Our resident rules expert is breaking down all the calls from the first Sunday of the NFL season. See anything questionable? Let Mike know on Twitter @MikePereira.
When two great heavyweights get together there’s usually a lot of punches, a lot of ebb and flow that takes place.
The Packers and the 49ers squared off for 12 rounds in San Francisco and the game didn’t disappoint. It was an epic battle, a fight to the end won by the 49ers, 34-28.
However, something happened in the first half I was very worried about, a play I was anxious would make a difference in the outcome of the game. And unfortunately, my worst fears came to fruition.
Here was the situation: San Francisco had the ball, third-and-6 from the Green Bay 10-yard line with 9:30 left in the second quarter and the score tied 7-7. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick scrambled to the left and ran out of bounds at the 6-yard line. Packers linebacker Clay Matthews took a cheap shot on Kaepernick after he was clearly out of bounds.
San Francisco tackle Joe Staley then started a shoving match with Matthews and both were penalized — Matthews for unnecessary roughness and Staley for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Both of those calls were correct.
But here’s what wasn’t: the enforcement of the penalty.
The hit by Matthews was after Kaepernick was out of bounds, therefore, it’s considered a dead-ball foul and the play was over. The retaliation by Staley was also a dead-ball foul.
The NFL rule book states: "Dead ball fouls by both teams offset at the succeeding spot (that’s the end of the play) and the down counts."
So of instead of being fourth-and-2 from the 6-yard line, the officiating crew chose to replay the down, which then made it third-and-6 from the 10-yard line.
On the next play, Kaepernick hit Anquan Boldin for a 10-yard touchdown. If the 49ers had chosen to kick a field goal on fourth-and-2 instead of going for a touchdown, it certainly could have resulted in a four-point swing. And it did. Even though San Francisco added a field goal with 26 seconds left in the game, the call clearly had an effect on the game’s strategy.
I know the rule book is complicated, but this is not most one of the most confusing enforcements. I also understand getting caught up in the action and confusion on what took place at the end of the play.
But there are seven officials on the field and each is responsible to make sure that the rules are enforced properly. I understand how judgment errors get made when things happen so fast, but there is no excuse for getting penalties wrong.
I’ve been in situations before when mistakes like this happen and it’s not fun. You have to talk to the teams and you have to face the media. It comes with the territory.
You hate for great games like this one to have something like a missed call have any outcome on the final result.
Play 2 — That’s just silly
We are in Week 1 of the NFL season and I’m not sure we will see a dumber penalty all year than what we saw in the Tampa Bay-NY Jets game.
It ended up costing the Bucs a victory.
Here’s the scenario: Tampa Bay had the lead, 17-15, with 15 seconds left in the game. The Jets had the ball, second-and-10 at their own 45-yard line. Jets QB Geno Smith scrambled out of the pocket and headed for the sidelines.
He was clearly out of bounds when he got shoved by Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David.
Tack on an extra 15 yards for unnecessary roughness. It gave the Jets a first down at the Bucs’ 30-yard line.
On the very next play, with just 2 seconds left, kicker Nick Folk kicked a 48-yard field goal to give the Jets an 18-17 win.
First of all, the call on David was definitely a foul.
When the quarterback is headed out of bounds, you let him go out of bounds. Smith’s right foot had already come down out of bounds and then he was shoved by Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David into the bench area.
That’s the perfect example of unnecessary in the unnecessary roughness penalty.
Play 3 — Suh does it again
Some things never change.
Ndamukong Suh has been labeled a dirty player by many people through his first four seasons in the NFL. In fact, in a Sporting News poll, the players voted him the NFL’s dirtiest player and in a Forbes-publicized Neilsen report in 2012, he was cited as the NFL’s least-liked player.
Fast forward to the second quarter in Detroit’s game against Minnesota Sunday. The Lions were trailing 7-6 and the Vikings had the ball, second-and-1 at their own 29-yard line.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder’s pass intended for Jerome Simpson was intercepted by DeAndre Levy and returned for a touchdown.
However, Suh was called for a low block on Vikings center Joe Sullivan on the return and the play was nullified.
You are not allowed a low block on a change of possession. This has always been an illegal block below the waist and doesn’t pertain to the new, expanded peel-back rule.
Already one of the most fined players since he entered the league, Suh will definitely be going to his wallet again as this most certainly will come with another fine.
Play 4 — Johnson done in
The process of the catch. Let me say it again, the process of the catch.
There’s probably nobody that hates the term more than Detroit’s Calvin Johnson.
It was déjà vu for Johnson in the opening week, yet again. And it wasn’t the good kind.
If you remember 2010, Johnson had what could have been the game-winning TD against Chicago in the opening game of the season, only for the call to be reversed. The Bears walked away with the win.
Well, Sunday against Minnesota, with the Vikings leading 7-0 in the first quarter, Johnson appeared to catch a 20-yard touchdown pass from Matt Stafford in the opening game of the season. But as he was diving into the end zone the ball appeared to come loose.
The question is, did Johnson maintain control of the ball long enough to do a football act?
The determination relating to his reaching the ball out into the end zone is made by whether or not both feet are clearly on the ground before he extends the ball.
If he begins to extend the ball the ball before the second foot is clearly on the ground then it becomes a process and he must maintain control of the ball when he hits the ground.
He certainly began to extend the ball before he got both feet clearly down. The call was reversed. And the Lions eventually settled for a field goal.
Johnson and the Lions, done in by the process … again.
Play 5 — Freeman’s radio issue
Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman was having a problem with his coach-to-quarterback radio system in the opening series against the Jets.
And it resulted in a burned timeout and two delay-of-game penalties on Tampa Bay
However, there is no equity in coach to quarterback systems so there was really nothing the Bucs could do about it.
The only rule of equity is from the coaches in the press box to coaches on the field.
If all of them don’t work, then the other team can’t use their communication system. If one of them works, then the other team may still be able to use theirs.
Tough luck for the Bucs … and tough way to start the season.