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NFL playoff officiating decisions – What happened on controversial calls – right and wrong



Your instincts had been appropriate for those who felt like NFL officers had been throwing extra flags in 2021. Penalties ticked as much as 13.88 per recreation throughout the common season, a bit increased than within the 2020 season (13.14) however nonetheless method beneath the place they had been in 2019 (16.17) and 2018 (15.87).

That is the longer-term context as you watch this year’s postseason games. It might be a shock if we noticed many penalty-filled video games, and hopefully we’ll spend the subsequent 4 weeks speaking in regards to the efficiency of gamers and coaches, not in regards to the fouls that had been referred to as (or uncalled) towards them.

However there are a lot of rules-based twists and turns to think about past flags. Within the 2020 AFC Championship Game, as an example, then-NFL senior vice chairman Al Riveron allowed a review for a nonreviewable play. In the end, he reversed a name that ought to not have been checked out within the recreation that determined who would symbolize the AFC within the Tremendous Bowl.

We’ll have your whole officiating wants lined on this put up, which might be up to date as wanted with rule explanations, essential context and different officiating traits. Come alongside for the journey. (The latest performs are on the prime.)

Cowboys run out of time

49ers-Cowboys wild-card game, 0:14 remaining in fourth quarter

What occurred: The clock ran out because the Cowboys tried to snap the ball from the 49ers’ 24-yard line on the ultimate play of the sport.

The way it was resolved: Referee Alex Kemp declared the sport over, even after the snap was delayed for umpire Ramon George to regulate the spot.

Evaluation: Kemp and George did their jobs. With 14 seconds remaining, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott had run for 17 yards on a designed draw. Normally in that scenario, NFL gamers are suggested handy the ball on to the umpire or one other official to expedite the recognizing of the ball. By rule, there cannot be a snap till an official has touched the ball to verify and/or modify the spot.

As an alternative, Prescott handed the ball to heart Tyler Biadasz, who put the ball on the bottom at in regards to the 24-yard line and stood over it as the remainder of the Cowboys’ offense assembled. George needed to push by way of their line to get to the ball, utilizing priceless seconds. The snap got here with one second remaining, rendering Prescott’s spike meaningless.

This was totally the fault of the Cowboys, from the dangerous playcall with no timeouts remaining to Prescott’s incapacity handy the ball to an official. Kemp and his crew did precisely what they might be anticipated to do.

Delay of recreation attempting to catch the Niners off guard

49ers-Cowboys wild-card game, 13:26 remaining in fourth quarter

What occurred: The Cowboys tried to hurry to the road with their punt workforce after changing a faux punt into a primary down. Then, with 17 seconds left on the sport clock, the Cowboys despatched their offense onto the sector for the first-down play.

The way it was resolved: Umpire Ramon George stood close to the middle, stopping a snap. He moved into place with two seconds remaining on the play clock, resulting in a delay of recreation for the Cowboys.

Evaluation: As CBS analyst Tony Romo famous, the Cowboys had been probably attempting to catch the 49ers off guard for a second consecutive play. By conserving their punt workforce on the sector and their offense on the sideline, they in all probability hoped to coerce the 49ers into calling a timeout.

It did not work, in fact. And after they despatched their offense onto the sector, the Cowboys activated an NFL rule that requires officers to offer the protection an inexpensive likelihood to substitute. Here is what the rule says: “If a substitution is made by the offense, the offense shall not be permitted to snap the ball till the protection has been permitted to reply with its substitutions.”

It was as much as referee Alex Kemp to resolve how lengthy to offer the 49ers to substitute. We might quibble about whether or not they wanted 15 seconds to substitute, however the blame right here goes to the Cowboys, who referred to as for a high-risk play that might have netted a modest achieve — at finest.

Darden takes a late hit

Eagles-Buccaneers wild-card game, 12:01 remaining within the fourth quarter

What occurred: Buccaneers kickoff returner Jaelon Darden introduced again a kickoff 18 yards to the 22-yard line, and Darden took a late hit.

