 that a teammate cannot push a teammate into the opponents’ formation.

Q: Is it any type of push? Is it a two-handed push?

Boger: Any push. It could be with the body, not necessarily with the hand, but with the body into his teammate, into the formation. It’s any type of pushing action.

Q: Is there anything else to go over with this penalty?

Boger: No, the umpire’s flag went up almost instantaneously as he observed the action. We just enforced it as he called it.

Q: And that’s a 15-yard penalty —

Boger: For unsportsmanlike conduct.

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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