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Blakeman uses creative measures in proper enforcement of grounding call



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Texans at Panthers (video)

Near the end of the game, Texans quarterback Ryan Mallett threw an incomplete pass that was also intentional grounding with about 17 seconds remaining. Compounding the issue was the umpire played the ball as a fumble (which he is required to do), so the clock ran down to 7 seconds while a conference of Clete Blakeman’s crew started. Blakeman needed to confirm that a grounding call is appropriate (which always involves 2 or 3 officials) or if it was a fumble.

Here’s the situation. The ruling on the field is intentional grounding, offense, by the quarterback. That’s a 10-yard penalty from the previous spot, plus a loss of down, which will bring up third down. Also, the situation requires a 10-second runoff. However, the Texans elect to take a timeout to save the 10 seconds. At the time the pass was incomplete, there were 12 seconds on the game clock. Please put 12 seconds on the game clock.

Blakeman went to replay to determine if Mallett’s knee was down prior to the pass, making it a sack instead. (If that were the case, the reversal to a running clock would have also been a 10-second runoff that would be offset by a timeout.) Upon the completion of the review, Blakeman summoned over back judge Steve Patrick and conferenced with him. Blakeman announced the following:

After reviewing the play, the ruling on the field stands as called on the field. In addition, the back judge has confirmed with me that the time the pass was incomplete, there were 17 seconds on the game clock. Please put 17 seconds on the game clock. It brings up third down.

When a call stands, replay cannot make a clock correction. But, before a snap occurs, an official may make a clock correction based upon his or her own observation. Likely the conversation from Blakeman was something like, “Did you see 17 seconds on the clock at the end of the play?” With the affirmative reply, the replay review did not make the clock correction through a very visible sleight of hand.

Although it is being a little disingenuous with the announcement, this is wholly encouraged by the officiating department to correct some of the routine matters, particularly when simultaneous conditions make it nearly impossible to make a determination. In the end, the goal is to fix general administrative miscues, which can work as long as it is applied consistently.

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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