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  1. #1
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    Strange NFL rule

    Ok, so I ran into another really confusing NFL rule today.

    In the 3rd quarter of the Falcons-Cards game, Falcon's RB Jason Snelling caught a pass and then had the ball stripped out of his hands as he was running. It was clearly a catch and fumble, no doubt about it. That part is not at all controversial. The ball was headed out of bounds when a Cardinal jumped and grabbed it and threw it back in bounds. One of his teammates fell on it and it was ruled Cardinal ball. A great play by the D.

    It appeared that the guy jumping to save the ball might have just barely stepped out of bounds before throwing the ball back into play, which would have left the ball in Atlanta's possession. It was close enough so that Atlanta Coach Mike Smith immediately threw his challenge flag.

    And there is where the problem cropped up.

    All turnovers (like all scores) are automatically reviewed. So, technically, Smith was not allowed to throw the challenge flag. It is sorta an automatic challenge. But, by throwing the challenge flag at a time when he was not allowed to do so, he drew an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which carries a 15 yard penalty. The previous play has ended so that penalty is treated like a new play has occurred. And, as a result, it makes it impossible for the booth to review the challenged play.

    So, by challenging a play that was already under review, Smith nullifies the review and gives his team a 15 yard penalty. WHOA!!!

    I wonder if this raises an interesting possibility. If your team gets a turnover as the result of a bad call that is about to undergo a review, you throw your challenge flag. Bhy throwing your flag, the review does not happen. Sure, your team incurs a 15 yard penalty, but you get possession of the ball. Would this work, I wonder?

    -Jason "seems like a strange penalty for a coach who is essentially just making sure that something that is supposed to be reviewed gets reviewed" Evans
    Why are you wasting time here when you could be wasting it by listening to the latest episode of the DBR Podcast?

  2. #2

    review

    I saw something strange involving a challenge -- or non-challenge -- in overtime of the Browns-Cowboys play.

    The Cowboys are driving for the winning field goal when they complete a pass to about the Cleveland 20, the receiver takes two strides and he's hit while switching the ball from one hand to another. The ball pops out and the Browns recover -- in fact the Cleveland defender is headed upfield with a clear field, either for a TD or at least a very long return.

    But the ref rules no catch and blows his whistle. Because the game is in overtim, the Browns can't throw the protest flag and get a review. Supposedly, the play is reviewed automatically. But as the Cowboys rush to the line to get another play off, the Browns call timeout -- apparently hoping to give the review booth a chance to call for a review.

    They go to commerical and when they come back, ref Ed Hockily (sp?) is announcing, "That's the Browns' final timeout ... the play stands as called -- an incomplete pass." Then he adds with a laugh, "And, no, I didn't review the play."

    A couple of plays later, the Cowboys kick the winning feld goal.

    I don't understand what Hockily thought was so funny ... and why he felt it necessary to announce that the disputed play was not reviewed.

    PS I had no stake in the game, but I've never seen a team get so many breaks from the refs as the Cowboys ... they had 10 first downs by penalty and at least half of them were 50-50 contact plays on pass defense. (It seemed like the same plays on the other side were always no-calls). On top of that, on their last minute drive to kick the game-tying field goal, they got a huge third-down conversion on a play where the left tackle clearly jumped early (he was already standng up backpedalling when the ball was snapped), but no call.

    I'm not sure the fumble in OT was a fumble or an incompletion -- but I know it was close enough that it should have been reviewed.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olympic Fan View Post
    I saw something strange involving a challenge -- or non-challenge -- in overtime of the Browns-Cowboys play.

    The Cowboys are driving for the winning field goal when they complete a pass to about the Cleveland 20, the receiver takes two strides and he's hit while switching the ball from one hand to another. The ball pops out and the Browns recover -- in fact the Cleveland defender is headed upfield with a clear field, either for a TD or at least a very long return.

    But the ref rules no catch and blows his whistle. Because the game is in overtim, the Browns can't throw the protest flag and get a review. Supposedly, the play is reviewed automatically. But as the Cowboys rush to the line to get another play off, the Browns call timeout -- apparently hoping to give the review booth a chance to call for a review.

    They go to commerical and when they come back, ref Ed Hockily (sp?) is announcing, "That's the Browns' final timeout ... the play stands as called -- an incomplete pass." Then he adds with a laugh, "And, no, I didn't review the play."

