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Quick calls: Week 8

Liveblog coverage of the calls and rules interpretations in Week 8.



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


Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 29 • 7:46 pm EST


Triplette crew handles muff and scrum

Vikings and Browns in London (video). The Brown muff a punt and the Vikings recover. Nice job by the Triplette crew to keep a lid on things.

Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 29 • 7:31 pm EST


Teamwork gets the call right

Raiders at Bills (video). Nice job by line judge Rusty Baynes and field judge Dale Shaw to get together and properly rule on this tight sideline catch.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 29 • 7:07 pm EST


Teamwork toes the line in TD call

Raiders at Bills (video). Down judge Greg Bradley and side judge Alex Kemp exhibit the extreme concentration necessary for these catch calls at the sideline.

Bradley is watching the catch, and as the video rolls, his concentration turns to Bills receiver Andre Holmes as he lands out of bounds to confirm the completion of the catch process.

Kemp is watching for the feet and that the deftly executed toe drag is in bounds. Holmes executes a picture perfect touchdown for both receiver and the officials.

Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 29 • 7:00 pm EST


FG block and big return

Cowboys at Washington (video). The Cowboys block a field goal and Orlando Scandrick scoops it up and runs 86 yards. First of all, nice job by duel umpires Carl Paganelli and Laird Hayes to get and stay out of the way. Second, nice job by line judge Jerod Phillips in keeping pace down the sideline.


Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 29 • 6:54 pm EST


No advancing a muff

Colts at Bengals (video). The Bengals muff a punt, and the Colts recover. Back judge Tony Steratore properly rules that the Colts cannot advance a recovered muff, but are awarded possession at the spot of recovery. 


Mark Schultz
Sun Oct 29 • 6:37 pm EST


Rare spill for McAulay

Texans at Seahawks (video). Referee Terry McAulay takes a spill on this pick six. A Texans’ player bumps him from the side, and McAulay, running full speed, loses balance and goes down hard.

Reverse mechanics are always a dangerous time for the referee and umpire, and usually the time when they get knocked down.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 29 • 5:28 pm EST


Delay of game … on the kickoff?

Raiders at Bills. The Bills were late assembling for their kickoff, and draw a rare delay of game foul. How rare is this? It was called on the Jaguars last season, and not since 2005 prior to that.

Under the new rules to speed up games, if there is no television timeout, the 40-second clock runs as soon as the extra-point attempt is finished. After that runs, the play clock resets to 25. The back judge then hands the kicking ball to the kicker and winds the play clock. The kicker must wait for the referee’s signal (who is under the goal posts), and generally comes with 10 seconds on the play clock. If there is anything that causes the referee’s signal to be delayed, the officials will mentally add time rather than reset the play clock. In this case, they determined the Bills should have gotten off the kick without an allowance 

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 29 • 4:35 pm EST


Lost footing for OPI

Raiders at Bills (video). With the East Coast under what is being called a “meteorological bomb,” footing has been tricky in the torrential rains. Unfortunately, the weather seems to be at the root of an offensive pass interference call, as a defender falls and the receiver is blamed.


Ben Austro
Sun Oct 29 • 3:57 pm EST


Inexplicable touchdown reversal

Bears at Saints (video). Zach Miller scores a touchdown for the Bears on a third-quarter catch. This should be the end of this entry, but I am compelled to explain further, despite the fact that I cannot.

As Miller caught the ball, he was injured and rolled over with the ball and dropped it. When reviewed by the centralized replay, referee Carl Cheffers was also compelled to explain why they were taking away the touchdown. I don’t know what he was thinking, but I have to think he had to explain the unexplainable.

Miller completed the catch process by rolling over — “survived the ground” in replay parlance. Although Miller struggles to secure the ball as he goes to the ground, which can extend the catch process, once he has demonstrable control of the ball on the ground for an element of time, the play is over.

To rule otherwise warps the time element to a degree that it was never intended, and gives the impression that the catch process is a moving goalpost. While there may be confusion from fans in general over the catch rules, there are very few calls in contention. For officials and those well-versed in the rules, there is much less — maybe 1 catch every 2 years that has broad disagreement. This season, however, has had many of these head-scratching calls in replay, which is really undermining confidence in the system.

