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Week 6

Quick calls: Week 6

Liveblog coverage of the calls and rules interpretations in Week 6.



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
Sun Oct 15 • 11:04 pm EDT


Perfectly pinned punt

Steelers at Chiefs (video). The Chiefs punt team was able to stop the ball inside the 1-yard line by grabbing the ball in the air over the goal line and throwing it back into the field of play to be downed. There is no possession, initially, since a player must have 2 feet down (or another body part) in order to establish possession.

On review, it appeared that there was the tiniest sliver of green between the player’s shoe and the goal line.

When punts are downed inside the 1, the ball goes to the 1-yard line. In this case, since multiple players touched the ball, the touch spot that most benefits the receiving team is taken.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 15 • 11:03 pm EDT


Garçon OPI at end of game

49ers at Washington (video). 49ers receiver Pierre Garçon is flagged for offensive pass interference on the final drive of the game. There is a question if Garçon could commit OPI as a targeted receiver, which is not anywhere near any exclusion contained in the rules.

Garçon is intending to run his route and puts his hands up to brace for contact. It is up to the receiver to go around an obstruction, and not attempt to play through it. The defensive back in this situation can put his hands up to brace for a collision. As it played out, it was Garçon who gained separation, so the pass interference call went against him.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 15 • 9:10 pm EDT


Kick catch interference

Giants at Broncos (video). The Giants are flagged for kick catch interference on a punt. There is no contact, but Michael Hunter of the Giants is reaching his hands out and could easily have fielded the ball. This is interference under the rules, because the receiver must have an unobstructed ability to make a catch. There is no 5-yard halo rule in the NFL — it is a judgment call if there is interference.

This is not the same as fair-catch interference: if there is a valid fair-catch signal, there may not be interference or contact. In that case, a fair catch is awarded.

Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 15 • 8:27 pm EDT


Umpire in the backfield helps on a pick six

Bears at Ravens (video). The Bears score a 90-yard pick six. The officials jump into reverse mechanics with the referee responsible for the goal line, traditionally. But now with the umpire in the backfield, the referee has help and on this play he needed it.

Ed Hochuli got caught in traffic on the interception return. If he had tried to dodge out of the way he was going to put himself in more danger. So he let the play go past him and left it up to umpire Shawn Smith to make it to the goal line.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 15 • 7:23 pm EDT


Live ball taunting

Lions at Saints (video). Jamal Agnew runs back a Saints punt, but before he reaches the end zone, he waves at his opponents. It is a live-ball taunting foul. By rule, all taunting fouls are assessed as dead-ball fouls, so the foul doesn’t erase the touchdown. The 15-yard foul is assessed on the kickoff.

Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 15 • 6:55 pm EDT


Concentration leads to the call of the day

Steelers at Chiefs (video). Back judge Jim Quirk, Jr., with an outstanding call in the endzone with six points on the line. Was it joint possession? An interception? Incomplete? Quirk let the play conclude before making a call. He concentrated and got himself into excellent position to call the play.

It’s calls like this that could lead to playoff assignments in January.

Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 15 • 6:50 pm EDT


Very late roughing the passer

Steelers at Chiefs (video). Alex Smith avoids a sack and gets up after a very late roughing the passer foul. Referee Carl Cheffers had the call and the Steelers defender might be a little lighter in the wallet this week, as they was a hard hit from behind on the legs.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 15 • 6:20 pm EDT


Get up and keep running

Bears at Ravens (video). Bobby Rainey returns a kick and is upended in a pile. Rainey gets up and runs in for a touchdown. Rainey never touched a defender when he leaped over a teammate. When getting up, he looks like he may be touched by a Bears player, but he is considered off the ground once he has only hands and feet on the ground. Replay did not find any evidence of defensive contact, so the kickoff return to the house stands.

Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 15 • 6:11 pm EDT


Wait for the umpire!

Steelers at Chiefs. Umpire Dan Ferrell, after a delay of game walk-off, was standing over the ball. When he got the signal from referee Carl Cheffers to move, the Steelers quick-snapped it, while Ferrell was backpedaling into position. 

Cheffers blew the play dead and announced that the “umpire was not in a safe position to officiate the play” and ordered the clock reset and a replay of the down. This is a warning on the first offense. If the Steelers try to quick-snap it again, it will be a foul.


Ben Austro
Sun Oct 15 • 4:09 pm EDT


Seemingly clear TD (and ball) taken away

Patriots at Jets. The touchdown reversal is now its own post with a pool reporter’s interview with referee Tony Corrente.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 15 • 3:57 pm EDT


Interception & process of the catch

Lions at Saints (video). The Saints commit their first turnover of the season on an interception that goes to replay review.

As Saints receiver Michael Thomas contacts the ground, which would put him down by contact, but since the catch process is not completed, we bank this until the receiver has completed. Thomas must maintain possession into the ground, and he struggles to maintain control as he makes contact. From that point, it is unclear if he re-secures possession of the ball. Had that been evident on the video, the catch would be awarded and down-by-contact, and we ignore the ball coming out. Without that clear evidence, the loss of control and subsequent control by the defense rulings make the interception call stand.

