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Quick calls: Week 3

Liveblog coverage of the calls on Sunday in Week 3 of the NFL.



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

Rams at Buccaneers

At the two-minute warning, lightning struck too close to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, and the game was halted. There was about an hour delay to finish the game. Referee Ed Hochuli is allowed to suspend play, but then the call for resumption of play falls to the gameday designated representative. The game must resume, so the teams took the field during a downpour, but storm cells with lightning were far enough away.

Only the commissioner has the ability to terminate the game short of its conclusion. This has not been done outside of preseason games, and a 5-point game with 2:00 remaining would never be considered for the first use of this authority in a nonexhibition game.

Washington at N.Y. Giants

A couple of tight calls were explained by NFL senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino.

Steelers at Eagles

From the comments:

Je says:

In the eagles game, did they switch sides correctly? The second qtr and the third qtr both had the eagles going in the same direction.

At the opening kickoff, the coin-toss winner selects from the specified options (see the Browns-Dolphins entry for detail). So if Team A wins the toss, and they choose to receive, Team B selects which goal they want to defend. That means for the second half, Team B has the first choice of options. Team B might choose again to defend a certain goal, and Team A winds up electing to receive. It is not a given that the team that kicks off in the first will receive in the third, although it is exceedingly rare to do so.

I highlighted a situation in my book (which comes highly recommended) where the Giants elected to take the wind in the first and third quarters. Since Washington did not score, they never kicked off once in that game.

When a team defers, then they opt to make the first selection in the second half, rather than the first selection in the first half.

Ben Austro
Mon Sep 26 • 12:04 am EDT


49ers at Seahawks (video)

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson suffered a knee injury on a sack by 49ers linebacker Eli Harold in the third quarter. Harold was flagged for a horse-collar tackle, although this was questioned by the announcing crew. Harold did grab Wilson from the nameplate area on Wilson’s jersey, which, under the new rule, is part of the horse-collar region.

It is immaterial that Wilson was pulled forward and not backward. The defender just has to pull the ball carrier downward. In this case, Harold’s pull-down caused him to swing into Wilson’s knee, underscoring the danger of the tackle.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 25 • 9:29 pm EDT


Bears at Cowboys (video)

Instant replay reverses head linesman Mark Hittner’s spot and marks Cole Beasley short of a first down.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 25 • 9:26 pm EDT


Bears at Cowboys (video)

Field judge Steve Zimmer marks Jason Witten short of the goal line. Instant replay confirms the call.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 25 • 9:05 pm EDT


Bears at Cowboys

Umpire Barry Anderson wears number 31 for the second straight week. Anderson is honoring the late Chad Brown.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 8:58 pm EDT


Chargers at Colts

Given second life for a desperation untimed down (see the other entry for this game here), the Chargers were setting up for a multiple lateral play. To get extra skill players in on the play, coach Mike McCoy had three player with eligible-receiver numbers to line up as linemen. In order to do this legally, these players had to report as ineligible players. They are able to catch a ball off of a lateral, but are restricted as a standard lineman from catching the initial pass and from going downfield prior to the pass.

More detail is in our post, Everything you need to know about eligibility reporting.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 8:40 pm EDT


Chargers at Colts

To run out the clock in the fourth quarter with a lead, the Colts punted the ball away and downed the ball with :00 showing on the clock. This was a mistake, as it gave the Chargers new life.

When the kicking team touches a punt that has crossed the line of scrimmage before the receiving team has, it is considered a first-touch violation (technically, as written, an “illegal touch,” but we’ll go with first-touch violation to separate it from other illegal touches). This is what allows for a “free play” where the receiving team can subsequently pick up the ball, and be free to revert back to the touch spot. The first touch is not a foul, but it is a violation; it retains many of the properties of a penalty.

A first-touch violation can extend any quarter, just a defensive penalty can. Therefore, the Chargers were allowed an untimed down.

