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Remainders from Super Bowl XLIX

kearse catch xlix Here are some leftover items from Super Bowl XLIX that have been submitted in the comments and via Twitter. All said, referee Bill Vinovich and his crew called a solid game while an epic battle played out before them.

Did Bulter trip Lockette?

7:55 | 4th qtr. NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth said that Patriots cornerback Malcom Butler “got away with it.” Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette stumbled while running a slant route after Butler fell behind him; the pass fell incomplete. Collinsworth felt that Butler reached out to trip him and should have been assessed a pass interference penalty. Absent the replay and making the call in real time, the covering official will consider it inadvertent contact unless there is an obvious deliberate action. If a player can mask his intentions to snare the receiver while falling, then they will often “get away with it.” Watching the replay a few times, it does not appear that Butler makes any reach toward Lockette that would be inconsistent with a player bracing for a fall. Stepping through it frame by frame, Lockette’s left foot seems to contact Butler’s facemask, and when that same foot comes forward, Lockette’s ankle rolls which starts the obvious stumbling of the receiver to the ground. The call in real time would never be expected to go to such granular detail — but the evidence bears out that the correct call was made.

Defenseless protection on Edelman

chancellor edelman defenseless10:58 | 4th qtr. Patriots receiver Julian Edelman completed a catch and was hit hard by Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor. Edelman got up and ran downfield, but he was ruled down by contact at the Patriots 49-yard line after a brief discussion by the crew. The contact was fairly violent, but is it a foul? Because Edelman has just completed a pass and is transitioning to a runner, he does get the protections afforded to players in one of the 10 defined defenseless postures. This protects him from forcible blows to the head or neck area. The live camera angle was not very clear where the contact was targeted. There were two isolated replay angles to see the play, and both had the actual point of contact obscured by someone’s body. It is inconclusive if there was an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on Edelman. The end zone view on the coaches film feature of NFL Game Rewind shows that Chancellor likely went shoulder-to-shoulder with Edelman in an attempt to separate Edelman from the ball. This is a legal hit, although it is still inconclusive if there was contact to the helmet. It appears this was the right call without anything to refute it. As for allowing the play to continue after it was dead, all of the covering officials were correct to hold on their whistle. Once it is clear that all the covering officials ruled down by contact, absent some very obvious evidence, then the play can be whistled dead without running the risk of wiping out any advance by Edelman. This is an accepted officiating mechanic in the NFL.

Kearse’s circus catch

1:14 | 4th qtr. | video. The play that everyone was going to be talking about turned out not to be the play everyone was talking about. Seahawks receiver Jermaine Kearse never lost concentration on the ball to make a spectacular reception. (Side judge Tom Hill also did not lose concentration either, as seen in our photo gallery.) When Kearse caught the ball, he was able to get up and gain an extra yard before going out of bounds, because he was not ruled down by contact. Kearse was on the ground due to defensive contact, but he did not have possession of the ball (completing the process of the catch) at that point. The defensive contact must follow the completion in order to rule a dead ball. The Seahawks had to take a timeout before the next snap because their play call was not ready. There was nothing irregular about the 40-second clock restarting after the reception, and the timeout wasted Kearse’s extra effort to get out of bounds to stop the clock.

The game-cinching interception

:26 | 4th qtr. | video. Butler’s interception at the goal line was probably the most dramatic stop in a Super Bowl since Kevin Dyson of the Titans was tackled at the 1 by Rams linebacker Mike Jones in Super Bowl XXXIV (video). The pass was intended for Lockette again, with Butler seeming to contact Lockette before the ball arrives. Since Butler and Lockette have equal right to a path to the ball, and the contact is shoulder-to-shoulder rather than a hand shove, Butler is not guilty of defensive pass interference. Butler did not have to run the ball out of the end zone, as he advanced the ball to the 2-yard line after the interception. The ruling on this is solely based on his feet. If his second foot comes down in the end zone after securing the ball, it is a touchback. If neither foot is in the end zone at that instant, then the “momentum rule” applies. The defense team does not get a touchback if they bring the ball into the end zone. That is ordinarily a safety, but the exception exists for intercepting momentum. If Butler’s feet are down in the field of play, and then he kneels in the end zone, it is Patriots ball at the spot of his second foot (but no closer than the 1-yard line). Keep in mind, this only applies if the intercepting player has not had a chance to change direction; any deliberate return into the end zone (for example, if he zigzags across the goal line as a runner) would be a safety.

The ejection

:18 | 4th qtr. | video. The ugly outbreak of unsportsmanlike conduct seemed to be the fitting bookend to the 2014 season. Bruce Irvin’s disqualification was, according to my reckoning, the only ejection in Super Bowl history. There is one player that was mentioned about two years ago who claims he was ejected from the Big Game, but I was not able to substantiate the claim. I cannot recall off the top of my head who it was, however. (If you remember for me, hit us up in the comments.) The penalty against the Seahawks on defense was followed by the Seahawks final timeout. Had they not called timeout there, the Patriots would have been entitled to a “40-second runoff” — in other words, the play clock would reset to 40, and the game clock would be allowed to expire. The referee is allowed to just declare the game over in such a situation, rather than running the clocks. Image: Ben Liebenberg/NFL (top)

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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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14 thoughts on “Remainders from Super Bowl XLIX

  1. Not to be contrary, but still photos don’t do the trip and the Edelman hit justice.

    The trip was completely obvious and the video showed Edleman’s helmet get hit. At least MORE than we’v seen on some recent RTQB calls.

