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Quick calls: Week 4

Liveblog coverage of the calls and rules interpretations in Week 4.



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

Ben Austro
Mon Oct 2 • 12:51 am EDT


Catch reversed to interception

Steelers at Ravens (video). Antonio Brown thought that he had a catch for a short gain for the Steelers. Ravens safety Eric Weddle thought he had a touchdown.

Brown was ruled down with a completed catch and that the ball came loose after. Weddle caught the ball out of the air and headed for the end zone, but the play was already ruled down by contact. In review, the call that the ball came out too late would be correct if Brown had completed the catch; Brown’s knee is down prior to the ball squirts out. However, the catch process can continue past a ruling of down-by-contact. The receiver must “survive the ground” with the ball, and that doesn’t end when Brown’s knee hits. Surviving the ground means that the falling player must go all the way to the ground. And, even though we banked the knee for down-by-contact, it has not yet made the pass come to a conclusion.

Take this another way, and let’s ignore the fortuitous trajectory that allowed the ball (that is still considered a pass) to be caught out of the air. If the rule doesn’t have that third step of surviving the ground, and if there isn’t defensive contact, this is an easy scoop and score for the defense. These types of plays, in this hypothetical new rule, are looked upon as occurring too frequently and the receiver getting more credit in securing the ball.

Back to the play as called: while replay can award the interception to Weddle, he does not get the advance on the reversal.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 1 • 11:55 pm EDT


Head-scratching TD reversal hinges on control

49ers at Cardinals (video). Perhaps the result would be different if there wasn’t centralized review. Perhaps.

A touchdown catch by Cardinals receiver Andre Ellington was in a replay review. Replay reversed the call based on a “loss of control” of the ball by Ellington, making it an incomplete pass.

Ellington secures control of the pass, and the ball does move in his control. It looks like replay is ruling this to be a “double clutch,” which then restarts the process of the catch. The two feet came down prior to the left hand touching out of bounds, but it appears that replay counted only one foot coming after the double clutch.

While it is possible that Ellington lost control of the ball, it looks like it has shifted in his hand but completely under his control. But it is not rising to the level of indisputable visual evidence.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 1 • 11:36 pm EDT


Nearly a tie in shortened OT

49ers at Cardinals (video). Larry Fitzgerald’s catch to give the Cardinals an overtime victory helped the league avoid a potentially unsatisfying result from a rule change. NFL owners shaved regular-season overtime down to 10 minutes for a rationale that escapes me. (I understand what the reasonis, but don’t get the rationale.)

The Cardinals started their possession after the 49ers burned about 8 minutes on their field-goal-scoring opening possession. The second play of the drive just barely (or maybe a tad late, but it counted) snapped before the two-minute warning. A quick drive down the field, and the Cardinals were in field goal range with 39 seconds remaining. Fitzgerald made a clutch catch on second down; if not, the Cardinals would have one more shot at a first down, and then potentially kick a field goal with mere seconds remaining. Overtime was extended from the standard sudden-death result, and then nearly had a tie solely due to two conflicting overtime provisions.

Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 1 • 10:16 pm EDT


Reverse mechanics on a pick six

Colts at Seahawks (video). Down judge (still strange to type that) Jim Mello throws it in reverse on this Seattle pick-six. Umpire Fred Bryan and referee Brad Allen cover the goal line and Mello makes sure Justin Coleman stays in-bounds.

Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 1 • 10:10 pm EDT


After further review, safety

Colts at Seahawks (video). Russel Wilson looks like he avoids a sack by throwing the ball away just before he’s down by contact. But, after further review, referee Brad Allen changes his call to a safety, making for a rare 3-2 football score.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 1 • 10:08 pm EDT


Rare offsetting pass-interference flags

Giants at Buccaneers (video). When a receiver and defensive back both commit mutual hand fighting, the general rule is that the contact cancels each other out. If offsetting pass interference is called as there is two-way checking downfield, the offense winds up with an advantage that they can repeat the down.

There are exception as to when you can have offsetting pass interference. If the offensive and defensive fouls are committed in different receiver/defender sets, then both are flagged. In this case, the receiver and his defender were both flagged.

The other general exception is what happened here. The offense may commit pass interference near the line and then, in a separate action, the defender might also be flagged for pass interference when the ball is in the air.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 1 • 10:02 pm EDT


Flag confusion on 2-point try

Giants at Buccaneers. On a 2-point conversion, Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. catches a pass only after he goes out of bounds. Although the covering officials wave it off as “no good,” technically this has to be ruled good until the penalties are sorted out. Penalties? Yes, there was more than one.

In this case it didn’t matter, because the second foul was offensive holding. Beckham’s penalty was for illegally touching a pass, since he was ineligible for going out of bounds.

