Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, began the season today by explaining calls in Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season in the weekly video for the media (download). Some highlights included:
- In overtime in St. Louis, the officials, according to Blandino, correctly ruled that there was a valid fair catch signal by a Rams receiver. After conference, officials determined that the ball wasn’t kicked into the ground, therefore the fair catch signal was ruled valid. Had it been an invalid signal, then it would have been a 5-yard penalty from the spot of the signal, not a re-kick. Blandino admitted that a Seahawks foul for contact after a fair catch could have been assessed, but that he seemed to support the no-call. (But, there is more to the story, which we will get back to.)
- In Dallas there were some timeout/penalty enforcement issues. Because of an unnecessary roughness ruling after a play, the timeout the Cowboys called was restored because the clock had been stopped for the penalty. The foul was part of the continuing action after the play, the foul stops the clock, so the timeout was determined to have not occurred. This was correctly administered by referee Bill Vinovich.
- An offside call on the Cowboys on the subsequent play stopped the clock, despite being declined. In the last five minutes of the fourth quarter, the clock stops and will start on the next snap, whether flag is accepted or not (except for 10-second runoffs). This will continue be discussed with the Competition Committee for possible refinement.
- In the season kickoff game, the Steelers were in field-goal formation and were looking for a flag on the Patriots, saying the Steelers line moved because the Patriots did. Since the Patriots defense didn’t mimic a cadence snap count (which would be disconcerting signals), and did not enter the neutral zone, this is a false start on offense. A simple shift in the defensive line doesn’t mean encroachment.
- Back in Dallas with the Giants at the Cowboys, Blandino reviewed the process of the catch rule, emphasizing an element of time to do something is required to establish a receiver as a runner, thus replay overturned a completion by the Giants.
Returning to the onside kick play, Blandino supported the no-call of contact after a fair-catch signal by saying, “technically, by rule, you cannot tackle or block the maker of a fair catch … The officials decided this did not warrant a flag; it’s close, can understand why they made that decision.” Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the Competition Committee, said in a press conference, “it was incorrectly enforced. They got it half right. … I just couldn’t convince them to enforce the penalty because they just wouldn’t put the ball on the 35-yard-line.”
“The thing is, when have we seen that before? It just doesn’t come up,” Fisher later said. “I talked to [Blandino on Sunday night] and he explained it and we were right. He said, ‘No, they made a mistake.’ “