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Week 7 remainders: Reviewing the play at the pylon

A look at the non-review of a goal line play and multiple ejections.




Before Chandler Catanzaro clanked and Steven Hauschka shanked their respective field goal attempts in overtime, the Cardinals had a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of a tie when they were set up with a 1st-and-goal situation. Running back David Johnson was marked short of the goal line, and the Cardinals were apparently trying to exploit the Seahawks defense by snapping the ball on second down quickly.

I think it was odd that the replay official did not stop down for a closer inspection of the play. Although the gut call of the play at game speed was that the ball was short of the goal, in a game where scoring is scant and the replay official has the sole jurisdiction on initiating reviews, this really should have gone through a review. (The Cardinals also lost a timeout earlier in the game when coach Bruce Arians tried to challenge an aspect he must know is not challengeable.)

The goal line angle seen above was shown after the next snap occurred, and many seemed satisfied that the still frame shows the foot bending the pylon while the ball is clearly behind the goal line, despite the fact this was ex post facto analysis. But this still image does not tell the full story, and the call actually would be ruled as “stands” and not “confirmed” for two reasons not readily apparent.

The pylon is placed completely in the white boundary, with its inbounds face on the plane of the sideline and its front face on the plane of the goal. Although it is out of bounds, it does have special properties as to how it becomes part of the play. A player who touches the pylon is not out of bounds, as long as he does not touch the line; a loose ball, however, is out of bounds in the end zone if it touches the pylon. (A ball in a player’s possession that touches the pylon is considered the same as if the player touched it.) With that in mind, Johnson cannot be definitively ruled out of bounds on this shot, because we don’t see evidence that his heel is out of bounds.

The other complicating factor in replaying a call such as this is the position of the ball. When a player is making a play at the pylon, the ball must cross the goal line more or less in bounds. A runner can’t leap at the 3-yard line, and cross the goal line extended in the air out of bounds. Such a case is an airborne runner, and the ball would be placed at the 3, or wherever the official deems the ball crossed the plane of the sideline. A dive to the end zone is treated the same as a player in stride in terms of an “airborne” runner, so a ball carrier must do one of the following to have a touchdown, in addition to breaking the plane of the goal:

  • The runners foot must touch in bounds in the end zone
  • The ball must be in the runner’s arm that is opposite of the sideline
  • The ball must go inside, over, or into the pylon before being declared dead

Because the ball is in the Johnson’s outside arm, a judgement needs to be made if he gets the ball over the position of the pylon, which has moved as a result of his foot. This adds a complication to confirming the call on the field. Therefore, the ruling on the field — not only that it was short in this case, but also if the call was a touchdown — must stand.

 Jalen Ramsey on ejection

Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey was one of three players ejected by Jeff Triplette’s crew Sunday against the Raiders. Although he and receiver Johnny Holton were fighting after the play, Ramsey didn’t feel the ejection was warranted:

They probably don’t want me to say this, but I’m just going to keep it real with you all. If I was out there nine more times, I would do the same exact thing. I don’t think I should have been thrown out of the game for it, neither do I think [Holton] should have been thrown out the game for it, to be real with you. I’m not going to be disrespected. I’m pretty sure you all know that about me by now.

Jaguars defensive tackle Malik Jackson was the third player ejected when he accrued two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls for arguing a roughing the passer call.

The dual ejection of Ramsey and Holton also gives us a chance to run this image again:

Marquis Lee was halfway to 4th ejection

In the same game as the three ejections, Jaguars receiver Marquis Lee also received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which placed him one step away from ejection under the new 2&DQ rule, just as Jackson was.

Lee was flagged for an action that has been hard to quantify: the use of slurs and offensive language. After umpire Roy Ellison was suspended for his vulgar response to a player who used a racial slur as a term of brotherhood, the league issued guidelines in a sportsmanship report that made such remarks subject to a flag. The language on the field is still very rough, but there are certain boundaries that were established. Lee was flagged for using a racial slur.


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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