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Quick calls: Week 1


Keep checking here for rolling coverage throughout the day on Sunday. If you see anything confusing, unusual, or controversial, please let us know.



Never forget

cr-bisnxyaajmqn.jpgToday, the NFL will pause in reflection of the 15 year anniversary of our nation’s great tragedy and the day when true heroes were made. President Obama and Vice President Biden, as well as President George W. Bush will be a part of the ceremonies at today’s games. Players will all wear a decal on their helmet.

  • President’s speech (video)
  • National Anthem (video)


Raiders at Saints

parry-oak_noAfter the forward fumble recovered by the Saints (see separate entry), the clock appeared to have run when it should not have. The play ended at 7:20 of the fourth quarter and while TV was showing replays, there was an announcement by referee John Parry. Presumably this was to clarify that the Saints were allowed to gain the yardage on the fumble, and were able to get the spot of the recovery.

Because there is an in-bounds recovery and no change of possession, the clock runs.

However, there might have been the further discussion over whether the forward fumble is a forward pass, and that may have been a time-consuming factor. In that case, the clock must stop for a crew conference. Again, with no live shots of the field on TV, it is hard to tell exactly what was happening at field level.

Between plays there should be not much more than 40 seconds, and the timeout by the Saints was granted after about 75 seconds ran off the clock. This amounts to more than 30 seconds being attributed to “crew time,” or time lost from the clock under the crew’s control. Incidentally, any official that observes crew time being consumed may make the official’s timeout signal.

We have contacted the league for clarification and will update when we get a response.

h/t hank on the Behind the Football Stripes forum

Cameron Filipe
Sun Sep 11 • 8:08 pm EDT


Lions at Colts (video)

On the final kickoff with 4 seconds remaining, the Colts attempted numerous laterals, a common practice to keep their chances of winning alive. After five laterals, the ball ended up in Indianapolis’s end zone. Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton then threw a forward pass to Dante Moncrief in the end zone, which forced officials to whistle the play dead. The illegal forward pass occurred in the end zone, resulting in a safety and two points for the Lions.

Without the penalty, the play would have been a safety, as the Colts had a backward pass out of bounds in the end zone, which is also a safety. (Not to get too technical, but a backward pass out of bounds is also a 5-yard foul when there is less than 1 minute in the half, and a 10-second runoff.)

Obviously, the Lions would not extend the half, but it is an option since the safety was a result of a foul.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 11 • 8:00 pm EDT


Lions at Colts

img_20160911_195240432_hdr.jpgLions defensive lineman Devin Taylor was assessed a leaping foul on the extra-point kick on the Colts go-ahead touchdown.

Because Taylor was behind the line of scrimmage and the second level (linemen directly behind those on the line), he was legally allowed to line up across from the center. Players on the line must leave a gap over center for player-safety purposes. Taylor exploited his position by being able to jump through that gap to block the field goal. However, a player who is not on the line may not run up, jump, and land on a player — teammates included. Since Taylor’s feet made contact with the center, this is a leaping foul.

If Taylor makes it cleanly over the line without contact, it is not a foul.

Contrast this to the leverage foul called in the Bills-Ravens game.

Update: A leaping foul was also called on a Cardinals extra-point attempt in the Sunday night game on linebacker Jamie Collins of the Patriots (video).

Patrick Weber
Sun Sep 11 • 7:46 pm EDT


Dolphins at Seahawks

On the penultimate play of the game, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was scrambling near the sideline when the ball was knocked from his possession. Even though a Seahawks player appeared to recover the ball, the officials correctly ruled that Tannehill had touched the ball while he was out of bounds. The ball is dead at that point, and possession is retained by the offense (in this case, the Dolphins). Referee John Hussey explained that since it was a forward fumble, the ball is brought back to the spot of the fumble. Although he did not announce it, Hussey also correctly wound the clock on the ready-for-play whistle. This is correct because the ball is brought back to the spot of the fumble, which was in the field of play. The clock subsequently ran out before the Dolphins were able to run another play.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 11 • 6:44 pm EDT


Bills at Ravens

The Ravens were marked short of a first down as the clock wound down to the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter. Even though the two-minute warning had intervened, the Ravens challenged the previous play prior to the first snap after the two-minute warning.

