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Week 9, 2023

Week 9 officiating liveblog

Football Zebras is covering the officials and rules interpretations for Week 9 in the NFL with live updates.



Football Zebras is covering the officials and rules interpretations for Week 9 of the 2023 regular season.

If you see anything confusing or unusual please let us know.

Contact with a player on the ground

Buccaneers quarterback Baker Mayfield trips and gets up to stumble to the line of scrimmage where he is hit. This is a foul for unnecessary roughness, which has nothing to do with his status as a quarterback. Any ball carrier that is prone on the ground is not subject to forcible contact. Those that point out that the defender is engaged in the tackling motion, we can’t disregard the fact that he zeroed in on the contact rather than missing Mayfield entirely. So an adjustment was made.

Forward fumble rule and review in Texans-Buccaneers tilt

Several things to unpack in this forward fumble play. To prevent another “Holy Roller” play, rules state that in the last two minutes, only the fumbling player can recover and advance his own fumble. If another offensive player recovers the ball, the offense retains possession, but it is brought back to the spot of the fumble.

The fumble happened at the 14-yard line and was recovered at the six-yard line. The officials properly enforced the forward fumble rule and brought the ball back – but to the 10 and not the 14.

The replay official then buzzed in to determine if it was a catch and fumble or an incomplete pass. Replay determined that the officials got the catch-fumble call right, but adjusted the ball back to the 14-yard line.

The Buccaneers were forced to take a timeout to prevent a 10-second runoff.

This is not a reversal since the call on the field was upheld. If replay adjusts the spot, it does not count as a reversal unless the goal line or line to gain is impacted.

CORRECTION: This entry originally stated that there was not a potential for a 10-second runoff — and that the Bucs should not have to burn a timeout to avoid one — due to the fact that there is not a reversal. However, a casebook entry similar to this situation, however, indicates that the clock is reset to the dead-ball time and 10 seconds is run off the clock if neither team offsets the runoff with a timeout.

Offensive pass interference without the interference

We spotlighted side judge Eugene Hall for a tight offensive pass interference call in our Call of the Week in Week 7. This was not up to that standard.

Cardinals receiver Marquise Brown was flagged for a pick that never occurred.

We are going to put an asterisk on this in case there was contact by Rondale Moore, the receiver who caught the pass, that occurred off the screen and the wrong number was announced.

But if it was called on Brown, it is a phantom call that wipes out a 26-yard gain and takes it 10 yards back from there.

Break to the goal line on a fumble

The Saints force a fumble and turnover to basically end the game. Note umpire Barry Anderson on this play. He immediately starts retreating to the goal line to be there in case there is a scoop and score. Referee Ron Torbert remains with the play to help line judge Maia Chaka on possession.

Excellent mechanics as the crew keeps the play boxed in while defending the goal line.

K.J. Henry flagged for (not much) roughing the passer

Commanders defensive end K.J. Henry has a sack but is flagged for roughing the passer.

Referee Adrian Hill apparently has Henry lowering his body weight on the quarterback. It looks like Henry attempted to go over the top of Patriots quarterback Mac Jones. However, this maneuver puts this in Hill’s court to make a judgment call. Hill is looking for bracing by the defender to keep his weight off the quarterback and doesn’t see it. It is a clearer call if the defender pulls the quarterback to the side, because body weight doesn’t enter the equation.

There doesn’t appear to have a body-weight aspect to this (or minimal at that) reviewing the replay, but Hill doesn’t have the benefit of replay. The Competition Committee understands that there will be an “overcalling” of roughing the passer, but they are okay with this. Owners are more concerned with protecting their investment in their quarterback and are willing to sacrifice a few miscalls.

UPDATE: Hill addressed the call with a pool reporter after the game. Unfortunately, this underscores the fact that it was a miscall, as he refers to “chest-to-chest” contact which is clearly absent on this play.

Green Bay offensive line offsides on 4th down twice

Green Bay was flagged twice in this game so far for an offensive lineman offsides, both on John Runyan Jr and both on 4th down. In both instances, Runyan’s helmet broke the plane of the neutral zone where only the center can be lined up. This has been a point of emphasis this season on short yardage plays.

