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Do Browns shoulder burden of avoiding touchback?




Week 1: Browns at Steelers

The Browns nearly pinned the Steelers down on the goal line with a fourth-quarter punt. It looks like the Browns were successful, but a touchback was ruled. Let’s review the call.

Once the ball is possessed by the kicking team, the ball is dead (unless the receiving team had possession during the down). This places the ball inside the 1-yard line as Chris Kirksley (#58, in the above image) has secured possession there.

However —

A player that secures possession must not allow himself to carry into the end zone. This is to prevent the kicking team from gaining an unfair advantage at the goal line.So, Kirksley’s shoulder which contacted the goal line establishes the player in possession in the end zone, and it is a touchback. Announcer Dan Fouts said that the call is touchback because the ball breaks the plane of the goal; the ball crossing the plane is irrelevant for punts. It is also irrelevant whether Kirksley’s knee comes down in the field of play, because that is only related to down-by-contact calls.

The deep officials from Carl Cheffers crew — back judge Todd Prukop, assisted by side judge Laird Hayes and first-year field judge Brad Freeman — were correct on the touchback call.

Knowing this, you should ace our quiz on punt coverage.

Image: NFL/CBS Sports; h/t Andy Kellow

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)