On the review, the spot was modified in the Ravens’ favor, however it was not enough to gain the first down. Even though the Ravens gained field position, the challenge actually is considered to have failed. The Ravens also lost a timeout on the failed challenge.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 11 • 6:17 pm EDT


Bills at Ravens

img_20160911_153212395.jpgBills defensive lineman Jerel Worthy attempted to block a Ravens field goal by placing his hands on his opposing lineman to gain a height advantage. It is a leverage foul for a player on the line to use an opponent or a teammate to assist a block attempt. This excludes any incidental contact and focuses on the dangerous tactic of bearing down on a player who, in many cases, is coming out of his stance at the snap.

This is different than a leaping foul (see Lions vs. Colts), in which a player off of the line runs forward, jumps, and lands on a player. Leverage and leaping are actions contained under the unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. The Ravens opted to take the field goal off the board, assess the 15-yard penalty, and get an automatic first down.

Leaping and leverage are not part of the unsportsmanlike calls subject to the yellow-card/red-card disqualification rule.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 11 • 6:03 pm EDT


Giants at Cowboys (video)

img_20160911_175036230_hdr.jpgCowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant caught a touchdown pass that was subject to a replay review. When Bryant contacts the ground in the end zone, he momentarily loses control of the ball.

No need to stop me. I know you’ve heard this before.

Bryant knows just as well as anyone that a player going to the ground has to “survive the ground” maintaining possession. Bryant did re-secure possession of the ball without the ball touching the ground. However, when the ball was out of his control, Bryant was on the sideline. Any ball that is not secured in a player’s possession is considered a loose ball, and any loose ball that touches an out-of-bounds player is now out of bounds. Without having the ball secured in bounds on the ground, the call is reversed to an incomplete pass.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 11 • 4:59 pm EDT


Raiders at Saints (video)

Drew Brees finds Willie Snead for 57-yards. He fumbles the ball forward and his teammate Michael Thomas fall on the ball to set up first and goal. Since we were outside of the two-minute mark of the game, this forward fumble was legal. Field judge Jabir Walker and back judge Perry Paganelli on the call.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 11 • 4:49 pm EDT


Giants at Cowboys

“Ron Torbert. One of the really good, young referees in the NFL.” —Joe Buck as Torbert enforces a penalty.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 11 • 4:35 pm EDT


Bengals at Jets (video)

Good concentration by SJ73, Joe Larrew on this fingertip catch by A.J. Green.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 11 • 4:21 pm EDT


Raiders at Saints (video)

Nice wheels by SJ Keith Washington on this 98-yard Brees to Cooks touchdown bomb.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 11 • 4:14 pm EDT


Packers at Jaguars

img_20160911_154432832_hdr.jpgIt is legal for a runner to make contact with an opponent’s face mask as part of a stiff-arm maneuver. The runner, however, cannot grasp or twist the face mask, and must use an open hand to avoid having a penalty called.

Packers receiver Randall Cobb did grasp the face mask while trying to gain extra yardage, and a flag was thrown. As the play carried out of bounds, Cobb ran into friction on the Jaguars bench. Defensive end Malik Jackson, who was on the sidelines, was flagged for unnecessary roughness.

When there are live- and dead-ball fouls on a play, they combine and are assessed accordingly. Therefore, both calls offset, and the down is replayed because one of the fouls was a live-ball foul.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 11 • 3:49 pm EDT


Bengals at Jets (video)

A 22-yard field goal by Jets kicker Nick Folk was blocked and went out of bounds in the end zone. As long as the defense does not make a play on the missed kick that has gone past the line of scrimmage, the defense gets the ball at the spot where the kick was placed, generally 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage. It happens infrequently, but if this spot is inside the 20-yard line (or a field goal attempt <30 yards), the defense gets the ball at the 20.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 11 • 2:08 pm EDT