    Lastly, while I’m aware that the officials are trying to get the instigator Gronk was throwing punches and needed to be escorted off the field too. He comments later on television about knowing it was the last game and “throwing haymakers” just shows that letting him stay in will only embolden him in the future.

  2. And heaven forbid you can find a replay anywhere on the internet! LOL! So unless you recorded the game I don’t know where to find the video.

  3. Regarding your last statement, I’m thinking the player you’re referring to is Alan Page. I saw the America’s Game on the 1973 Dolphins, who beat the Vikings in Super Bowl VIII, and Bob Kuechenberg said that Alan Page was thrown out for punching him at the end of the game. However, I’ve never seen it mentioned elsewhere.

  4. Ding ding ding! That was it. Alan Page. I checked the scorekeeper’s play-by-play and there is no mention of an ejection, just offsetting fouls.

    Two loose ends to the Alan Page was/wasn’t ejected story — Page is not listed in any of the remaining plays of the drive, so I can’t prove if he is in or not. Also, the referees did not have microphones at that time, so there wouldn’t be an announcement, although there would be a signal. Ben Dreith was the referee on that day. One can only imagine the announcement he would have made for a Super Bowl ejection.

    What likely happened is that Page, having been penalized 15 on the same drive, was pulled as a coach’s decision following the offsetting personal fouls in order to prevent him from being the first player ejected from the Super Bowl.

    Thanks for jogging the old brain, ak040482. It’s been a long season for me!

  5. The Glenn said:

    Lastly, while I’m aware that the officials are trying to get the instigator Gronk was throwing punches and needed to be escorted off the field too. He comments later on television about knowing it was the last game and “throwing haymakers” just shows that letting him stay in will only embolden him in the future.

    I didn’t play through the Fight Club scene at the end, but if Gronkowski is seen throwing punches, he will at least be fined. I can’t say it emboldens him that he was on the field for a kneeldown (if in fact he was).

    When an attack breaks out on all fronts like this, there are some ejectable offenses that are not going to be seen.

  6. Any thoughts to OPI on the play where Butler made the game clinching interception? Had he not jumped the route the DB in front of him was being blocked.

  7. When an attack breaks out on all fronts like this, there are some ejectable offenses that are not going to be seen.

    It’s interesting how you don’t think Gronkowski should have been ejected, given the fact that your site ran this article a little over a month ago.

    That article, by Football Zebras writer Mark Schultz, details a bench clearing brawl during a December game between the Jets and the Titans, for which at least one player was fined. (By my count, at least three players on each team should have been sent to the showers early. For a site about NFL officiating, it is surprising that Schultz glosses over the fact that the officials decided not to eject anyone for fighting in that game.) Schultz’s thesis is that the league should be stricter on players who fight. I’m curious to know if Schultz thinks Gronkowski should have been ejected.

    Also, say Gronk was ejected. How long is he actually banned from the field? Would he be able to take part in the postgame festivities? The song that they play during the Championship presentation is called “Dream of a Lifetime,” and I think it’s fair to assume that hoisting the Lombardi trophy was Gronkowski’s lifelong dream.

    If the NFL really wanted to send a message about “Hey! Don’t fight!” ejecting Gronkowski for fighting and keeping him off the field during the postgame festivities would have been a good way to do it. It would be a real teachable moment. Instead, the lesson that Gronk and NFL fans of all ages learned is that because Gronkowski is a marketable guy and because Kraft and Goodell are friends, Gronkowski is allowed to throw as many haymakers as he feels like.

  8. What is the latest news regarding the slanderous broadcasting by ESPN of deflategate? If it turns out the Colts deflated the ball that was turned in to the officials will they be fined, suspended and labeled as cheaters?

  9. Again, this site has no credibility. “Solid game” my ass. The missed roughing the kicker on first drive was horrible; the trip by the Pats defender was clearly DPl; there is no mention of the PATS clear OPI in second half on a long play where Pats receiver looked like the defender with his ten yard long arm bar while running downfield. All three easy calls and all three missed and as usual this suck up site says the crew had a solid game. You site operators have not officiated at a high level, so have no clue. Oh, I forgot the late hit OOB which was marginal at best and as far as the helmet/neck hit on Edelman, NFL officials are trained if it is close, flag it. (Query: How do you flag that marginal late hit OOB – should have been a no call, yet miss the helmet hit on Edelman?) No consistency so stop with the excuses. The Edelman hit clearly deserved a flag and the crew missed it. Par for the course, the season ends where it started, with the worst officiating in all of professional sports.

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