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You make the call: Czech Bowl XXIII ends on controversial interception


We must be really starving for football, because we are resorting to a call made in the Czech League of American Football. Czech Bowl XXIII was held on Saturday, and it ended in spectacularly controversial fashion.

The Prague Black Panthers are the dominant team of the Czech League, having played in 22 of the 23 Czech Bowls and entering the game with a fourpeat of the title. On the final play of the game, they held a 10-9 lead over crosstown rival, the Prague Lions. Lions quarterback Matt Silva heaved a 50-yard Hail Mary, which was intercepted by Black Panthers defender Jan Dundáček at about the 7-yard line. Dundáček ambled his way into the end zone, where the ball was declared dead.

Lions receivers immediately were lobbying for a safety, but back judge Radek Janhuba ruled that the ball reverts back to the spot of the interception. How do you rule on this play? (Click here if the video below does not work.)

Analysis of the interception call

[Update: We previously reported that the Czech League follows the NFL rulebook, based upon an erroneous source, but it actually follows the International Federation of American Football rulebook. That rulebook states in its preamble, that its rules “retain some affinity with the rules adopted by NCAA in the USA.” Therefore, there are some inherent differences. The following will examine the NFL rule and then the IFAF rule.]

When the ball is ruled dead in the end zone (without the complication of a foul), there are three possible rulings: touchdown, safety, or a touchback. In the case of a loose-ball turnover at the goal line, where a player unavoidably carries the ball into the end zone on the recovery, there is a momentum exception. Since the touchback rewards the defense too much, and a safety rewards the offense with points, the momentum exception gives the defense the ball at the spot where the second foot of the defender came down upon securing possession. If this is at the 4-yard line, the defense gets the ball at the 4; if it is inside the 1-yard line, the ball defaults to the 1-yard line.

However, the momentum exception is granted when the original momentum carries the recovering player into the end zone. The exception, as worded in Rule 11-5-1(b)(exception 2) is as follows:

It is not a safety: … if a defensive player, in the field of play, intercepts a pass or catches or recovers a fumble, backward pass, scrimmage kick, free kick, or fair catch kick, and his original momentum carries him into his end zone where the ball is declared dead in his team’s possession. The ball belongs to the defensive team at the spot where the player’s foot or other body part touched the ground to establish possession.

By the NFL rules, when Dundáček intercepts the ball at the 7, he can be granted an exception. The NFL rules originally expressed a 5-yard grace area for the momentum exception, meaning an exception would not be granted at the 6. That 5-yard rule was removed from the NFL rulebook in 1986, so the exception is granted on any original momentum that carries the intercepting player into the end zone.

Dundáček, however, loses the exception when he begins to turn laterally at about the 2-yard line. At this point, he’s not under an uncontrolled stride towards the end zone, and the original part of original momentum is lost. If the turn occurs when the defender in the end zone, the momentum exception is still valid, as long as he crosses the goal line under original momentum.

In this case, Dundáček would have been ruled to commit a safety under the NFL rules, which would have flipped the Lions 1-point loss to a 1-point win. The IFAF rules have the 5-yard provision that is no longer in the NFL rulebook. Thus, the safety is also granted under those rules. IFAF Rule 8-5-1(a), with my emphasis:

[Momentum] exception: It is not a safety if a player between his five-yard line and his goal line:

(a) intercepts a pass or fumble; or recovers an opponent’s fumble or backward pass; or catches or recovers an opponent’s kick; and

(b) his original momentum carries him into his own end zone; and

(c) the ball remains behind his goal line and is declared dead in his team’s possession there. This includes a fumble that goes from the end zone into the field of play and out of bounds (Rule 7-2-4-b-1).

If conditions (a)-(c) are satisfied above, the ball belongs to this player’s team at the spot where he gained possession.

An officiating trainer has already resigned over the incident, based on a (very) rough translation by Google of a Czech Association statement:

I accept responsibility for this [ruling], for selecting and training for [officials] and therefore resign from the post of chairman of the [officiating] commission. I wish my successor good luck and hope that he can raise the level of [officials] in our country. I wish him [luck] recruiting quality candidates.

The back judge, reportedly, has also resigned. And, the play has already started generating its own memes:


Image: Jiří Granilla via Facebook. h/t Bohuslav Jindra

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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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21 thoughts on “You make the call: Czech Bowl XXIII ends on controversial interception

  1. Like almost all international federations, they use IFAF rules – not NFL rules. International Federation of American Football rules are almost identical to NCAA rules.