Referee Carl Cheffers spoke to a pool reporter after the game:

Q: On Zach Miller’s overturned touchdown, what exactly did you see or what did New York [centralized replay center] see to reverse the call?

Cheffers: Obviously we are all familiar with the process of the catch at this point. So we ruled that he was going to the ground as part of the process of the catch. So when he goes to the round, he has to survive the ground, therefore it’s incomplete. The ball hit the ground out of his control. So as part of the process of the catch, he did not complete that process. And therefore it was incomplete, and they overturned the call on the field.

Q: Was it a cut-and-dry call basically?

Cheffers: The are always close, but that process has been in place for some time now. So, that is what we ended up ruling.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 29 • 3:26 pm EST


Win the battle, lose the war

Colts at Bengals (video). A boundary call was under review with an unusual result. The call on the field was that Bengals receiver Brandon LaFell ran out of bounds, and lost the ball after being out. Colts cornerback Pierre Desir caught the ball from LaFell, and the Colts challenged the fact that they had a clear recovery of a fumble.

In replay, it was determined LaFell did fumble the ball, but Desir’s recovery was with his second foot on the boundary line. Therefore, there is no recovery by the Colts, so conventionally, this is a lost challenge. However, an unusual quirk in the replay rules, the Colts actually win the challenge.

Since a fumble out of bounds is a reviewable element, replay changed the original call from “no fumble” to “fumble out of bounds.” In order to win a coach’s challenge, the ruling on the field must change, whether it is an aspect germane to the coach’s challenge or even if it works out to a team’s supposed benefit. The call changes to forward fumble out of bounds, so the challenge is successful.

Additionally, this is also odd in that there was no net change in field position. A forward fumble out of bounds (no matter what time of the game it occurs) reverts back to the fumble spot. Desir makes the ball out of bounds at the 33, but it goes back to the 31, the spot of the fumble. The only impact is that the clock runs and that the Colts aren’t charged with a timeout. Although the spot is the same, an incomplete pass could also be reversed to the quarterback stepping out of bounds, and that is also a changed call.

This seems counterintuitive on its face, but to write exceptions into the rule that a team must benefit or change the spot would introduce more complexities into the rule. It took long enough for the discussion to decide that there was a successful challenge as it was.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 29 • 2:12 pm EST


Retreating to safety

Chargers at Patriots (video). A muffed punt by Travis Benjamin is recovered at the 8, who then retreats to his own end zone. There was a conversation between side judge Boris Cheek and back judge Greg Steed, while announcer Dan Fouts says this is “clearly a safety.” To his credit, Fouts explained later what was under discussion.

There has to be a ruling of forward progress at the goal line. Benjamin was retreating, so he is getting “negative forward progress” in the process. When he is contacted and pushed back, that is the forward progress spot. Since Benjamin’s run put the ball into the end zone, if the forward progress spot has any part of the ball in the end zone, it is a safety.

Our partner site Quirky Research says this is the first time since 2003 where a safety was scored on a punt return.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 29 • 1:48 pm EST


Tight call on the plane of the goal

Falcons at Jets (video). Field judge Steve Zimmer has to make this call in real time without slow-motion replay. Is it a touchdown?

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 29 • 12:52 pm EST


A robust penalty call

Vikings vs. Browns, London (video). Jeff Triplette with a little extra flourish on his roughing-the-passer penalty call.

Ben Austro
Sun Oct 29 • 10:10 am EST


Today’s officials

Week 8 referee assignments

2017 officiating crews


  • U64 Dan Ferrell* to Wrolstad’s crew (ATL-NYJ)
  • U129 Bill Schuster* to Boger’s crew (IND-CIN)
  • DJ37 Jim Howey* to Hochuli’s crew (OAK-BUF)
  • LJ68 Tom Stephan* to Blakeman’s crew (SF-PHI)

*Swing officials that are assigned to different crews each week

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