Browns at Eagles (video)

img_20160911_134035982.jpgThis is an embarrassing moment, but at least it got clarified quickly, and the proper call was made. A field goal attempt by Eagles kicker Caleb Sturgis was wide right. Back judge Greg Wilson was underneath the post that was nearest to the ball and signaled no good. Field judge John Jenkins was under the other upright and signaled it was good. The proper mechanic is for the two officials to confirm their calls before signaling, preferably with a yes/no as opposed to a good/no good which can be misheard. A nod or head shake can also help. Jenkins never looked at Wilson when he signaled, apparently thinking this was routine.

This can be a net positive. Getting a correctable mistake fixed when it doesn’t have a game impact is a motivation to improve and a reminder to not take the routine mechanics for granted.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 11 • 1:53 pm EDT


Officiating assignments

Referee assignments this week

2016 crews

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 11 • 1:10 pm EDT



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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 “Quick calls: Week 1

  1. Need some clarification – watching the MIA-SEA game and there seems to be a weird positioning mechanic in play.

    Umpire (or official equivalent) is lining up in the Umpiring position – but on the R side of the LOS. There only seems to be the BJ on the defensive side as I sure can’t see the U in his regular position.

    Very strange – or is it something I have missed

  2. Saw a couple of non-calls in the Eagles-Brown game, most for holding, but the most bizarre missed call was Cleveland apparently using several extra seconds past 0 on the play clock. Both commentators noticed it, but I was surprised that Philly didn’t raise a stink, especially since the refs DID call an off sides on the Eagles 3 or 4 seconds after the play should have been over.

  3. Seattle vs. Miami

    On the final play of the game, two questions (without having seen repeated replays):

    1. I thought the game clock went to zero before Miami got the snap off. Shouldn’t the play have been blow dead and the game ruled over?

    2. Once the play was allowed, Seattle appeared to takle the ball carrier (Whom I think was the quarterback) in Miami’s end zone. Even though the clock was at zero, shouldn’t Seattle have been awarded a Safety?

  4. Officials called a holding penalty on the Giants making it 1st and 20 at around mid-field. However the 10 yard penalty was never marked off and no one seemed to catch this. The Giants converted after 10 yards and went on to score a TD on the drive. Go back and watch the play.

  5. Which NFL Officiating Crews this week were wearing their long sleeved NFL Referee Jerseys for the Football Games that they officiated in?

  6. Brandon,

    I looked at the Play by Play for all of the accepted penalties and there is only one penalty that somewhat meets what you describe. 2 plays prior to 2:00 warning in first half there was a very dubious holding call against the Giants. As it occurred 8 yards beyond LOS, the penalty was enforced 10 yards from the spot of the foul. That made it 1st and 12 not 1st and 20. That is the proper enforcement of offensive holding beyond LOS.

  7. Michael – thanks for the clarification. The Fox broadcast put “1st and 20” on the screen which made me think it was a regular holding call.

  8. The Green Bay Jacksonville game was one of the worst called games of the last couple years. The officials missed numerous DPIs, called DPIs that weren’t there, missed holding calls, called phantom holding calls, and they were particularly perplexed by the play clock. They missed a delay of game on Carolina, called one on Green Bay with one second still on the clock, and only properly called a couple of them because the defensive players were waving & yelling, “Clock’s at zero! Clock’s at zero!”

    I know what the NFL will say about this: it’s impossible for the officials to watch the play clock and the players at the same time. That’s why this is ALWAYS an issue and the delay of game penalty is called mind boggling inconsistently. (Baltimore won a Super Bowl a few years back because they were able to win one of their playoff games on a play that happened after the play clock expired. In the same playoffs, San Francisco was penalized on a delay of game with 1 second left on the clock.) So here’s the real question: why doesn’t the NFL do something about it? It’s absurdly simple to fix. Just give the official looking in at the ball a vibrator or an ear piece and have a vibration or a sound in the piece when the play clock expires. Problem solved. But they don’t want to solve the problem for whatever reason, and the game continues to make a mockery of the clock.