The way it was resolved: The ball was moved again to the 10-yard line due to a holding name on the Buccaneers’ Rob Gronkowski, who was on the sector as a part of the arms workforce.

Evaluation: Officers missed a late and blatant hit on Darden that was unlawful for a number of causes. Replays confirmed that Darden was tackled by Eagles security Marcus Epps. Darden had began getting up, along with his left knee nonetheless on the bottom, when the Eagles’ KeeSean Johnson lowered his head and hit Darden’s helmet. The contact was forcible sufficient to knock Darden backward and onto his again, the place he lay for a number of moments.

There’s undoubtedly an argument for holding again on some flags on the finish of a blowout, however guidelines relating to participant security ought to all the time be enforced. Darden’s hit was unlawful as a result of it was late, and in addition as a result of it was a textbook violation of the helmet rule, which prohibits gamers from reducing their helmet to provoke contact with an opponent.

A borderline roughing-the-passer name for a success on Brady?

Eagles-Buccaneers wild-card game, 14:28 remaining within the first quarter

What occurred: Eagles defensive finish Derek Barnett hit Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady after he launched a go that fell incomplete.

The way it was resolved: Referee Craig Wrolstad penalized Barnett for roughing the passer, shifting the ball 15 yards downfield.

Evaluation: Wrolstad’s regular-season crew threw the second-most flags for roughing the passer (12), and for the reason that referee is normally the official that watches for that foul, it was cheap to count on relevance on Sunday. Because it turned out, we heard from Wrolstad throughout the first minute of the sport — and never for good motive.

Barnett hit Brady beneath the waist, however above the knee. The NFL rulebook states: “A defender can not provoke a roll or lunge and forcibly hit the passer within the knee space or beneath, even when he’s being contacted by one other participant.”

This was a rule the NFL developed partly after Brady suffered a torn ACL on a low hit in 2008. However not even a charitable viewing of the contact would counsel it utilized to this rule. The hit was authorized, and if in case you have any doubt, you’ll be able to notice that Brady himself by no means appealed to Wrolstad for a flag.

Was this actually roughing the passer?

Raiders-Bengals wild-card game, 1:51 remaining within the fourth quarter

What occurred: Bengals defensive finish Khalid Kareem made contact with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr after Carr launched a 15-yard go to working again Josh Jacobs.

The way it was resolved: Referee Jerome Boger threw a flag for roughing the passer. The extra 15 yards gave the Raiders a 30-yard achieve in whole, placing the ball on the Bengals’ 35-yard line because the Raiders had been driving for what might have been the game-tying (or successful) rating.

Evaluation: The NFL has moved in dramatic methods over time to guard quarterbacks, creating guidelines that prohibit them from being hit forcibly within the head or neck space, in addition to beneath the knee, when they’re within the pocket or in any other case in a defenseless posture.

Boger didn’t specify why the flag was thrown, however at finest, it appeared Kareem’s proper shoulder or arm grazed Carr’s helmet. It might be as much as Boger at that time to find out whether or not that contact was “forcible.” He’s not tasked with making an allowance for the sport scenario, however you want to see any name be apparent to the viewer — whether or not it’s the fourth quarter of a playoff recreation or the primary quarter in Week 1.

Carr did what he ought to have accomplished; he made his case to Boger by snapping his head again and pointing to his helmet. It’s all the time doable that one other angle would present extra forcible contact, however from what we might see on the NBC replay, it was not.

Errant whistle on Cincy landing

Raiders-Bengals wild-card game, 1:51 remaining in second quarter

What occurred: Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow scrambled towards the appropriate sideline on a third-down play from the Raiders’ 10-yard line. With the ball within the air, a whistle might clearly be heard on the NBC broadcast. Bengals receiver Tyler Boyd caught the go for a touchdown.

The way it was resolved: After a prolonged dialogue amongst officers, led by referee Jerome Boger, the play was dominated a landing.

