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Safety calls, roughness on QB: Roundtable reviews Week 5 calls



seahawks punt block

This blocked punt gave the Seahawks a safety. But should it have been a touchdown? We asked former NFL officiating graders that question. (Seattle Seahawks photo)

Football Zebras Roundtable

We had a few calls this week that were borderline judgement calls. How close were they? Former NFL officiating supervisors Jim Daopoulos and Larry Upson helped us unpack three controversial calls from Week 5. Both Larry and Jim did extensive game video while working in the league office. Their analysis determined the officials’ grades for the season.

Of the three calls, there is no consensus amongst Larry, Jim, and the crew that called each play.

Seahawks punt block

The Seahawks blocked a Colts punt, and Jeron Johnson recovers the ball for the Seahawks right on the endline (video).

Call on the field: Safety, upheld by replay review 

Larry Upson: The Seahawks are only credited with a safety because the defender doesn’t maintain control of the football in the end zone.  The ball is loose as he is sliding out of bounds.  You can see the ball move slightly down his body as he is crossing the endline. I think it’s a good call as ruled on the field and upheld after the replay review.

Jim Daopoulos: It appears to me that Johnson has secured the football prior to sliding and contacting the out-of-bounds line. I feel both the referee and umpire needed to be on the back line to make a more accurate ruling on the play. Personally, I feel there was sufficient evidence to prove that the ball was in Johnson’s control, and replay should have reversed the call. I understand the decision that there was “movement” of the ball but it certainly appeared that the player “stuck” it when he was sliding prior to going out of bounds.

Giants avoid a safety

Giants running back David Wilson is pushed back into his end zone, where he momentarily disengages from the defender  and is tackled in the end zone (image via Deadspin).

Call on the field: Forward progress stopped at the 2, not a safety. By rule, forward progress is not reviewable 

Upson: I took a long look at the play and I think that this should have been a safety.  The runner’s forward progress is stopped initially but he regains his balance and tries to advance the football.  This is a tough one to sort out on the field but in hindsight now looking at it, I think a Safety is the proper ruling.

Daopoulos: The runner is contacted at about the 2-yard line but is not wrapped up by the defender. He gets away, and as we say, gets his legs back and attempts to advance upfield. This, in my opinion, is a safety and should have been ruled that way on the field. The problem is that this action is not reviewable in replay. The philosophy in the NFL office has always been, don’t give a team a cheap score. But, this is a strong defensive play, and the Eagles should have been awarded a safety. Had this action occurred in the middle of the field, I am certain the officials would have make the dead-ball spot behind the line of scrimmage and not ruled forward progress.

Titans unnecessary roughness penalty

On a 2-yard gain, Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith is heading out of bounds when Titans linebacker Moise Fokou hits Smith (video, at 2:31).

Call on the field: Unnecessary roughness, 15-yard penalty.

Upson: I would say that this is an incorrect call.  The defender’s initial contact with the quarterback takes place while the quarterback is still in the field of play.  Also, the contact by the defender is legal because he hits the quarterback below the head and neck area.

Daopoulos: The call for the hit on Alex Smith was exactly the correct call. As the quarterback was heading for the sideline and getting out of bounds and must be protected. He did not appear to be attempting to gain additional yardage by going “north–south” and for this reason the hit was illegal.

Here is the grading card for the plays:

  Daopoulos Upson
Seahawks safety
Ding Checkmark
Giants down at 2-yard line
Ding Ding
Titans unnecessary roughness Checkmark Ding

So far, the league office has only commented on the Seahawks safety call. As Football Zebras noted, vice president of officiating Dean Blandino explained why the call was made, but stopped short of ruling it right or wrong.

Football Zebras Roundtable is a periodic feature we will present on an ad-hoc basis to analyze select calls with experts.