In the first quarter of their preseason opener, the Buccaneers threw open their playbooks to back section with all of the razzle-dazzle plays. However, they found one play that they can tear out of the book.
On an extra-point attempt the Buccaneers opened up with a spread formation and punter Bradley Pinion and kicker Ryan Succop were in the backfield as quarterback and running back. After the Bengals matched up in the unusual formation, the Buccaneers shifted to a standard kicking set. After some initial confusion from Adrian Hill’s officiating crew, they scrambled to their kick positions, and the Buccaneers kicked the extra point.
Problem is, no one on the field, including the officials, realized that an extra-point kick may not be executed from the 2-yard line unless it got there by penalty enforcement.
Despite all the fakery, the crew allowed the situation to get in front of them rather than running through all the possible steps. Instead, they just accepted the fake play at face value and field judge Mearl Robinson and back judge Keith Ferguson signaled the extra-point try was good, and the television coverage went to break with the 7-0 score on the screen.
Because a run/pass attempt from the 2 takes the goalposts completely out of play, the correct ruling is a touchback, which is a failed try. It is not a penalty to kick — hell, the Bucs could’ve legally punted if they wanted to. It was incumbent upon anyone on that crew — or failing that, the replay official — to get on the official-to-official communication headset and remind everyone that a kick cannot score. It is embarrassing to try to take back an erroneous signal for a score in any circumstance. At some point during the commercial break, Hill had to announce the point was coming off the board.
Isn’t the rule a bit obscure? Sure it is, but when the new snap locations took effect before the 2015 season, there were a whole host of what-ifs that every official worked on. Sometimes a little too much time may be spent on real obscurities, but this was clearly discussed during the 2015 clinics. We had a full post on all the ins and outs of the new rules, stepping out every scenario in excruciating detail (because, that’s just what we do).
A little bit of preventative officiating could have avoided this mess as well. With the kicker and holder on the field, Hill should have communicated to Pinion or Succop that they cannot kick from the 2. Since Hill was first calling out ineligible numbers reporting eligible first, he still had a chance to confirm with the Bucs prior to blowing the whistle. Once he has whistled the ball ready for play, the Bucs can only change their mind on the snap location if they call timeout.
The writers of the rules are not in the completely in the clear, because they did create some ambiguity. Rule 11-3-1:
The Try begins when the Referee sounds the whistle for play to start. The team that scored the touchdown shall put the ball in play:
(a) anywhere on or between the inbound lines;
(b) 15 yards from the defensive team’s goal line for a Try-kick; or
(c) two yards from the defensive team’s goal line for a Try by pass or run.
A one-point play may score two points if there is a blocked or botched kick attempt and the offense runs or passes for a score. But a two-point attempt may not score a 1-point kick either by a conventional kick or a drop kick. The rulebook and the casebook do not clearly spell this out, but our nonbinding post did:
If a team attempts a kick that does not snap from the 15 (or equivalent yard line after a penalty), it is a touchback, and the conversion attempt fails.
On the other hand, if the line of scrimmage is set for a kick, the offense may still run or pass for two points, particularly if there is a botched snap.
Just to make sure everyone is on the same page, it would be wise to circulate an addendum to the casebook to officials and teams that addresses this play.
And one final note pointed out by our friends at Quirky Research: this play was recorded in the gamebook as an aborted kick, but it statistically should be counted as a failed 2-point conversion, for those who care about preseason stats.