NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino released his video highlighting several noteworthy rules and penalty enforcement from Week 15 games. Instant replay, hits on the quarterback, and a handful of rules that we don’t see too often were highlighted (download the video here).
- As expected, Blandino spoke on the call by Referee Ed Hochuli in which Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was contacted by the 49ers Nick Moody after releasing a pass. Hochuli determined that the hit on Wilson was made with the crown of the helmet, yet after further review, Blandino determined this was the incorrect ruling on the field. The rule is clear that a defender cannot forcibly hit the quarterback in the head/neck area, and also cannot use the crown of the helmet to contact the body. Hochuli erred in ruling that Moody used the crown of the helmet to contact Wilson’s body.
- Instant replay was used to make a critical ruling in the game between Washington and the Giants last week. When Washington’s quarterback Robert Griffin III began advancing forward with the ball toward the endzone, he is now a runner. Therefore, to score a touchdown, RGIII would only have to ensure the ball crosses the plane of the endzone for the ruling to be a touchdown. However, when the scoring play was reviewed, it showed that RGIII lost control of the ball at the 1yd line. Therefore, he was no longer a runner and instead a player attempting to recover a fumble. When recovering a fumble, the player must not only secure possession of the ball, but also control all the way to the ground in the end zone for the play to end in a touchdown. After review, it was determined that RGIII did not have control of the ball as he went to the ground. The play was ruled a fumble forward into the endzone with no recovery and out of bounds, and therefore is a touchback.
- After this play was reviewed and the outcome was announced, multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were assessed against multiple Washington players. No matter the situation, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against an official is always enforced regardless of any other penalties on the field. Because of these multiple penalties, the Giants kicked off from Washington’s 35yd line. The result was an onside kick ending in recovery by the Giants. This example was brought up to highlight how multiple UC penalties can be stacked on top of each other when being penalized for conduct towards an official.
- The two-minute-fumble rule was in full effect in Buffalo last week when the Packers visited the Bills. Blandino highlighted this rule and reminded us that when under two minutes, or on fourth down, the only offensive player who can advance a fumble is the fumbling player. In this instance, Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers fumbled a pass and it was recovered by Packers running back Eddie Lacy. Lacy recovered in the end zone, but was not the fumbling player (the game clock was inside two minutes during this play) and therefore could not advance the ball. By rule, the result was a dead ball in the Packers end zone and, thus, a Bills safety.
- We don’t often see an onside safety kick. After the aforementioned safety occurred in the Packers end zone, they attempted an onside kick. Generally, the same kicking rules apply during a safety kick, however the kick must either be punted or drop kicked; it may be placekicked, but no tee can be used.
- There was a lot of discussion during a play in Miami in which the Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins blocked a Dolphins field goal that was then returned for a touchdown. The question was whether Collins was lined up in an illegal formation for being the seventh player on the line of scrimmage. Because his feet were not lined up with the feet of the other six players on the line, it was determined that he lined up legally and therefore the no call on the field was the correct call.
- Instant replay was also an integral part of the game in Nashville between the Jets and Titans. When Jets quarterback Gino Smith fumbles the ball, referee John Parry was blocked out and could not accurately determine the outcome of the play, therefore he let the play go. This is the correct mechanic because after the play ends, and its reviewed, the referee can always make it a pass play and determine the quarterback was down by contact. The fumble was recovered by the Jets at the 10yd line; at this time Line judge Julian Mapp comes in to tell Parry that there was actually no eligible receiver in the area when the pass was made. The Titans challenged the catch, at which time Parry announced that the play would be reviewed. However, Parry made it very clear in the announcement that if after review, the result of the play is reversed, there would then be a flag for intentional grounding as Smith had no receivers in the area. This is one of the few situations where a late flag can be thrown after replay. Since Parry announced the possibility prior to reviewing, the foul was not created in the replay booth. After reviewing, it was determined that the play was a forward pass, not a fumble, and there was no receiver in the area, resulting in the flag for intentional grounding against the Jets.
- Also during this game was a series of laterals when the Titans had one second left and no timeouts. Blandino highlighted that one of the attempted laterals actually advanced down the field; therefore it was an illegal forward pass. In this case, the official let the play finish and if the runner had gotten to the endzone, the score would have been reviewed and called back for the illegal forward pass. To be a lateral, the ball cannot advance down the field from the spot where the pass is released to where it is first touched.
- Finally in this game, Blandino highlighted how the Titans made excellent use of the rules during this aforementioned final play when they subbed players wearing eligible-receiver numbers as interior linemen. Just as a player wearing an ineligible number can report as eligible, the reverse is also true, allowing more skill-position players out onto the field. The players must report as ineligible receivers to the referee as soon as they enter the field. This means they cannot catch a pass (but may participate in a lateral play), and are restricted from being downfield before a pass, just like any other interior lineman.