If the Colts let the ball come to rest and don’t touch it, the covering official will pause briefly and declare the ball dead. If the Colts had done this, the game is over, since there is no first-touch violation.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 8:11 pm EDT


Cardinals at Bills (video)

An interception near the goal line by Bills cornerback Corey Graham invokes the momentum exception rule. Graham lands at the 1-yard line without being touched by the opponent and slides into the end zone.

The momentum exception looks at where a player gains control of an interception. When a player’s feet come down, it is where the second foot lands that determines the interception spot. In this case, Graham landed on the ground, and that is the spot. Graham does not get an unearned benefit of a touchback; instead possession is awarded at the interception spot.

If the rulebook did not have the momentum exception, the play would be ruled a safety, because the defense brought the ball into its own end zone. The word exception refers to this rule being an exception to the safety rules.

The next snap was a safety, which is another entry here.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 25 • 6:36 pm EDT


Jets at Chiefs (video)

Line judge Mark Perlman initially calls this play a Spencer Ware touchdown, but in replay, referee Bill Vinovich reverses the call to Jets ball and a touchback. The replay shows Ware losing control of the ball before the goal line and the ball touching the pylon. (Since it is not in secured possession, this is essentially a loose ball going out-of-bounds in the end zone.) Perlman had to stand in at the goal line (and did a great job breaking to the goal line at the snap), with all sorts of traffic in front of him and obstacles behind him.

Perlman did everything right mechanically on this bang-bang play. That’s why the NFL has replay.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 25 • 5:56 pm EDT


Bills at Cardinals (video)

Aaron Williams picks up a bad snap on a field goal attempt and takes it to the house. On this play, referee Walt Anderson and line judge Byron Boston and head linesman Jerod Phillips have to make sure someone is a the goal line. For Anderson, he has to make sure he stays out of the way and wasn’t able to run ahead of the play. Phillips had less traffic to contend with and was able to follow the play to the to the goal line. The officials used excellent teamwork to make sure everything was covered.

One potential “ding” on this play is number 36 for the Bills, was in the white area during the play and could have drawn a foul for interfering with Phillips’ ability to call the play. Phillips wasn’t impeded in calling the play (or he was so locked in on Williams that he didn’t see number 36) so there was no foul.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 5:41 pm EDT


Washington at N.Y. Giants

The Giants blocked a fourth quarter punt, and the loose ball was batted out of bounds. Since the ball was batted forward when going out, this was an illegal bat. The Giants committed a personal foul downfield on the same play.

The two live-ball fouls prior to change of possession combine to offset, and the fourth down was replayed.

If the illegal bat was the only foul, the Giants would decline the foul, as it would wipe out the punt block, and fourth down would be repeated.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 25 • 5:37 pm EDT


Jets at Chiefs (video)

Another Jets’ fumble. This time Brandon Marshall coughs up this kickoff return and Demetrius Harris is there for the scoop and score. It was a huge hit and the officials again wisely held the whistle.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 5:35 pm EDT


Washington at N.Y. Giants (video)

A pass to the end zone to Giants receiver Bobby Rainey was bobbled, and Washington cornerback David Bruton had possession of the ball out of bounds, leading to a ruling of incomplete.

On review, Bruton’s elbow touched the ground as he rolled out of bounds, which counts the same as “two feet down” in the catch criteria. Bruton did not lose control of the ball, but replay opted to let the play stand. Washington lost the challenge.

This was a case where, I feel, any referee would reverse the call to an interception, but with SVP/officiating Dean Blandino involved in the replay decision, they are going with “stands.”

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 25 • 5:28 pm EDT


Jets and Chiefs (video)

Head linesman Phil McKinnely and side judge James Coleman rule a Chiefs fumble recovery. McKinnely initially was going to rule the ball carrier down but wisely held his whistle as he processed the call. 

