Packers take advantage of ridiculous NFL rule to magically make kickoff go out of bounds

Forget orange — exploiting ridiculous kickoff rules is the new black.

In a season during which teams are taking advantage of the NFL’s decision to move touchbacks from the 20-yard-line to the 25 by pooching kicks and forcing returners to handle the ball, the Green Bay Packers used an oldie, but a goodie on Sunday. Here’s how it went down in the Packers game against the Detroit Lions:

The Lions’ kickoff bounced inside the goal line and looked like it’d be easily scooped up by return man Ty Montgomery for a touchback. But the ball checked up and went backward, onto the field. That sent Montgomery into a panic, as a kickoff is a live ball, which means that if a Detroit player had been in the area to recover, it would have been Lions ball inside the 5-yard-line. So, Montgomery chased the ball around like he was Rocky and it was a chicken and quickly fell on it. But he did so with his feet out of bounds. And therein lies the rub.

Because even though the ball was in bounds, Montgomery’s feet being out of bounds meant that, by rule, the kickoff itself is considered to have gone out of bounds. So instead of Packers ball on their own 3, the ball came out to the 40 like an ordinary kickoff that squibs out of bounds.

Brilliant.

As pointed out by SB Nation, the Packers have pulled this move before. Randall Cobb once waited for a ball to bounce toward the sideline and when it got close enough, he casually took a step out of bounds and recovered the ball. Replays show Cobb knew exactly what he was doing, as he had a mischievous look on his face while walking down the sideline after the play. He should have had one.

The rule is idiotic. If Montgomery had caught the ball in the end zone, brought it out for a return and put his feet in the exact same spot, the ball would have been downed right there. What difference does it make that the ball was floating freely with neither team having possession?

It’s not quite the worst rule in the league. That’s Rule 8, Section 7, Article 3, Item 4(b), which says that if a runner going toward the end zone fumbles the ball and that ball goes out of bounds untouched, it’s awarded to the defense even though the defense didn’t recover anything.

Anyway, your move Belichick.