How do you say ‘False Start’ in German?

Referee Clay Martin, calling Dolphins-Chiefs in Frankfurt, Germany, has the answer! “Fehlstart.”

Bagent run spotted 4 different times

There is a fair amount of confusion on spotting the ball on a Tyson Bagent 3rd & 12 run at the sideline. Line judge Maia Chaka spots the ball at about the 10½, about a yard short of the line-to gain.

Field judge Ryan Dickson comes in to discuss with Chaka and she respots the ball at the 9½, and a first down. At this point the deliberation brought the play clock to 20 seconds. This was apparently an overcorrection in Dickson’s estimation, and it was moved back to the 10, being now a 4th & inches play. Bears coach Matt Eberflus challenged the call.

Bagent is down with his hand touches down, which is roughly simultaneous with the ball crossing the sideline. As Bagent goes fully to the ground, the ball doesn’t move forward any more, so the contact spot on the sideline can be used by replay. These are hard challenges to win, but replay shows the ball is clearly beyond the 10 at least and just enough to get the first down.

While the TV announcers did praise the crew, this was exceptionally clunky. The crew burned the entire 40-second play clock to deliberate over the spot and still didn’t really get it properly set. There is a breakdown of mechanics between Chaka and Dickson that goes unmentioned here. It would not be a big deal if the spot was established quickly and replay overturned the spot, but the wings must be decisive here. Get a definitive spot within 20 seconds of the dead-ball time (and pump up the play clock to 25 seconds) if you absolutely have to, but let’s get the play set in motion.

The crew needs to move with more efficiency and be more deliberate with their calls.


A punt hits the overhead scoreboard in Frankfurt. When that happens, the down is wiped out. The ball and the clock are reverted back to the spot and time of the snap. The clock does not run until the snap, which will ensure that there isn’t additional time consumed for the voided play.

Forward progress not ruled on Chiefs takeaway TD

Dolphins receiver Tyreek Hill fumbles the ball as he is being pushed back, which the Chiefs convert into a defensive touchdown.

Two things to look for here: Did Hill complete the process of the catch? If so, we are going to look at the forward progress aspect.

Hill controlled the ball after the second step without bobbling, so he has definitely has the catch.

The play was not stopped for Hill’s forward progress being stopped, but it was close. Hill does appear to have the ability to shed the defender to break free for a run. So this cannot be shut down too soon. Although being driven back, Hill does have control of his feet, which is an indication of a forward progress call. But the forward progress call cannot only be used to void a fumble and not a potential break-out run.

Again, very close and the forward progress element is not reviewable.

‘No-Shave November’ is back

If you see some NFL officials sporting a scruffy look this month, that’s because it is “No-Shave November.” Men don’t shave in November to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues.

Traditionally the NFL likes the officials to be clean-shaven, but allows the stubble for a good cause. This is the fourth year the officials can sport a beard in November.

Officiating assignments

Referee assignments

  • Dolphins vs. Chiefs (Frankfurt) — Clay Martin
  • Cardinals at Browns — Carl Cheffers
  • Bears at Saints — Ron Torbert
  • Rams at Packers — Clete Blakeman
  • Vikings at Falcons — Shawn Smith
  • Seahawks at Ravens — Shawn Hochuli
  • Buccaneers at Texans — Land Clark
  • Commanders at Patriots — Adrian Hill
  • Colts at Panthers — Bill Vinovich
  • Cowboys at Eagles — Tra Blake
  • Giants at Raiders — Alan Eck
  • Bills at Bengals — Alex Kemp


  • DJ11 Fred Bryan to Martin’s crew as U (MIA-KC/Frankfurt). Bryan was a swing umpire at the beginning of the season, and the Germany assignment was set prior to him moving to down judge as an injury preplacement
  • DJ79 Kent Payne to Eck’s crew (NYG-LV)
  • LJ16 Kevin Codey to Hill’s crew (WAS-NE)
  • U102 Bruce Stritesky (swing official) to Wrolstad’s crew (LAC-NYJ/MNF)
  • Replay crews for Smith and Wrolstad have swapped this week
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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    November 9, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    Ball spotted 4 times – Which official is responsible for spotting the ball?

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