    A couple of plays later, the Cowboys kick the winning feld goal.

    I don't understand what Hockily thought was so funny ... and why he felt it necessary to announce that the disputed play was not reviewed.

    PS I had no stake in the game, but I've never seen a team get so many breaks from the refs as the Cowboys ... they had 10 first downs by penalty and at least half of them were 50-50 contact plays on pass defense. (It seemed like the same plays on the other side were always no-calls). On top of that, on their last minute drive to kick the game-tying field goal, they got a huge third-down conversion on a play where the left tackle clearly jumped early (he was already standng up backpedalling when the ball was snapped), but no call.

    I'm not sure the fumble in OT was a fumble or an incompletion -- but I know it was close enough that it should have been reviewed.
    Sounds to me like the booth just decided not tot challenge or didn't get the challenge off in time.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by JNort View Post
    Sounds to me like the booth just decided not tot challenge or didn't get the challenge off in time.
    There was plenty of time, Cleveland called timeout. I think the problem is that incomplete vs. complete then fumble is not always reviewable. If it is ruled incomplete, it is not reviewable as the play has been whistled dead. If it is ruled a fumble, THEN it is reviewable and the ref can reverse it. This is why I think the ref's policy should be that if there is ANY question they should swallow the whistle and let the automatic replay on a turnover decide it. With auto turnover review, neither team risks a challenge so it wouldn't hurt anyone. Cleveland got totally jobbed on that one, and it cost them the game. The rule in general is just another example of a rule biased to the offense.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by JasonEvans View Post
    Ok, so I ran into another really confusing NFL rule today.

    In the 3rd quarter of the Falcons-Cards game, Falcon's RB Jason Snelling caught a pass and then had the ball stripped out of his hands as he was running. It was clearly a catch and fumble, no doubt about it. That part is not at all controversial. The ball was headed out of bounds when a Cardinal jumped and grabbed it and threw it back in bounds. One of his teammates fell on it and it was ruled Cardinal ball. A great play by the D.

    It appeared that the guy jumping to save the ball might have just barely stepped out of bounds before throwing the ball back into play, which would have left the ball in Atlanta's possession. It was close enough so that Atlanta Coach Mike Smith immediately threw his challenge flag.

    And there is where the problem cropped up.

    All turnovers (like all scores) are automatically reviewed. So, technically, Smith was not allowed to throw the challenge flag. It is sorta an automatic challenge. But, by throwing the challenge flag at a time when he was not allowed to do so, he drew an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which carries a 15 yard penalty. The previous play has ended so that penalty is treated like a new play has occurred. And, as a result, it makes it impossible for the booth to review the challenged play.

    So, by challenging a play that was already under review, Smith nullifies the review and gives his team a 15 yard penalty. WHOA!!!

    I wonder if this raises an interesting possibility. If your team gets a turnover as the result of a bad call that is about to undergo a review, you throw your challenge flag. Bhy throwing your flag, the review does not happen. Sure, your team incurs a 15 yard penalty, but you get possession of the ball. Would this work, I wonder?

    -Jason "seems like a strange penalty for a coach who is essentially just making sure that something that is supposed to be reviewed gets reviewed" Evans
    The league made it clear that that is the rule, and that is the penalty. If they want to make sure there is enough time for a review, he can call timeout, like Cleveland did. If he really wanted to make sure it got reviewed, he should have said to the side judge, "hey, auto review on a turnover, right?" Throwing the challenge flag is a sure way to make sure it is NOT reviewed, so it was pretty dumb of him to do it.

    As for your question, I'm not sure how the refs would treat that. They might just pick up the flag and say "Hey idiot, you can't challenge a play that's a turnover for you. What, you think it was incomplete?" I've seen them do that kind of thing before. However, I can say that if they truly treat that as a new play and not just a dead ball foul continuation of the last play, then the reviewing coach would get the ball with a 15 yard penalty, but they would also have 1st and 25 instead of 1st and 10. I can't think of too many coaches that would risk their challenge flag and an automatic 15 yard penalty and possible 1st and 25 on a 50/50 proposition at best that it gets overturned. Further, it MIGHT work once, but the league would have a rule in place by the next weekend to prevent that.

