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Roundtable Week 8: illegal bats in football, Brees’s consecutive false starts




Football Zebras Roundtable

Because of a couple of scheduling conflicts, our Roundtable was delayed. So before we dive into Week 9 action, we are going to take a look at a couple of calls from Week 8 with former NFL officiating supervisors Larry Upson and Jim Daopoulos.

We have also quoted their former boss, Mike Pereira, in this week’s analysis. Interestingly, there is not a unanimous judgement on either of the calls under review.

Illegal batting of loose ball

Play: On a fumble by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Dolphins defensive lineman Olivier Vernon scooted the ball further backwards in trying to recover the ball (story and video).

Ruling on the field: Vernon was penalized for illegally batting the ball. This is not reviewable.

Jim Daopoulos: The ball is knocked out of Brady’s hand legally, and as the ball is loose, Vernon attempts to secure the ball. He does not appear to intentionally bat it forward to gain an advantage but simply tries to pull the ball into his body. This action is not what is considered illegal batting and the call on the field should not have been made. The illegal batting rule was brought into effect after the Oakland Raiders infamous Holy Roller play when players continually batted the ball forward to gain an advantage.

Larry Upson: The call and ruling are correct.  The foul occurs when the Miami player clearly bats the loose ball towards his goal line.  A 10-yard penalty is to be assessed on the team that commits the foul.

‘False start, number 9, offense’ … again

Plays: On consecutive plays, which straddled the end of the first quarter, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was called for a false start.

Daopoulos: Both false start calls against Drew Brees were correct calls. A false start occurs when an offensive player moves in such a way as to simulate the start of the play. The specific issue here is when Brees is under center he makes a quick and abrupt movement by jerking his hips and this immediately results in a flag by the referee. When Brees is in the shotgun formation, he would be allowed to move his feet or shift them, however when his thrusts his hands forward and does not receive the ball this action is considered a false start. Interestingly, Brees did not argue or complain after either one of these calls.

Upson: In my opinion the call made at :06 of the 1st quarter is right on the button. The quarterback abruptly flexes his knees in an attempt to draw the defense into the neutral zone. The foul called at 15:00 of the 2nd quarter is a little less obvious. The QB does thrust his arms forward in an act of simulating the snap. This was recently a point of emphasis. Back when I worked in the league office, we had numerous discussions about making this type of action by the quarterback a false-start foul. But we never got around to making it a foul.

Pereira (on Fox Sports 1): How can that be a false start? Come on. That’s not enough for a false start. And not only do they call him once, they call him twice [via Pro Football Talk]

Here is the grading card for the plays:

  Daopoulos Upson Pereira
Dolphins illegal batting foul
Ding Checkmark Checkmark
Drew Brees false start on both plays
Checkmark Checkmark Ding

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

Image: Michael C. Herbert/New Orleans Saints