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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)

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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