    Love to see a coach try it though, just to see what the refs do.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjornolf View Post
    There was plenty of time, Cleveland called timeout. I think the problem is that incomplete vs. complete then fumble is not always reviewable. If it is ruled incomplete, it is not reviewable as the play has been whistled dead. If it is ruled a fumble, THEN it is reviewable and the ref can reverse it. This is why I think the ref's policy should be that if there is ANY question they should swallow the whistle and let the automatic replay on a turnover decide it. With auto turnover review, neither team risks a challenge so it wouldn't hurt anyone. Cleveland got totally jobbed on that one, and it cost them the game. The rule in general is just another example of a rule biased to the offense.
    Quote Originally Posted by bjornolf View Post
    The league made it clear that that is the rule, and that is the penalty. If they want to make sure there is enough time for a review, he can call timeout, like Cleveland did. If he really wanted to make sure it got reviewed, he should have said to the side judge, "hey, auto review on a turnover, right?" Throwing the challenge flag is a sure way to make sure it is NOT reviewed, so it was pretty dumb of him to do it.

    As for your question, I'm not sure how the refs would treat that. They might just pick up the flag and say "Hey idiot, you can't challenge a play that's a turnover for you. What, you think it was incomplete?" I've seen them do that kind of thing before. However, I can say that if they truly treat that as a new play and not just a dead ball foul continuation of the last play, then the reviewing coach would get the ball with a 15 yard penalty, but they would also have 1st and 25 instead of 1st and 10. I can't think of too many coaches that would risk their challenge flag and an automatic 15 yard penalty and possible 1st and 25 on a 50/50 proposition at best that it gets overturned. Further, it MIGHT work once, but the league would have a rule in place by the next weekend to prevent that.

    Love to see a coach try it though, just to see what the refs do.
    I think Jason's point is very interesting when considering both your posts on the different games. If the refs take the position to rule most borderline calls turnovers and then wait for review (which I actually think makes the most sense), then you could see a situation where a play that is very likely an incomplete pass is ruled as a fumble, but the recovering team's coach throws the flag and takes the penalty to lock in the turnover. The more the refs let plays run out and wait for review the more chances there are to game this rule. Also, I would think the 15 yards would be just field position, so 1st and 10 but 15 yards farther away from the endzone, which is a gamble most I think would take. You are probably right that the refs would tell him to pick up his flag, or review the play anyway (which makes the most sense, even if violating procedure as its hard to argue against). I would imagine the league will clarify this soon so that no one tries this.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by bjornolf View Post
    There was plenty of time, Cleveland called timeout. I think the problem is that incomplete vs. complete then fumble is not always reviewable. If it is ruled incomplete, it is not reviewable as the play has been whistled dead. If it is ruled a fumble, THEN it is reviewable and the ref can reverse it. This is why I think the ref's policy should be that if there is ANY question they should swallow the whistle and let the automatic replay on a turnover decide it. With auto turnover review, neither team risks a challenge so it wouldn't hurt anyone. Cleveland got totally jobbed on that one, and it cost them the game. The rule in general is just another example of a rule biased to the offense.
    Yeah I'm pretty sure that the ref whistled the play dead before the Brown's defender picked up the ball, thus it was not reviewable.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by mkirsh View Post
    I think Jason's point is very interesting when considering both your posts on the different games. If the refs take the position to rule most borderline calls turnovers and then wait for review (which I actually think makes the most sense), then you could see a situation where a play that is very likely an incomplete pass is ruled as a fumble, but the recovering team's coach throws the flag and takes the penalty to lock in the turnover. The more the refs let plays run out and wait for review the more chances there are to game this rule. Also, I would think the 15 yards would be just field position, so 1st and 10 but 15 yards farther away from the endzone, which is a gamble most I think would take. You are probably right that the refs would tell him to pick up his flag, or review the play anyway (which makes the most sense, even if violating procedure as its hard to argue against). I would imagine the league will clarify this soon so that no one tries this.
    Additionally, the problem with allowing the turnovers to stand are that often a play looks like an incomplete pass or down by contact but there isn't enough evidence to overrule it. So allowing the play to stand on the field makes you need enough evidence even though it didn't look like a fumble either. And call me crazy, but if it is that close, I feel like we should err on the side of a non-turnover b/c turnovers are way too important in a game although I'm sure some could have a gripe with this.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by toughbuff1 View Post
    Yeah I'm pretty sure that the ref whistled the play dead before the Brown's defender picked up the ball, thus it was not reviewable.
    You can recover a fumble after the whistle as long as it is not an "erroneous" whistle. You just can't advance the review and it has to be a clear recovery by the defense but if a ref rules someone down by contact and blows his whistle to signify this, it doesn't mean you can't recover the fumble.

