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Officiating video: No clear recovery reverses a TD, but not the fumble



In his recent installment of the weekly officiating video, senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino discussed numerous calls from the prior week’s games, including replay rules, kick formations, and injuries inside of two minutes of a half (video below). He also covered a play that was broken down in last week’s video regarding touching of a loose ball. 

Fumble reviews at the goal line. To start off, Blandino explained a replay review that we covered in our quick calls liveblog. In Houston, Texans running back Akeem Hunt scored a touchdown near the goal line, and subsequently fumbled the ball into the end zone. Line judge Rusty Baynes signaled touchdown on the field, as other officials ran to the pileup in the end zone after the fumble. Blandino explained that the scrum for the loose ball was “dead-ball action”, which occurs after the play is whistled dead, and no ruling will be made regarding the recovery on the field. In replay, referee Ed Hochuli determined that there was a fumble prior to Hunt crossing the goal line, but there was no clear recovery in the end zone after he lost possession. On fumble plays, a reversal is granted only if the fumble and the recovery is visible and conclusive. In this instance, since there was no recovery granted in replay, the ball goes back to the spot of the fumble, only because the goal line is also involved in the play. (The touchdown was reversed but the fumble recovery “stands.”) Houston maintained possession at the ½-yard line.

Out-of-bounds players touching a pass. In the next play, which was previously analyzed by both us and Blandino, Seattle tight end Jimmy Graham was battling for a pass thrown by Russell Wilson with Rams linebacker Bryce Hager along the end line, when Hager appeared to rip the ball away from Graham for the interception and touchback. Back judge Shawn Hochuli, field judge Tom Hill, and line judge Tom Symonette conferred and ruled the play as an incomplete pass. Referee Brad Allen went under the hood, and the call stood. This was due to the touching of a loose ball. Any time a player who is out of bounds touches a loose ball that is in the field of play, it automatically puts the ball out of bounds. Graham touched the ball while he was standing out of bounds, and Hager had not yet completed the process of the catch. Even though the ball is in Hager’s hands, it is still a “loose ball” under the rules until the catch process is completed. Since Graham had his foot on the end line while he was touching the ball, the pass is incomplete immediately at that point. This is similar to a fumble or a kick; when the ball is not being possessed by any player, and it is touched by a player who is out of bounds, the ball is out of bounds at that point. Therefore, on this play, the ball is out of bounds before the process of the catch was completed, thus, an incomplete pass.

Excess injury timeouts under 2:00. Following that, Blandino discussed the protocol when dealing with an injury with less than two minutes remaining in the half. In Chicago, Packers guard Lane Taylor was injured with 54 seconds left in the game, and the clock was stopped. At this point in the game, Green Bay had no timeouts left. Blandino explained that when there is an offensive injury inside of two minutes, the offense is charged a timeout, but, when there are none left, ten seconds will be run off of the game clock (if the clock is running). Chicago has the choice to decline the runoff if they feel that the extra time will benefit them, which is what they chose to do. If they had accepted the runoff, the clock would have been reset to 44 seconds, and the clock would have started on the ready-for-play signal.

Illegal formation on the kickoff. Finally, Blandino explained the ruling on one of the last kickoffs during the final minutes of the Monday night game in Washington. Multiple Washington players crowded around kicker Dustin Hopkins before he booted the ball through the back of the end zone for a touchback. By rule, there must be at least three members of the kicking team outside of either hashmark, and at least one of those three players outside of the yard line numbers. On this play, there was one player outside of the numbers on both sides of the field, but there were only two players outside of the hashmarks on either side. This is an illegal formation, and a 5-yard penalty. Carolina elected to tack on five yards from the touchback spot, but they could have also backed Washington up five yards and forced a rekick.

Cam Filipe is a forensic scientist and has been involved in football officiating for 12 years. Cam is in his fourth season as a high school football official. This is his ninth season covering NFL officiating for Football Zebras.

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