Evaluation: Until the whistle got here from the gang or somebody aside from one of many seven officers on the sector, this could not have been a landing. There are two choices right here. Both the whistle was meant to rule Burrow out of bounds, or it was an inadvertent whistle. In both case, NFL guidelines require the play to be ended on the time of the whistle.

NFL rule 7, Part 2, Article 1(m) states: “[W]hen an official sounds the whistle erroneously whereas the ball remains to be in play, the ball turns into useless instantly.” On this case, the rule goes on to state: “If the ball is in participant possession, the workforce in possession could elect to place the ball in play the place it has been declared useless or to replay the down.”

The landing mustn’t have counted, and the play ought to have been replayed. It isn’t reviewable. Gamers typically cease enjoying once they hear a whistle, and it is inherently unfair to permit post-whistle motion to rely.

An analogous play occurred throughout a 2015 recreation between the Patriots and Payments. In that occasion, referee Gene Steratore correctly halted the play, at the same time as Patriots receiver Danny Amendola was working upfield, however erred in putting the ball on the spot the place Amendola was when the whistle blew.

Postgame replace: Walt Anderson, the NFL’s senior vice chairman of officiating coaching and improvement, stated in a pool report after the Bengals’ 26-19 win that Boger’s crew determined “the whistle for them on the sector was blown after the receiver caught the ball.”

Suffice it to say, Boger’s judgment right here doesn’t line up with any of the obtainable proof. The whistle was audible on the published effectively earlier than Boyd caught the ball. However given the construction of the principles, this rationalization is the one doable justification for permitting the landing.

It must be famous that Anderson did not say something to point he supported (or rejected) the reason. He seems merely to have handed alongside the on-field judgment on a play that wasn’t reviewable.

Nonetheless, it strains credulity for this to be the NFL’s official line. Whoever blew the whistle on the sector is aware of when he did it. The gamers who appeared to cease earlier than Boyd caught the ball knew once they heard it. Thousands and thousands of tv viewers knew once they heard it. Whereas it may need been painful, the extra credible rationalization would have been one thing that confirmed — even looking back — {that a} rule was misapplied and that your complete sequence did not meet NFL requirements.

Lastly, the pool report didn’t embrace any dialogue about why the NFL didn’t use its new video help program to step in and proper the error. It is true that inaccurate whistles should not reviewable, however the video help rule permits replay officers and the league’s officiating division in New York Metropolis to “advise the sport officers on particular, goal elements of a play when clear and apparent video proof is current, and/or to deal with recreation administration points.”

To be clear: Addressing an inaccurate whistle is an administrative difficulty. Deciding whether or not there was an inaccurate whistle is a nonreviewable judgment name. The NFL had a method out right here — telling Boger in actual time that the down must be replayed — and it is a thriller why it didn’t.

Raiders begin drive at 2-yard line after returner steps out of bounds

Raiders-Bengals wild-card game, 1:18 remaining in first quarter

What occurred: Raiders kickoff returner Peyton Barber grabbed the bouncing ball close to the sideline and stepped out of bounds on the 2-yard line.

The way it was resolved: Barber was dominated down on the 2, placing the Raiders in horrible subject place for his or her third possession of the sport.

Evaluation: Barber was attempting to capitalize on a little-known NFL rule in an effort to get the ball marked on the 40-yard line. What he needed to do was step out of bounds after which contact the ball. When a ball touches a participant after he has established himself out of bounds, the ball is dominated out of bounds at that time. Had Barber stepped out first, the Bengals would have been penalized for a kickoff out of bounds, and by rule, referee Jerome Boger would have noticed the ball the 40. However as a result of Barber grabbed the ball earlier than that, he was dominated to have run out of bounds with possession of the ball.

A number of groups have tried to leverage that rule in recent times by intentionally stepping out of bounds after which reaching for the ball, most notably the Green Bay PackersRandall Cobb in 2012.

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