  10. #10

    review

    Quote Originally Posted by sporthenry View Post
    You can recover a fumble after the whistle as long as it is not an "erroneous" whistle. You just can't advance the review and it has to be a clear recovery by the defense but if a ref rules someone down by contact and blows his whistle to signify this, it doesn't mean you can't recover the fumble.
    This wasn't a down by contact ... this was a competion/fumble or incompletition.

    And I agree that it is a close call.

    Again, my bafflement was after the Cleveland timeout, the ref clearly and loudly announcing that the play would not be reviewed despite Cleveland's timeout.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Olympic Fan View Post
    This wasn't a down by contact ... this was a competion/fumble or incompletition.

    And I agree that it is a close call.

    Again, my bafflement was after the Cleveland timeout, the ref clearly and loudly announcing that the play would not be reviewed despite Cleveland's timeout.
    Well then yes, it was the correct call to not review it. I think the ref clearly said it to appease the coach/fans in this situation that while it technically is a reviewable play, there is no situation in which the Browns can get possession so there is no point to review it. I have no problem with that.

    Not to completely hijack a thread, but this thread just goes to show the problem when the rules of sports we like grow beyond our understanding. These replay rules are so convoluted, the defenseless player rules are enforced arbitrarily, and rules like blindside blocks disenfranchise fans from the sport. This isn't just affecting the NFL as the NBA has some pretty weird rules like you can put your arm on someones back if they are below the foul line extended or that you can be in the restricted area if the drive starts below the foul line. Even the NHL has some rules like waving off icing at random times.

    This is the beauty of the MLB and why it will be around for a while. They rarely change the rules and the only one I can think of recently was getting rid of the fake to third, throw to first pick off attempt.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by sporthenry View Post

    This is the beauty of the MLB and why it will be around for a while. They rarely change the rules and the only one I can think of recently was getting rid of the fake to third, throw to first pick off attempt.
    Continuing to not highjack the thread, I don't think MLB has changed the fake to third rule--yet. There was discussion about barring it last May, but I'm not aware that it has happened. I suppose the discussion will resume over the winter.

    It is supposed to be a time-saver, but the amount of time to be saved is so minute, it makes little sense to make the change. It takes no longer than an unsuccessful effort to run down a foul ball behind first or third. And once in a great while, it works.
    Last edited by Jim3k; 11-20-2012 at 07:27 PM. Reason: getting rid of the yeti

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim3k View Post
    Continuing to not highjack the thread, I don't think MLB has changed the fake to third rule--yet. There was discussion about barring it last May, but I'm not aware that it has happened. I suppose the discussion will resume over the winter.

    It is supposed to be a time-saver, but the amount of time to be saved is so minute, it makes little sense to make the change. It takes no longer than an unsuccessful effort to run down a foul ball behind first or third. And once in a great while, it works.
    Well the MLB says they intend to ban it but I guess it hasn't been officially passed until winter meetings. I think they are getting rid of it partially from the time point but also because it is supposed more deceptive (even though it rarely works) and because lefties can't fake to first and throw to third. The only problem with this is that righties can't throw to first without having to step off the mound and if you want to get rid of true deceptive moves, they should bring a point of emphasis on lefties as they often are in the grey area of a balk to first.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by sporthenry View Post
    Well the MLB says they intend to ban it but I guess it hasn't been officially passed until winter meetings. I think they are getting rid of it partially from the time point but also because it is supposed more deceptive (even though it rarely works) and because lefties can't fake to first and throw to third. The only problem with this is that righties can't throw to first without having to step off the mound and if you want to get rid of true deceptive moves, they should bring a point of emphasis on lefties as they often are in the grey area of a balk to first.
    Depends on the definition of "works" - if the move is meant to lead to a pick off of the runner on first, you are correct that it rarely works. However, I was always taught that the real intention is to hold the runner on first a bit longer as he can't leave when the left foot leaves the ground like he could without a runner on third, and has to wait a split second to ensure the pitcher commits home, as a result making it harder to steal second.

