Keep checking here for rolling coverage throughout the day on Sunday. If you see anything confusing, unusual, or controversial, please let us know.
Surprise onside kick waved off
Rams at Titans. The Titans’ surprise onside kick is discussed further in its own post.
Jameis Winston snaps at officials
Buccaneers at Panthers (video 1 | video 2). In the final minute of the game, the Buccaneers were attempting to at least tie the game, down 3. On the first play of that series, quarterback Jameis Winston was sacked and he fumbled the ball, turning the ball over to the Panthers. Something in that play got Winston upset at the officials, and he drew an unsportsmanlike conduct foul for a confrontation with an official, requiring him to be restrained by teammates.
The first video clip was apparently edited to cover Winston’s explosive outrage while on the bench, which can be seen in the second video clip. Winston charged the field upon hearing the unsportsmanlike foul being announced, pushing past some executive who could not outmaneuver the scrambling Winston, who eventually stopped when he realized it was futile.
Had Winston confronted the officials again, he would have been ejected under the two-step ejection rule, although only missing a kneeldown. Unless we have missed another occurrence, it would have been the first time a quarterback was ejected since Trent Dilfer on Dec. 3, 1995
Blocked extra point
Jaguars at 49ers. Jaguars blocked an extra point after a 49ers defensive touchdown and returned it all the way for a score. In the event of a touchdown on a blocked kick on a point after try, the defense is awarded is 2 points. This is the 6th ever time the defense has scored on a 2-point conversion since the rule was changed in 2015, and the 5th time it was off a blocked kick.
Muffed snap is not a fumble.
Buccaneers at Panthers (Video). With just over 30 seconds left in the game and the Panthers driving for the winning touchdown, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton mishandled the snap before picking the ball up himself and running in for a touchdown. After the two minute warning in either half and on fourth downs throughout the game there are special fumble rules that allow only the fumbling player to advance a fumble. However the snap is considered a backwards pass, and when a backwards pass is dropped it is technically not a fumble. Newton muffed the snap so any player could have picked up the ball and advanced it. Though the officials judged that it was a muffed snap (this is clear because there were no bean bags thrown), that judgement was rendered moot because Newton was the player who picked the ball up.
Read, pause, make the call
Rams at Titans (video). Cooper Kupp makes a great catch, making for a great call frim side judge Laird Hayes.
While not on the video highlight, the announcer said the official (Hayes) “hesitated” before making the call. That is exactly what officials are taught to do. See the play, quickly replay it in your mind, then make the call.
Any mention that Hayes “hesitated” means was doing his job.
Inexplicable reversal of Bills TD
Bills at Patriots (video). The Bills have a sure touchdown until it goes through the replay meat grinder. It does not come out the other side as a touchdown. Referee Craig Wrolstad did not elaborate on the specifics of the reversal, just that it was incomplete.
The only plausible explanation was that Bills receiver Kelvin Benjamin was ruled to be still securing the pass initially, continuing past the point when his foot dragged in the end zone. The toe drag is clearly evident, based on the “rooster tail” of turf pebbles that are kicked up.
In all, there was an excellent call made on the field in real time, a call that a cursory glance at replay backs up. Unfortunately, someone in the officiating command center has re-officiated the play and overturned that call, when the furthest replay could have taken the call was “stands.” It is another in a long series of questionable calls in replay that will be subject to scrutiny by the league in the offseason.
Update: Senior VP of officiating Al Riveron explains the call was made as we guessed above. It is a very fine and technical decision made in replay, and one of the calls that will be at the top of the list in the postseason review by the Competition Committee.
Late hit wipes out safety
Buccaneers at Panthers.With just over 7 minutes to go in the fourth quarter the Buccaneers ran a third down play near their own endzone. During the play, a Bucs offensive lineman was called for holding in the endzone which would normally be a safety. However, Panthers defensive lineman Star Lotuleilei was called for a late hit. The late hit was in the immediate continuing action of the play so in the NFL these combine to offset even though it is a live ball/dead ball situation. The fouls were correctly administered and the down was replayed.
â€˜Butt catch’ call of the day
Falcons at Saints (video). Back judge Greg Steed with the call of the day on the play of the day. There’s a tip drill in the secondary. The pass lands on a prone Marshon Lattimore’s posterior. While laying on the ground, he reaches behind him and controls the ball.
Greg Steed let the play finish and made a great call.
Titans awarded third challenge
Rams at Titans. As quarterback Jared Goff was tackled in the red zone, he was ruled down by contact and the ball was spotted at the 12 yard line (which was the line to gain). A measurement showed the ball just past the stake, but before the Rams took advantage of this first down, the Titans challenged the spot. Replay was able to use the hash marks as a visual reference to move the ball back half of a yard. The challenge was therefore won by the Titans; and since it was their second successful challenge, they were awarded a third, as announced by referee Walt Anderson.
Fumble into the end zone, defense tackled
Browns at Bears (video). The Browns running back is headed to the end zone, but is hit inside the five-yard line and fumbles into the end zone. The Bears Prince Amukamara recovers the fumble in the end zone and runs almost the length of the end zone before being tackled.
Why is this not a safety?
By rule, the Browns put the ball in the end zone because of their fumble. The Bears can try to run the ball out of the end zone without a fear of a safety.
The Ed Hochuli crew shares its holiday card with the TV audience.
Withdrawn for foreign substance
Chargers at Jets (video). Jets offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum was escorted to the sidelines by referee Clete Blakeman during the first series of the game. A trainer is seen wiping a towel on Beachum’s arms, which has all the indications that a foreign substance was detected by the officiating crew or a defensive player complained.
What is likely the case is that Beachum, who is wearing short sleeves in the mid-40s New Jersey air, has petroleum jelly or cocoa butter on his arms, which is typically done to seal out the air in much colder weather. Either is not an illegal substance on its own, but apparently Beachum had copious amounts of it on him. Any substance which causes a defender to slip a block or an offensive player to improve his grip must be removed.
This is not a foul, but Beachum is considered a “suspended player,” the in-game context of the term just means a nonejected player who has to leave the game for an equipment violation or other reason. Beachum is allowed to return to the game when an official is satisfied that the issue has been corrected; in any event, he must be withdrawn from the game for at least one play.
Browns at Bears. The Bears are going nowhere. The Browns have been eliminated from the playoffs since Week 8. It’s snowing at a half full Soldier Field.
Yet for the officials, this games means as much as a divisional championship. Even though both teams would rather not play today, Terry McAulay’s crew is being graded and post season assignments are on the line.
Broken system of a down
Vikings at Packers, Sat. (video). Late in the second quarter, the Vikings were facing a 3rd & 1, but at some point between downs, the primary chain crew advanced downfield. After an incomplete pass, referee Carl Cheffers announced that the incomplete pass was on third down, and that it was now fourth down. The Vikings were upset because the pass play was likely a first-down play selection.
After each play, the referee signals the upcoming down, which is the only official designation the down number. If it is a first down, the down judge confirms the referee’s first down signal and motions the chains to move. While Cheffers announced that the crew did not tell the chains to move, there is evidence that at least one official did.
In the brief clip we tweeted, the field judge is seen signalling the crew to move. The field judge is opposite the official chains and downfield. He is either making the erroneous call on his own or is mirroring another official’s signal. If there was confusion on the proper down before the snap, someone â€” anyone on the crew â€” must shut down the play. The officiating department also has instructed chain personnel to speak up if they see a discrepancy.