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Week 5's biggest rulings
Once again, it was a crazy week with a lot of tough calls and crazy endings. I'm going to start off with two plays from the Tampa Bay-Cincinnati game: one that made a difference in the outcome of the game and another one in which uncharacteristically, the ground caused a fumble.
1. Tampa Bay at Cincinnati
THE SITUATION: Tampa Bay had the ball first-and-10 at the Bengals 34-yard line, with the scored tied at 21 and 14 seconds remaining in the game.
THE PLAY: Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman completed a 21-yard pass to a diving Michael Spurlock at the 13-yard line with five seconds left.
THE RESULT: The replay assistant called for a review to see if the receiver completed the catch. The play was upheld. On the next play, Connor Barth then kicked a 31-yard field goal to give Tampa Bay a 24-21 win.
MY TAKE: There were two elements to this review. The first dealt with whether Spurlock maintained control when he hit the ground out of bounds. The second was whether he had both feet down in bounds when he first gained possession. No question the ball moved when it hit the ground out of bounds. But just because the ball moves that does not make the pass incomplete. The receiver must lose possession in order for the pass to be considered incomplete. Notice how the referees will never use the word “move” when describing whether a receiver completes the catch or not. You must see actual loss of possession.
It was very close as to whether Spurlock had both feet down. You could make a case that his right toe might have been off the ground. Move and might, however, are not enough to overturn a call that was made on the field. I like the fact that the referees are staying with the original call that was made on the field, unless it was absolutely indisputable that the call should be reversed.
2. THE GAME: Tampa Bay at Cincinnati
THE SITUATION: Tampa Bay had the ball second-and-15 at the Cincinnati 19, with just under three minutes left in the second quarter with the scored tied at 7.
THE PLAY: Josh Freeman completed a 15-yard pass over the middle to Mike Williams at the Bengals 4-yard line. Williams fumbled and the ball was recovered by Cincinnati's Chinedum Ndukwe at the Bengals' three.
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THE RESULT: A face mask penalty was called on the Bucs' Kyedrick Vincent for 15 yards and it was enforced at the Cincinnati three.
MY TAKE: This is a rare case where the ground can cause a fumble. Williams slipped to the ground on his own and although his knee hit before the ball came loose, it is still a fumble because he was not touched by a defensive player. The unique part about this play is that there was a foul by the offense prior to the Williams fumble.
Normally, the defense would decline the offensive penalty and keep the ball. However, since the offensive penalty was a personal foul, it carries over and was added on to the fumble return. In the officiating dictionary, it is called a personal foul prior to a change of possession.
3. THE GAME: New York Giants at Houston
THE SITUATION: The Giants had the ball with 8:40 left in the second quarter, first-and-10 at their 20, leading 21-3.
THE PLAY: Eli Manning's pass to Hakeem Nicks was incomplete.
MY TAKE: There is always a lot of talk about offsetting penalties. In some cases it seems inequitable, especially when the yardage of each penalty is different. There are certain exceptions; for example, a simple five-yard penalty vs. a major 15-yard penalty. In this case, the five-yard penalty is disregarded and the personal foul is enforced. The one thing the league has tried to focus on is to stay away from dead ball, offsetting personal fouls. A conscious effort has been made to catch the guy that started it and ignore the retaliation unless the retaliation is so blatant that it can't be ignored. More often than not, it seems the retaliator is the one that gets caught. Retaliation by an opponent after a live-ball foul will not be ignored.
4. THE GAME: Green Bay at Washington
THE SITUATION: Green Bay had the ball, second-and-5 at the Green Bay 24-yard line, with just under 13 minutes to play in overtime with the score tied at 13.
THE PLAY: An Aaron Rodgers pass intended for Greg Jennings was intercepted by Washington's LaRon Landry at the Green Bay 39.
THE RESULT: The play was reviewed by the replay assistant Paul Weidner. While most of us focused on whether the pass was intercepted, Weidner had the foresight to look at whether Landry was touched down before getting up and returning the interception.
Replay showed that Landry's leg hit the leg of Jennings, which does put him down by contact. The result brought the return back to the down by contact spot and took the Redskins out of field-goal position.
5. THE GAME: Chicago at Carolina
THE SITUATION: Carolina had the ball, third-and-9 at the Chicago 41 with 2:52 left in the second quarter.
THE PLAY: Carolina quarterback Jimmy Clausen's pass to Brandon LaFell was ruled incomplete.
THE RESULT: The play was challenged by Carolina coach John Fox, but the ruling on the field was upheld.
MY TAKE: Coaches have to make difficult decisions when it comes to initiating a challenge. In this case, it seemed that John Fox challenged a play that would not have resulted in a first down, even if overturned. However, Fox had to make the decision as to whether a reversal to a completed pass would have put the Panthers in field goal range. He also had to consider that this challenge at 2:52 of the second quarter would have been his final challenge since he had lost one earlier.
No decisions are ever simple and this is a clear example. The result was that the incomplete pass ruling stood, the Panthers had to punt and Fox was out of challenges for the rest of the game.
Later this week, I'll chronicle the wacky endings in the Dallas game and in Oakland.
As they always say, on any given Sunday ...
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