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 25 • 5:17 pm EDT


Rams at Buccaneers (video)

Benny Cunningham does a great job on this draw play. This type of play is one of the reasons the umpire was moved to the offensive backfield. That play would have been right in the umpire’s lap in the defensive backfield and he could have been pin-balling between players.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 5:09 pm EDT


Rams at Buccaneers

During the commercial break, Rams defensive lineman Eugene Sims was flagged in a shoving match that happened after an extra-point attempt. TV had no video of the infraction, and said the ejection was for unsportsmanlike conduct, but they were not sure of the specifics. If it was unsportsmanlike conduct, it would be a foul on an official to warrant an ejection. If it was a personal foul (roughness, etc.) instead, then it can be a closed-fist punch that warrants an ejection. We are looking for clarification.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 25 • 5:07 pm EDT


Cardinals at Bills (video)

LeSean McCoy is dropped in the endzone for a safety. Head linesman Jerod Phillips on the call. The proper mechanics on this play should be for the wing official to retreat to the goal line at the snap to judge if the entire ball gets out of the endzone.

Matt Holmquist
Sun Sep 25 • 5:01 pm EDT


Chargers at Colts

Chargers defensive end Corey Liuget is penalized for leverage on a field goal play. Leverage is one of the league’s points of emphasis for the 2016 season for field goal/extra point rush tactics.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 25 • 4:59 pm EDT


Cardinals at Bills (video)

John Brown of the Cardinals with a big kickoff return. Head linesman Jerod Phillips and side judge Laird Hayes team up to get the spot. Hayes is staying ahead of the play to make sure he’s at the goal-line and then when the play goes out of bounds, he has to “flow” with the players out of bounds so he isn’t run over. Phillips, trailing the play, is in better position to get the spot. Both officials use proper mechanics for this type of play.

Mark Schultz
Sun Sep 25 • 4:49 pm EDT


Browns at Dolphins (video)

Terrelle Pryor sprints across the field for a long gain. When a runner reverses his field the officials have to be vigilant for illegal blocks in the back. There was a suspect side block early in Pryor’s run, but it was a good no-call.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 4:45 pm EDT


Browns at Dolphins

The Browns won the coin toss to start overtime. Their choices are one of the following:

  • To receive or kick
  • To select which goal to defend

(The “defer” option is essentially meaningless in regular-season overtime, as there is no 2nd half to defer to. But a team may do this to give their opponent first selection.)

The Browns elected to kick, the Dolphins selected the end they wished to receive in. If the Dolphins kicked a field goal on the opening possession, the Browns would have the second possession, which could have been played more less conservatively for a tie or win.

This was invoked last season by Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who prearranged that the team wanted the kick option, even though it confused the captains.

The Browns, like the Patriots last year, lost the game. Both the Dolphins and the Browns had possession during the overtime.


Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 4:28 pm EDT


2&DQ rule

Giants center Weston Richburg is the first player ejected for two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls under the new rule.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 3:16 pm EDT


Raiders at Titans

On an interception by the Raiders, the game clock did not start on the snap, but started rolling during the play. At the conclusion of the play, the clock showed 3 seconds, but the clock operator ran the remaining seconds off as an adjustment.

Tony Corrente announced that the 3 seconds should be placed on the clock, not aware of the clock operator’s error. This was apparently noted by the replay official or by someone in the New York command center, as Corrente was receiving information through his wireless headset. (The clock operator may also have phoned the replay booth in this process.) Corrente then announced:

The clock operator did not properly start the clock after the play [started], and the allotted number of seconds did run out when the player ran out of bounds. Therefore, there should be no time left on the clock. This the end of the first half.

This is reviewable under a new rule that can correct the clock in very limited circumstances, such as a clock operator error.

