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Cardinals coach: Lure chop block ‘the dirtiest play I’ve ever seen’

Week 5: Cardinals at Broncos

Broncos tight end Julius Thomas was flagged for a 15-yard illegal chop block on Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell. Campbell suffered a strained MCL and will be out three to four weeks. His coach, Bruce Arians, called it “the dirtiest play I’ve seen in the National Football League” and said that Thomas should be disciplined by the league more than the base $8,268 fine.

But was this actually a chop block?

The definition of a chop block is when two offensive players combine to engage a defensive player high while blocking him below the waist. Usually, it is the high block first, but on passing plays, a reverse chop is also a foul. From the video of the play, Campbell does not appear to be engaged in a block with offensive lineman Ryan Clady when he is chopped by Thomas. (The low blocker is the one who is charged with the foul.)

However, it is also illegal to assume a pass-blocking posture in place of the high block, while the defensive player is chopped low. In a labyrinthine definition, Rule 12-2-3 calls this a lure chop block, with the blockers designated A1 and A2:

[On forward passes and kicking plays,] A1 chops a defensive player while A2 confronts the defensive player in a pass-blocking posture but is not physically engaged with the defensive player (a “lure”).

This means an offensive lineman cannot draw the defensive lineman forward to pursue the quarterback into the path of the low block. (The play need not be a coordinated effort by the offensive linemen to be a foul.) This also applies if the offensive lineman appears to pass block, but, according to the rule, “the play ultimately becomes a run.”

In this case, Clady did draw Campbell across the line, then Thomas, deliberately or not, chopped Campbell low. Judging by the severity of the injury, it is clear why the lure chop block is an addition to the standard chop block rule.

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Ben Austro
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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6 thoughts on “Cardinals coach: Lure chop block ‘the dirtiest play I’ve ever seen’

  1. I don’t get that rule at all…especially in this case. The O-lineman is, well, blocking and pass protecting. What is he suppose to do when the d-lineman is coming toward him?

    I think ANY block that goes toward the knees of the defender should be a penalty AND a fine.

  2. Also on this play, there was defensive holding. 5 vs. 15 wasn’t in effect, Bill Leavy offset the fouls. Was this because the defensive holding is an automatic first down? Does that nullify the 5 vs. 15?

  3. Not really that dirty. Unfortunate and a poor decision but his intent wasn’t to injure. I still think the dirtiest player of all time is Suh from the Lions. He’s tried to stomp on players for gods sake while they’re down on the ground. How the Cardinals coach thinks this is the dirtiest play ever is beyond me.

  4. Also looks to me that he went high and missed and hit low. There was no clear intent to be dirty.

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