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Quick calls: Week 14

Liveblog coverage of the calls and rules interpretations in Week 14.



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 Dec 10 • 9:52 pm EST


Disputed leverage

Eagles at Rams (video). Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald was flagged for a leverage foul (after originally being misidentified by the crew). Although there is a weird switcho-chango between umpire Barry Anderson and side judge Boris Cheek prior to the kick, both officials threw a flag for the leverage call. Former head of officiating Mike Pereira popped into the broadcast to say he didn’t see it.

The leverage foul is, according to Rule 12-3-1(p):

Placing a hand or hands on a teammate or opponent to gain additional height to block or attempt to block an opponent’s kick.

Now, Donald did not gain much height, to be sure. But because he could not gain elevation and flopped like a greasy diner pancake doesn’t necessarily mean he gets off the hook. If this was a circumstance where the offensive lineman lost his footing and Donald was able to go partially over the lineman, then maybe the flag is held. But there was definitely a maneuver that places his hand on his opponent to go over the top in order to block the kick. And, no “time and situation” does not dictate that the officials hold that flag; that can never be a consideration. This has all the appearances of a foul.

But reasonable people can disagree, can’t they?

Ben Austro
Sun Dec 10 • 8:35 pm EST


The friendliest taunting ever?

Eagles at Rams (video). Following an incomplete pass, Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson stands over Eagles receiver Alshon Jeffery, giving him a push and tapping his face mask on Jeffery’s. Officials separated the two and assessed a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct on Johnson.

But closer look at the video shows the two players are smiling, and are likely exchanging friendly barbs after the play. It seems as if this was not taunting, but the officials are in a position to keep players separated. Unfortunately, it looks like they may have misinterpreted the intent.

Cameron Filipe
Sun Dec 10 • 8:33 pm EST


Multiple ejections

Seahawks at Jaguars. In the waning seconds of the Seattle-Jacksonville bout, the Jaguars lined up to take a knee to end the game, but Seahawks’ defensive lineman Michael Bennett dove at Jaguars’ center Brandon Linder’s legs following the snap, inciting an altercation between the teams. This was the second fracas of the game: one occurred earlier in the fourth quarter following a kickoff return, but no flags were thrown (video). In this victory formation scuffle, Jaguars’ running back Leonard Fournette and Bennett were flagged for unnecessary roughness, and Seattle defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was ejected from the game for throwing a punch at Fournette. 

On the next play, the Jaguars attempted to take a knee again, Seahawks’ lineman Quinton Jefferson was then flagged for unnecessary roughness after the play, and he was ejected, as well. Seattle head coach Pete Carroll was also penalized for running onto the field during the fight. Even though this proved to be the second-to-last play of the game, Carroll could have been ejected if he committed another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, under the new rules of multiple unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. 

While being escorted off the field, Jefferson was nearly hit by a flying beer thrown by a Jacksonville fan, and nearly climbed over the wall to confront him. Credit goes to the security staff at EverBank Field for keeping a potentially severely dangerous situation under control.

They are the 16th and 17th ejections of the year.

Mark Schultz
Sun Dec 10 • 7:49 pm EST


Concentration makes great catches and great calls

Eagles at Rams (video). Alshon Jeffrey concentrates and makes a great catch just off the turf. Back Judge Lee Dyer on the call.

Mark Schultz
Sun Dec 10 • 7:43 pm EST


Interception, no safety

Seahawks at Jaguars (video). Jalen Ramsey makes a great interception, runs a few steps in the endzone and steps on the end line for a touchback. This is perfectly legal as the offense put the ball in the endzone. Dino Paganelli watches the action.

Ben Austro
Sun Dec 10 • 6:21 pm EST


Risky play at the pylon

Titans at Cardinals (video). Running back Derrick Henry has a play at the pylon for a Titans touchdown, but goes under review. If Henry loses the ball prior to breaking the plane of the goal, this is a touchback, not a touchdown. Ball security at the goal lines is paramount under this this rule — lately making the social-media rounds as being too harsh — but this has only become newsworthy as more players push harder to convert these plays.

The touchdown was upheld under review (call stands).

Mark Schultz
Sun Dec 10 • 6:07 pm EST


Punter sticks the landing

Colts at Bills (video). This Colts punt sticks in the snow inside the five yard line. Side judge Tom Hill and back judge Shawn Hochuli make the call.