Cameron Filipe
Sun Sep 25 • 2:36 pm EDT


Cardinals at Bills (video)

Buffalo wide receiver Robert Woods extended to haul in a 24-yard reception in the first quarter, which was ruled a catch on the field. On the play, as Woods was going to the ground, the ball hit the ground, and it seemed that Woods lost possession on his way down. Field judge John Jenkins threw a flag for defensive holding on the play, as well, but that penalty was declined due to the ruling of a completed pass on the play. Arizona chose not to challenge the reception, and Buffalo scored a touchdown on the following play.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 2:34 pm EDT


Lions at Packers

img_20160925_133222686.jpgKick returner Ty Montgomery had a heads-up play to give his Packers excellent field position. A Lions kickoff was bouncing near the sideline, and Montgomery deliberately stepped out of bounds. With the ball in bounds on the 2, Montgomery reached in bounds to touch the ball. The play was whistled dead.

Outward appearances are that the Packers get the ball at the 2. However, it is a foul on the kicking team if a kickoff goes out of bounds. The touch by Montgomery puts the ball out of bounds, which is charged against the kicking team regardless of how the kick goes out of bounds, unless an in-bounds receiving team player is the last to touch the ball.

Because of the astute play, the Packers get the ball 25 yards from the kickoff spot, which is the 40-yard line.

Incidentally, this was a situation that was covered in detail in my book So You Think You Know Football? using a situation when Randall Cobb did this for the Packers in 2012 (p.26).

Update 9/26, to address the questions whether it is legal for a player to go out of bounds and be the first to touch the kick:

The foul for illegally touching a kick applies to the kicking team only, as stated in Rule 8-2-4:

Item 2. Player Out of Bounds. If a kicking team player goes out of bounds during the kick, he may not touch or recover the ball beyond the receiving team’s restraining line, unless it has first been touched by a receiving team player. If a kicking team player touches the ball before re-establishing himself legally inbounds, it is a free kick out of bounds.

There is no restriction on the receiving team. Further, for both sides of the ball, there is no penalty for a player touching the ball while out of bounds, therefore Montgomery’s actions are treated as any other loose ball that touches an out-of-bounds player.

As to whether a player may deliberately go out of bounds during the play, the rule being referred to applies to punts, where a kicking team player must not “ride” the sidelines. He must make an attempt to return into the field of play if pushed out, because there is a very dangerous collision risk in that white border. It does not apply to kickoffs.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 2:03 pm EDT


Lions at Packers

img_20160925_131938042_hdr.jpgPackers linebacker Nick Perry is assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct foul for doing a cut-throat gesture on a 2-yard loss by the Lions. The penalty turns it into a 15-yard gain.

Additionally, Perry is given a “yellow card” or a warning for picking up an additional unsportsmanlike conduct in the specified categories. In that case the second infraction is an automatic ejection.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 1:00 pm EDT


Washington at N.Y. Giants

Jay Glazer is reporting on Fox NFL Sunday that Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. was fined $ 36,000 for a hit on Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro from behind that was far away from the play. The fine was more than the minimum because of Beckham’s repeat offender status, which was largely established the last time Beckham faced safety Josh Norman in last year’s game against the Panthers. Norman is now playing for Washington, and matches up against Beckham today.

Because of the escalated fine, Beckham’s history puts him on track to receive a suspension for any infractions this season. This is not an automatic, but usually a player gets some cushion from infractions in past seasons. Without that cushion, Beckham runs the risk of getting another suspension, much like his post-Norman entanglement last season.

SJ Jonah Monroe and LJ Tom Stephan — covering opposite sidelines — were assigned to last year’s game with the Beckham-Norman extra-curriculars, and the crew was criticized for not ejecting at least one of the combatants at various stages of the game. Referee John Hussey met with both players prior to the game to establish a zero-tolerance policy for this type of action today.

Ben Austro
Sun Sep 25 • 11:45 am EDT


Today’s officials


  • R 35 John Hussey heads McAulay’s crew (WAS-NYG)
  • U 124 Carl Paganelli* to Tobert’s crew (SD-IND)
  • LJ 90 Mike Spanier* to Corrente’s crew (OAK-TEN)
  • FJ 95 James Coleman* to Vinovich’s crew as SJ (NYJ-KC)
  • SJ 89 Jon Lucivansky* to Parry’s crew (DET-GB)

*Swing officials that are moved between crews each week.


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