Rich Madrid
Sun Oct 15 • 3:34 pm EDT


Fumble recovery and return 

49ers at Redskins. (video) Redskins tight end Vernon Davis appeared to fumble the ball and it was recovered and returned for a touchdown. Review showed no clear and convincing evidence to overturn the fumble but did show that the returner stepped out of bounds. Fumble call was upheld.

Patrick Weber
Sun Oct 15 • 3:18 pm EDT


Illegal blindside block

Packers at Vikings. (Video) Late in the second half, Vikings receiver Laquon Treadwell was penalized for an illegal blindside block against Packers defensive back Lenzy Pipkins. Pipkins is in pursuit of the ball carrier, and because Treadwell came from the blindside Pipkins gets defenseless player protection. Treadwell makes a hit where the initial contact appears to be with the defender’s helmet with the force of the blow being delivered to the high shoulder or neck area. It is a borderline illegal hit, but Treadwell had time to deliver a better block and chose to go high. When in doubt on safety fouls, officials are instructed to throw a flag. 

Combined with the face mask foul on the previous play, the Vikings faced an unusual 1st and 40.


Patrick Weber
Sun Oct 15 • 2:47 pm EDT


Dez Bryant play goes against Packers

Packers at Vikings. Late in the second quarter, Packers running back Ty Montgomery appeared to catch a pass for a touchdown. Upon review, it was overturned to an incomplete pass. Montgomery was going to the ground prior to getting possession, two feet down, and having time to become a runner so he is required to maintain control through the ground to complete the catch process. The ball came loose and hit the ground when he stretched toward the goal line, so the overturn is the correct call.

Rich Madrid
Sun Oct 15 • 2:36 pm EDT


Unsportsmanlike conduct

49ers at Redskins. Redskins defender DJ Swearinger took a swipe at 49ers receiver Pierre Garcon after the play was over and received his first unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Players are allowed only 2 before they are ejected from the game. That’s his first. 

Patrick Weber
Sun Oct 15 • 2:15 pm EDT


Linemen not downfield

Packers at Vikings (video). Early in the second quarter, Vikings quarterback Case Keenum threw a screen pass to Jerick McKinnon that went for a touchdown. When Mckinnon caught the ball there appeared to be offensive linemen a few yards downfield. However, they were at the line of scrimmage at the time Keenum released the ball, and did not block until after the ball was caught, so there is no infraction for ineligible players downfield.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 15 • 2:10 pm EDT


Hit to Aaron Rodgers

Packers at Vikings (video). Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had to leave the game early in the first quarter after taking a hit from Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr. There was no flag thrown on the play.

A quarterback is protected under the one-step rule, which prohibits defensive contact on the quarterback after one step. The defender may not “play through” a quarterback or intentionally land on him, either. However, when the quarterback is rolling out, the one-step protection is lost. As for the play-through aspect, the distinction is that it must be an intentional act to unnecessarily drive the quarterback to the ground or land on him. Therefore, the referee will favor the defender if the contact is what is normally part of a conventional tackle by two players at full speed and absent any deliberate act to “stuff” the quarterback.

In addition, Rodgers is protected by the standard unnecessary roughness calls afforded to any runner. He is also considered in a defenseless posture upon releasing the pass, but that protection is only for forcible blows to the head or neck area, which do not apply here.

Rich Madrid
Sun Oct 15 • 1:44 pm EDT


Incomplete pass vs fumble and touchdown

49ers at Redskins. 49ers Quarterback Brian Hoyer was hit and appeared to fumble. The Redskins recovered the ball and returned it for a touchdown. Review of the scoring play revealed that Hoyer’s hand was going foward before he was contacted by the defender. The play was reversed to an incomplete pass.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 15 • 1:24 pm EDT


3 fouls, 1 enforced.

Bears at Ravens. Referee Ed Hochuli’s crew was faced with 3 fouls on the same play.

  • Illegal shift on the Bears
  • 12 men on the field on the Ravens
  • Roughing the passer on the Ravens

This is a 5 vs. 15 enforcement: one team has committed a 15-yard foul, and the other has committed a simple-5. A simple-5 is 5 yards without any additional component (loss of down, automatic first down, 10-second runoff). In this case, the down doesn’t count, and the 15-yarder is enforced from the previous spot. All of the other fouls are superseded by the 15.

Neither the illegal shift nor the defensive 12 men shut down the play. If there was a false start or the 12th man was in the defensive formation prior to the snap, then the play would be whistled dead.

As for whether there was a roughing call or not, the hit by linebacker Za’Darius Smith was a lunge to the quarterback’s knee area. Smith had enough control to make the lunge that it wasn’t a result of any offensive contact.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 15 • 1:11 pm EDT


Diving for the end zone

Eagles at Panthers (Thurs., video). Quarterback Cam Newton showed his Superman moves by diving for the end zone, but was ruled short of a Panthers touchdown. The play was challenged by the Panthers.

At the point of breaking the plane of goal, an airborne runner must have ball inside, over, or into the pylon. That aspect was inconclusive on replay review, so the call of being short of the goal line stood.

The reason this rule exists, is that a player could dive out of bounds at the 5-yard line and break the plane in the air somewhere near where the photographers are positioned.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 15 • 12:44 pm EDT


Today’s officials

Week 6 referee assignments

2017 officiating crews


  • FJ15 Rick Patterson* to Vinovich’s crew (NYG-DEN/night)

*Swing officials that are assigned to different crews each week

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