While not a difficult play, the miserable weather can throw in some crazy variables and make the ball and players do crazy things. The officials have to be ready for anything in unusual conditions.

Mark Schultz
Sun Dec 10 • 6:01 pm EST


Julian Mapp earns his paycheck on the goal line

Eagles at Rams (video). Cooper Kupp reaches to the pylon and just breaks the goal line plane while staying in bounds. 

Line judge Julian Mapp makes this excellent call.

Mark Schultz
Sun Dec 10 • 5:50 pm EST


Bomb in Freeman’s lap

Redskins at Chargers (video). Philip Rivers launches a 75-yard touchdown bomb to Tyrell Williams. The play came right at back judge Steve Freeman. Freeman first had to make sure he got out of the way, and then officiate the rest of the play. 

Each officiating position has its dangers and officials have different moves to get out of the way.


Ben Austro
Sun Dec 10 • 5:28 pm EST


Colts get bench warning for snow clearing

Colts at Bills (video). Following the negated 2-point conversion, the Colts went to attempt a 1-pointer en route to Snovertime, and were clearing the snow for kicker Adam Vinatieri. The Colts called timeout, which gave the team some more time to get the area cleared.

A slight problem arose when the water attendants came onto the field and reflexively started helping the players clear the snow with their feet. Referee Brad Allen then shoos away the attendants, and goes to the Colts sideline to issue a warning. Attendants are allowed on the field to perform the function that they are assigned to only. (In yesterday’s Army-Navy Game, this was allowed, but these restrictions do not apply in college football.)

As noted in the grounds crew procedures noted below, they are sensitive to a team gaining an advantage in the snow from an outside source. The historical case was a Dec. 12, 1982, game when the Patriots, playing the Dolphins, cleared a field-goal placement spot with a plow during a timeout. The restrictive procedures grew out of that in the next offseason.

Their contribution to clearing the field was negligible before they were stopped. By warning the Colts, it is possible for Allen to handle a future infraction as a palpably unfair act: either a 15-yard penalty or the ability to issue any equitable ruling after consulting the crew.

Mark Schultz
Sun Dec 10 • 5:26 pm EST


OPI wipes out potential game-winning 2-pt. conversion

Colts at Bills (video). The Colts score a late, game-winning two-point conversion, but it is called back as Kamar Aiken is flagged for offensive pass interference. 

There can be contact within one yard of the line of scrimmage. The contact happened right near the goal line. It was very close, but this looks like a good and gutsy call. 

The Colts had to settle for a extra point kick and go to overtime, which the Bills won.

While we didn’t see a flag, I believe the deep wing on the near side threw the flag. 

Rich Madrid
Sun Dec 10 • 5:01 pm EST


Unsportsmanlike conduct

Seahawks at Jaguars. Seahawks offensive lineman Germain Ifedi was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Gene Steratore announced it as “taunting” but it cannot technically be taunting since there is no language that defines taunting directed at an official but there was definitely something unsportsmanlike said to the official. Taunting directed at the refs suggests the refs would have lost all impartiality. One more unsportsmanlike penalty on Ifedi would result in an ejection from the game.

Mark Schultz
Sun Dec 10 • 4:30 pm EST


Toe tapper overturn

49ers at Texans (video). Jimmy Buchanan and Ron Marinucci initially rule DeAndre Hopkins out of bounds, but John Hussey and the centralized replay center overturn it to a catch.

Rich Madrid
Sun Dec 10 • 4:25 pm EST


Runner gave himself up.

49ers at Texans. Texans wide receiver DeAndrew White dove for a pass and was never contacted down, had the ball punched out when he stood up and recovered by the 49ers. The officials ruled that he had given himself up and therefore blew the play dead immediately, negating a fumble recovery, since White never made an attempt to keep the play going. More on that rule covered in our weekly officiating video review.

Mark Schultz
Sun Dec 10 • 4:16 pm EST


Tight turnover on the sideline

Bears at Bengals (video). Eddie Jackson ripped the ball away from A.J. Green along the sideline. The play was blown dead, but instant replay allows a defensive recovery if “continuing action” takes place. Referee John Parry and the NFL officiating office properly awarded the ball to the Bears.

Mark Schultz
Sun Dec 10 • 4:07 pm EST


Fumble in the snow

Colts at Bills (video). Nice job by back judge Shawn Hochuli, ankle deep in snow, to rule on this fumble.

