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Missed illegal formation affects playoff fates

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Week 17: Chiefs at Chargers (video)

Update: NFL statement issued Monday morning appears at the bottom of this post.

The Chiefs missed a three-pointer at the end of regulation.

The officials missed the seven players on one side of the defensive formation.

Those misses were felt in Pittsburgh, as it had ramifications on their playoff chances. The Steelers needed four specific outcomes to happen on Sunday, and a Chargers loss to the Chiefs was the lone missing piece of the playoff puzzle.

One of the new rules in the offseason prohibited the defense to line up more than six players on either side of the snapper on a kick. It was specifically requested by players because of it presented potential for season-ending injury by overloading one side of the line with little advantage to the defense. Rule 9-1-3:

(b) When Team A presents a field-goal or Try Kick formation:
(1)   No more than six Team B players may be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the snap …
Note: These restrictions do not apply if a team does not present a standard punt, field goal, or Try Kick formation (an equal number of players on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper in a tight formation), or if, after the offensive team has assumed a set position, there is a shift, or a player goes in motion.

The Chiefs would have had a second chance at the field goal with the assessment of the five-yard penalty.

Umpire Ruben Fowler and side judge Keith Parham had responsibility for the legality of the formation.

Hat tip to Pete Damilatis for pointing us to this and Sam Walker for the annotated graphic. CBS still image.

NFL statement

With 0:08 remaining in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers, Kansas City faced a fourth-and-12 from the San Diego 23. The Chiefs attempted a 41-yard field that was no good.

On the play, San Diego lined up with seven men on one side of the snapper. This should have been penalized as an illegal formation by the defense.

Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 (b) (1) of the NFL Rule Book (page 51) states that “No more than six Team B players may be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the snap.” The rule was adopted this year as a player safety measure.

The penalty for illegal formation by the defense is a loss of five yards. This rule is not subject to instant replay review. Had the penalty been assessed, it would have resulted in a fourth-and-seven from the San Diego 18 with 0:04 remaining, enabling the Chiefs to attempt a 36-yard field goal.

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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