Cincinnati scored a critical win over Green Bay with a fumble returned for a touchdown, but did the refs get the call right?
Are defenders allowed to advance a fumble?
Tom Uhlman / FR31154 AP
By MIKE PEREIRA
It's amazing what two minutes can mean to a football game.
Sometimes, in the time it takes took to cook an egg, the outcome of a game can quickly transform. That, and an interesting rule that changes at certain times of the game.
The key play took place in the Green Bay-Cincinnati game.
Here was the situation: Green Bay had the ball, fourth-and-inches from the Cincinnati 30-yard line with 4:03 left in the game. The Packers led 30-27.
Packers running back Johnathan Franklin tried to dive over the pile for the first down, but had the ball knocked loose. Cincinnati's Reggie Nelson picked up the ball, then he fumbled it and it was picked up by the Bengals' Terrance Newman at the Cincinnati 42-yard line and returned it 58 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.
The officials huddled for a significant length of time and not many knew what they were talking about. It's complicated, but here it is:
On fourth down, if there is a fumble, only the fumbling player may recover and advance the ball. If a teammate recovers the fumble, the ball is dead and the ball is returned to the spot of the fumble. This is a result because of Oakland's Dave Casper. Remember him and the "Holy Roller" play?
However, outside of two minutes in either half, the rule applies only to the offensive team before a change of possession. After the change of possession, the restriction for advancing a fumble does not apply to either team. That's why the Newman was allowed to advance Nelson's fumble.
The interesting part of this play, is that if this occurs a couple of minutes later inside of two minutes, the rule applies to both teams before and after any change of possession. Therefore, had this been inside of two minutes, the ball that was recovered by Newman, would have been declared dead and returned to the spot of Nelson's fumble, the Cincinnati 42-yard line. That means, the winning touchdown would not have been scored on this play.
Earth, Wind and Fire had a song "Time is On Your Side"â¦ Sunday, it clearly was on Cincinnati's side.
Officials must know the rules.
Two plays happened during the first half Sunday in two different games that were mis-enforced.
Let's start in Minnesota.
Here was the situation: The Vikings were punting with a little under three minutes left in the second quarter with the Browns leading 24-14. Cleveland's Travis Benjamin tried to field the punt and muffed it. As he tried to pick it up, he muffed it again and the ball was recovered by Minnesota's Larry Dean, who picked up the ball and returned it for a touchdown.
The ball was placed down where Dean recovered, because the kicking team cannot advance a kick that is never possessed. Vikings coach Leslie Frazier challenged the call, but this play cannot be challenged because the booth automatically reviews a punt that was ruled to have been touched by the receiving team and recovered by the kicking team.
The officials penalized Frazier for challenging the play, since the play fell under the auspices of a booth review.
Remember Lions coach Jim Schwartz from last season, when he cost his team a game for challenging a booth review against the Titans on Thanksgiving Day? The league passed a rule before this season began that stated if a coach challenged a play that was subject to a booth review only, the team would be charged with a team timeout and no yardage would be assessed. If the team, was out of time outs, then it would be a 15-yard penalty. In this case, Minnesota had three timeouts remaining.
So, it was the wrong enforcement. Referee Bill Leavy's crew is unfortunately the same crew that had the Green Bay-San Francisco situation from Week 1, when they mis-enforced the penalty after two dead-ball, personal fouls that essentially gave the 49ers an extra down.
The other play took place in the San Diego-Tennesse game.
Here was that situation: Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker scrambled on a first down and 10 play from his own 19-yard line and went for 39 yards to the San Diego 42-yard line. Tennessee running back Chris Johnson was initially called for a chop block.
The referee then announced that there was no foul because the play turned into a run. That's not the rule. Rule 12, Section 2, Article 3 of the NFL rule book states: Each of the above circumstances, which describes a chop block foul on a forward pass play, also applies on a play in which an offensive player indicates an apparent attempt to pass block, but the play ultimately becomes a run.
The chop block should have been enforced, which should negated Locker's 39-yard gain. Then when you enforce the 15-yard penalty, it became a 54-yard mistake because of a misinterpretation of a rule.
Midway through the first quarter, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo hit Bryant with a 2-yard touchdown pass.
As Bryant moved into the end zone, it looks to me like he pushed off Rams defender Cortland Finnegan and extended his arms to get himself free. However, nothing was called.
Result: Cowboys 7, Rams 0
More head games
It's going to be a running theme this season.
Hits to the head are going to be monitored very closely and there was a hit in the Packers-Bengals game that should have been called, but wasn't.
Midway through the first quarter, Green Bay quarterback attempted a deep pass across the middle to tight end Jermichael Finley that was incomplete, but as Finley was going to the ground, George Iloka hit Finley with a shoulder to the head.
That should have been a hit on a defenseless receiver and Iloka can expect to get fined by the league. I'm also sure the league won't be happy the penalty wasn't called.
Finley was taken out of the game and went to the locker room for further evaluation. He was diagnosed with a concussion and will miss the rest of the game.