There was a question as to whether Beckham was illegally contacted, putting Beckham out of bounds, however the contact was not flagged. Beckham’s route was to thread the end line in the first place, and his defender apparently was able to read that, because he was positioned where Beckham intended to make the turn. Beckham did turn in, but a defensive back is entitled to his space. Thus he can do collision avoidance, but not shove the receiver. The receiver’s right to his route does not override the defender’s right to occupy a space on the field.

After some deliberation, the holding foul was declined and the illegal touch stands. Since the illegal touch is now a loss of down, the conversion attempt automatically fails.

If Beckham remained out of bounds or had not reestablished in bounds, then the holding foul can be declined, as the result of the play is an incomplete pass. In neither case can yardage be assessed on the kickoff.

The only time that the Giants would get a retry at the conversion attempt is if the Buccaneers also committed an offsetting foul.


Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 1 • 7:19 pm EDT


After further review, touchdown

Chargers at Eagles (video). Back judge Jim Quirk waves off a Hunter Henry catch in the back of the end zone. Replay shows Henry making a great, one-handed touchdown catch. A proper reversal.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 1 • 6:51 pm EDT


Taunting foul sets up GW-OT-FG

Jaguars at Jets. The Jaguars and Jets spent most of their 10-minute overtime session trading punts. On a Jaguars punt, returner Jeremy Kerley scooted out of bounds as Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny was blocked. While it looked like it might be a late hit, this was not roughness nor was it an exceptionally late block. (Rule is different as it applies to the ball carrier.)

Posluszny was flagged for getting up and standing over Kerley out of bounds, which is a clear taunting foul. Instead of starting at the Jacksonville 40, the Jets started the drive at the 25, and kicked the game-winning field goal 4 plays later.

Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 1 • 6:41 pm EDT


Frustration leads to a flag

Raiders at Broncos (video). The Raiders try a fake punt, but punter Marquette King is brought down short of the first down. In frustration, or maybe upset at at the Broncos’ celebration, King throws the ball at a Broncos player.

Referee John Parry flags King for unsportsmanlike conduct. King has one foot out the door, as that unsportsmanlike foul is the first of two that counts towards an ejection. So, King must behave for the rest of the game.

Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 1 • 6:13 pm EDT


Officials not surprised by fake punt

Jaguars at Jets (video). Gene Steratore’s crew on top of a fake punt. Many times the head coach alerts the officiating crew about any special plays during a pregame meeting. The coach does this to prevent the officials from being surprised and possibly blowing an inadvertent whistle. Coaches also want to make sure their trick play is actually legal.

Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 1 • 6:06 pm EDT


Good back judge mechanics

Chargers at Eagles (video). Back judge Jim Quirk does good work keeping the this deep touchdown pass down the middle boxed in.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 1 • 5:55 pm EDT


Tandem call at the pylon

Rams at Cowboys (video). Field judge Joe Larrew holds his touchdown signal as he points to line judge Dana McKenzie to confirm that his feet remained in bounds and the ball stayed inside or was over the pylon.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 1 • 5:46 pm EDT


Incomplete or fumble-return TD?

Bills at Falcons (video). Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws the ball forward, and a call has to be made: is it an incomplete pass or a fumble. Officials rule it a fumble, and the Bills return the ball for a touchdown.

In review, the angle from behind Ryan seems to demonstrate he had complete control of the ball. If control is lost prior to the hand going forward, it is a fumble. Replay apparently punted on the call, because the ruling from New York was “stands.” Without a visible obstruction or a bad angle, it is very hard to figure why “stands” would even be an option here. It seems more and more likely that such a call is being made when it is “close,” which does not align with the purpose of replay, which by design reviews close calls.

Back to the call, when Ryan is contacted by the defense, he maintains a grip on the ball, as the laces do not move in relation to his fingers. While the ball changes the direction of its axis, a firm grip is evident as the ball is going forward. The only appropriate call appears to be a reversal to incomplete.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 1 • 3:12 pm EDT


Runner gets up to score touchdown

Jaguars at Jets (video). Jets running back Bilal Powell trips after going through a hole on the line. Powell then picks himself up and runs for a 75-yard touchdown. He was ruled to have tripped without touching or being touched by a Jaguars player. In replay, there was no conclusive touch of Powell, so the touchdown stood.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 1 • 9:10 am EDT


Today’s officials

Week 4 referee assignments

2017 officiating crews


  • U64 Dan Ferrell* to Cheffers’ crew (PHI-LAC)
  • U129 Bill Schuster* to Torbert’s crew (CIN-CLE)
  • DJ37 Jim Howey* to Steratore’s crew (JAX-NYJ)
  • LJ68 Tom Stephan* to Triplette’s crew (TEN-HOU)
  • FJ15 Rick Patterson* to Anderson’s crew (PIT-BAL)

*Swing officials that are assigned to different crews each week


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