    For lefties I don't understand why MLB can't paint a 45 degree line off the first base side of the mound - if you land on the home plate side and throw to first it's a balk, otherwise it's not, no interpretation needed.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonEvans View Post
    Ok, so I ran into another really confusing NFL rule today.

    In the 3rd quarter of the Falcons-Cards game, Falcon's RB Jason Snelling caught a pass and then had the ball stripped out of his hands as he was running. It was clearly a catch and fumble, no doubt about it. That part is not at all controversial. The ball was headed out of bounds when a Cardinal jumped and grabbed it and threw it back in bounds. One of his teammates fell on it and it was ruled Cardinal ball. A great play by the D.

    It appeared that the guy jumping to save the ball might have just barely stepped out of bounds before throwing the ball back into play, which would have left the ball in Atlanta's possession. It was close enough so that Atlanta Coach Mike Smith immediately threw his challenge flag.

    And there is where the problem cropped up.

    All turnovers (like all scores) are automatically reviewed. So, technically, Smith was not allowed to throw the challenge flag. It is sorta an automatic challenge. But, by throwing the challenge flag at a time when he was not allowed to do so, he drew an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which carries a 15 yard penalty. The previous play has ended so that penalty is treated like a new play has occurred. And, as a result, it makes it impossible for the booth to review the challenged play.

    So, by challenging a play that was already under review, Smith nullifies the review and gives his team a 15 yard penalty. WHOA!!!

    I wonder if this raises an interesting possibility. If your team gets a turnover as the result of a bad call that is about to undergo a review, you throw your challenge flag. Bhy throwing your flag, the review does not happen. Sure, your team incurs a 15 yard penalty, but you get possession of the ball. Would this work, I wonder?

    -Jason "seems like a strange penalty for a coach who is essentially just making sure that something that is supposed to be reviewed gets reviewed" Evans
    Same thing just happened to Detroit. Wow.
    I do not think that word means what you think it means.

  16. #16
    So speaking of this rule... Coaches of the nfl - learn when you can and cannot throw the red flag!
    Demented and sad, but social, right?

  17. #17
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    So purpose of the rule is to prevent coaches from throwing flag when he has no challenges or within 2 minutes, and mucking up game or influencing refs. But since every scoring play is reviewed anyway should it apply then? Not sure, but it doesn't change the fact that Jim Schwartz is an idiot.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by A-Tex Devil View Post
    So purpose of the rule is to prevent coaches from throwing flag when he has no challenges or within 2 minutes, and mucking up game or influencing refs. But since every scoring play is reviewed anyway should it apply then? Not sure, but it doesn't change the fact that Jim Schwartz is an idiot.
    Schwartz is an idiot and can't believe these guys are paid millions to not know the rules. I'm impressed when the coaches know the rulebook inside out but honestly, why don't they know the rules.

    All that said, the NFL says their goal is to get the call right. National TV game on Turkey Day helped decided by a play that any of us could be a ref and call him down. NFL is losing some credibility with all of this. Again, the sport is more difficult for the regular fan to understand and if the NFL was a stock, I'd probably be selling for this among many other factors.

  19. #19
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    Not only did the Lions coach seem to be unaware of the rule, but my boy Phil Simms seemed not to be aware that this very same thing happened just the other day.

  20. #20
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    What a crock of a rule. It is hard to argue that you want to get things right when a coach's mistake re: a play that would have been reviewed anyway causes the opponent to ring up a touchdown that wasn't. Under no circumstances should a legal review be cancelled out like that. Just hand the coach his flag back and review the play.

    The NFL spends too much time inventing non-essential rules and in the process changing the fundamental playing of football. The most annoying, of course, are the contortions the league has gone through trying to define what is a legal catch and what is not. The college rule works just fine, and the old pro rule was just the same except for the two feet inbounds instead of one. Nobody believes a player should have to do some magical things to legally catch a ball; just have possession as you touch the ground. I can't see where delaying the instant the ball is deemed caught changes anything. The same decision has to be made no matter how many steps are added to the catchng of the ball, which is now a ballet of some sort. The term "football move" is just wacky. EVERY SECOND is a football move.

    The magic part was Jason Evans' pointing out the rule just in time for this latest proof that the NFL can do some stupid stuff.
    Man, if your Mom made you wear that color when you were a baby, and you're still wearing it, it's time to grow up!

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