  9. Two quickies-

    First, Obama was mercilessly booed at MetLife in NJ when he appeared on the jumbotron pregame. Any other insights from around the nation?

    The site should find the footage of the penalty called on Cincinnati against the Jets receiver Jalin Marshall for unnecessary roughness. Looked like a very good clean hit. Anyone else see the play?

  10. Anyone catch the chain incident in the Jags Packers game in which they didn’t stretch the chains all the way after a 4th down play & a 1st down was awarded?

  11. How about the blown pass interference call in the Saints-Raiders game?
    The Raiders had a 4th and five. The ball was thrown out of bounds. The receiver could nor possibly have caught the ball yet pass interference was called giving the Raiders a first down.

  12. Jesse Wendel, sorry for not responding earlier. The referees had blown the game over before the play in question and were attempting to shut it down before it started: the players, the fans, and the announcers did not notice. When the announcer tried to explain that the safety didn’t count because the clock expired during the play, it added another layer of confusion. I’m sure most fans at home were like, “What?” The announcer (Ian Eagle) didn’t really understand what was going on and started making up rules to explain things, and that’s a bad job on his part. The short story is that the last play didn’t happen because the clock had run out.

    One other note about the Green Bay at Jacksonville game. The officials also missed a 12 men on the field penalty which Green Bay won by a challenge. I have two problems with this: first, the officials should be able to count to 12 without GB’s help and two, it’s absurd that GB should lose something due to a referee’s mistake. In this case, GB loses one of their rights to challenge for the remainder of the game… and this happened early in the first quarter! They should give all teams one challenge, and if they challenge and win, they keep it.

  13. Regarding the no-call for a safety on the final play of MIA-SEA, the tackle began in the field of play, so forward progress gives the quarterback the 1yd line. Whether the clock expired or not (which has a slight gray area when the snap is involved) was not the reason a safety was not ruled.

  14. Regarding Delay of game calls, official will give the team +1 before throwing the flag. When they see 0 they look to see if ball is being snapped, if so, they don’t throw, if not they throw.

    Regarding Giant holding call, if I remember the play ended behind the line of scrimmage, so most likely they decided to decline and take the result of the play and the down would’ve counted. Sometimes the talking heads assume the wrong thing.

  15. Ben Nobody answered my question about what officiating crews were wearing long sleeves for the week 1 Football Games.
    Here is my question that i asked
    Which NFL Officiating Crews this week were wearing their long sleeved NFL Referee Jerseys for the Football Games that they officiated in?
    can you please help me?
    Nickie D’Annunzio

  16. “Regarding Delay of game calls, official will give the team +1 before throwing the flag. When they see 0 they look to see if ball is being snapped, if so, they don’t throw, if not they throw.”

    Sometimes they give plus 1. Sometimes they throw at zero. Sometimes they throw with time left on the clock. There’s no consistency.

  17. JW: if that is the case, then the official is wrong for sure. they are instructed to give +1 and that has been passed down to the college level too. It’s not perfect for sure.

  18. “whodatjohn” How about the blown pass interference call in the Saints-Raiders game?

    I thought about this penalty a good bit during the game and the previous one against the Raiders. I think that the ball wasn’t close enough to determine if it was uncatchable when the flag was thrown. Since the receiver was pushed out of bounds, they are not allowed to touch the ball during the play (Illegal Touching). That would prevent the receiver from having a chance to catch.

  19. NHB: a few missed holding calls especially the one where you see the defenders shoulder dip, that is a definite sign. Lots of jersey grabbling which isn’t always a sign of holding. Look at the feet of the defender, are they beyond the feet of the blocker and then is some pulling which restricts the defender from getting to the QB? If so that is a hold only if it happens and there is an opportunity for that defender to make a play on the ball. Sounds simple, looks easy from the pressbox, but a lot harder on the field. Did they miss any holding on the Bengals? Most likely let the same type of plays go both ways. Sign of a good official is being consistent (bad or good)and calling it the same on both teams.

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