Mark Schultz
Sun Dec 10 • 3:57 pm EST


Fighting the elements in Buffalo

Colts at Bills (video). You can see how the players, officials and the ground crew try to keep the field playable during time outs. And to add to the fun, the game has gone to overtime!

Ben Austro
Sun Dec 10 • 3:26 pm EST


Is this okay?

49ers at Texans (video). Texans quarterback Tom Savage hit his head on the turf, exhibiting potential concussion symptoms. It was a third-down incomplete pass and Savage immediately left the game under his own power. 

Savage quickly returned to the game on the next series, apparently getting a clean bill of health under the concussion evaluation on the sideline, if any. Later, Savage was withdrawn from the game, spitting blood and exhibiting slow reactions. An assistant kept Savage from entering the field.

Situations such as this, coupled with a smaller pool of players at the youth level, make it clear that the game 15 to 20 years from now may be drastically different than it is today.

Rich Madrid
Sun Dec 10 • 3:05 pm EST


Roughing the passer.

49ers at Texans. Texans linebacker Bernadrick McKinney was flagged for roughing the passer after he hit 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the head after he threw a pass. Helmet to helmet contact is considered forcible contact to the head or neck area, even without the 1-step rule. 

Ben Austro
Sun Dec 10 • 2:51 pm EST


Bobble reverses a Vikings TD

Vikings at Panthers (video). Vikings receiver Adam Thielen has a touchdown catch near the end of the second quarter. In replay, it was taken away.

Thielen gets two feet down in bounds in the end zone, but since he is going to the ground, he must “survive the ground” with control of the ball. When Thielen’s elbow contacts the ground, he loses control of the ball and bobbles it. If he remains in bounds and secures the ball, this would be a complete pass. However, he is beyond the end line when he re-secures the ball, making it an incomplete pass.

Ben Austro
Sun Dec 10 • 2:12 pm EST


Catch me if you can

Vikings at Panthers (video). Running back Jonathan Stewart cranks out a 60-yard touchdown run for the Panthers and stops at the goal line to face back at the distant pursuers. He then falls back into the end zone. This is not considered a taunting foul in the NFL. If Stewart pointed or made some unsportsmanlike gesture towards the Vikings, then it would have been a foul.

Live-ball taunting is enforced as if it is a dead-ball foul. It does not negate a score, so even if there was an action that caused a foul, the touchdown would stand.

Additionally, Stewart does break the plane of the goal prior to falling into the end zone.

Cameron Filipe
Sun Dec 10 • 2:02 pm EST


Catch/no catch plus a defenseless receiver?

Lions at Buccaneers. Tampa Bay tight end O.J. Howard went up to make a catch, and right as he turned upfield, he was contacted by Lions defensive back Quandre Diggs, causing the ball to pop free. The Lions picked up the ball and started to return it. Side judge Alex Kemp threw a flag on Diggs for an illegal hit on a defenseless player, and the pass was ruled incomplete.

The play went to review in which it was determined that Howard maintained the catch, had the ball long enough to become a runner, and then subsequently fumbled the ball. However, this wiped out the hit on a defenseless player foul because once Howard completed the process of the catch, he became a runner and was no longer defenseless. Therefore, the hit was legal, and the Lions kept the ball after the fumble and recovery.

Ben Austro
Sun Dec 10 • 1:38 pm EST


Juuuust a bit outside

Colts at Bills. Visibility is certainly a factor in this game, even at the line of scrimmage. Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin is lined up so far offside, he is completely beyond the neutral zone. The game clock ran out in the quarter before the snap, saving the Bills from a 5-yard penalty.

Ben Austro
Sun Dec 10 • 1:05 pm EST


Snow Bowl in Buffalo

Colts at Bills. In a city where snowfall accumulations are a matter of civic pride, Brad Allen and his crew will be officiating a game in a winter wonderland. There are special procedures in play for games like this:

  • The grounds crew cannot clear yard stripes in front of the offense; they may only clear the 5-yard stripes and hash marks behind the offense between plays
  • The crew must not clear directly behind the offense in field-goal range
  • The referee may stop the game at any time to have the goal line cleared if it is not visible, even if it is in front of the offense
  • The surface of the snow on the field is the new ground for the purposes of down by contact and pass catches

Buffalo Bills photo

Ben Austro
Sun Dec 3 • 1:08 pm EST


Today’s officials

Week 14 referee assignments

2017 officiating crews

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