  2. Einar, you are absolutely correct. I was initially lead to believe that the NFL rules were followed because a news article in Czech had the English words “momentum exception” with the number of the NFL rule. The IFAF rule number is completely different. It didn’t help that the English language Wikipedia page lists that the Czech League uses the NFL rules.

    A little more poking around through translated webpages revealed that the Czech League does, in fact, follow the IFAF rules, so we have made that correction. Thanks for pointing that out!

  3. “Dundáček, however, loses the exception when he begins to turn laterally at about the 2-yard line.”

    If he had gained possesion inside the 5 yard line I would still have applied the momentum rule.

  4. When he begins to change his moving direction, he loses the initial momentum, regardless of the point of catching the ball. 5y or 7y or whatever.

  5. Agree to Markus Monses statement, no MX, result is safty in my opinion.
    Btw: Silly mistake by the defender: Instead of making the pass incomplete, he catches it with 0 seconds on the GameClock. Why? OMG! How silly!

  6. rule 3/1
    page 49
    VIII. During the first possession series of a period, B10 intercepts a forward pass on his six-yard line
    and downs the ball in his end zone. RULING: Safety: two points for Team A. Team A’s
    possession series is over. Team B will put the ball in play, first and 10 on the 25-yard line
    at the same end of the field. [Cited by 3-1-3-e]
    -Its a same situation as we have on play …no more comment its a Safety!

  7. Yeah, you are right. But….Jan Dundáček isn´t a natural defender. He is a wide receiver/qb obviously and he just followed his catch-insticts. Btw.: tremendeous guy, talented, tv-reporter of the nfl games on Czech sport channels. Actually, tough situation for him right now…

  8. If Dundacek caught the ball inside of 5 yards, the momentum exception would apply under IFAF rules regardless of him going laterally at the 2-yard line. The Chair of officiating explained in his resignation letter that the rule is not there to trigger an examination of the physics of the play, but rather to give the returner a grace area should anything happen (I’m a native Czech speaker and read the original letter). However, from the camera angle it seems clear that the ball was intercepted at the 7-yd line, and the play should have been called a safety. It was also a total lapse of judgment on the part of Dundacek, who should’ve simply batted the ball down.

  9. Radek Janhuba the back judge was former Panther player and assistant coach in Panther organization for many years. Lions are big rivals for the Panthers. It is sure that he went to afterparty with Panther team to celebrate. Radek Janhuba is not someone to trust in that situation and should not be a ref in that game at all.

  10. I don’t speak Czech but listening to that was more entertaining than The Golf Announcer (Nantz) and Simms.

  11. Obvious safety. I can’t blame the player for catching the ball instead of knocking it down, especially with no one around, BUT there is no good explanation as to why he didn’t give himself up immediately. As a certain B.B. would say, “dumb football player”. 🙂

    (Also, what do you call this play now that “Fail Mary” is taken?)

  12. Petr J. I trust your league has a strict social media policy and you are suitably sanctioned.

  13. Petr J. : Please, don’t lie! I was on Black Panthers afterparty, but back judge Radek Janhuba wasn’t!

  14. Safety without question, no matter what rule book you use. No momentum…..simply a dumb play by the defender, and a blown call by the official.

  15. I would’ve ruled with my original instinct. Dead ball at the point of interception. The back judge is not looking for a slight upward turn. The momentum exception applies. It’s common sense. Why give the championship away on a frivolous ruling to team that lost this game with a last ditch attempt on a Hail Mary? I think they got it right with a dead-ball. The right team won.

  16. The slight alteration in direction at the two is not enough to remove momentum as he is still moving in the direction of his own endzone as a result of his momentum at the time of the catch, so if the NFL rule allows for original momentum this would be placed at the 6. In NCAA and NFHS this is a safety because the catch was completed outside of the 5.

  17. Good stuff. I saw it (american living in prague)

    It was definitely a safety. Well, the hoopla should generate some badly needed interest in the game over here.

  18. After reading the rule carefully and watching the play, it is a safety. Like most have said before me, he turns so he loses that momentum exception so it was called wrong. My bigger question would be how is a game in the fourth quarter and at a score of 10-9? Are the defenses that good? And 22 of the last 23 title games? Is there a point where you say enough is enough and give I don’t know, maybe the other majority of the league who hasn’t gotten to play in the title game a chance?

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