Week 10 controversial calls

BY foxsports • November 13, 2011

Baseball’s got nothing on football.

While the phrase "a game of inches" might have been popularized by the Boys of Summer, the Beasts of Fall can certainly hold their own on any given Sunday.

Want proof? You need to look no further than the Falcons-Saints game in Atlanta.

Here was the situation: Atlanta had the ball, third-and-1 from the Atlanta 29-yard line with 10:52 left in overtime and the score tied at 23.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan completed a 2-yard pass to Mike Cox at the Atlanta 31-yard line. The official ruled Cox down and marked the progress spot, giving the Falcons a first down.

Since the game was in overtime, all reviews come from the replay booth and the replay official stopped the game to review the spot. While looking at the play, referee Terry McAulay saw that the ball had come loose before Cox was down, and the fumbled ball had gone forward and out of bounds.

By rule, the ball goes back to the spot of the fumble — which in this case, was inches short of the 30-yard line. It was a good job by McAulay and his replay official, Earnie Frantz, to not just focus on the spot, but also on the fact that the ball had come loose.

Great camera angles that were provided to the crew enabled them to make a definitive decision on a play, making it fourth-and-inches for the Falcons.

The Saints held on fourth down and took over at the Atlanta 29-yard line. Four plays later, John Kasay kicked the game-winning field goal, so clearly the reversal had an effect on this game.

A game of inches … the saying works quite well in all sports these days.

Let’s take a look at some of the other interesting plays from Sunday.

THE GAME: Arizona at Philadelphia

THE SITUATION: Philadelphia had the ball, second-and-20 at the Philadelphia 20-yard line with 8:53 left in the game. The score was tied 14-14.

THE PLAY: Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick’s pass intended for Brent Celek was intercepted by Richard Marshall. Philadelphia challenged the interception ruling and the play was reversed.

MY TAKE: This was correctly reversed by referee Walt Anderson as the ball came loose when Marshall was rolling over on the ground during the process of completing the catch.

This is still a controversial rule and it has to do with when the act of completing the catch is over. It goes back to the opening week last season on Detroit’s Calvin Johnson catch in the end zone and continues being called the same way now.

I think they need to change this rule. It’s not easy, but I think if the ball comes out when a player first contacts the ground, then the pass should be ruled incomplete. But if it comes out after that, when you are rolling over, then it seems logical that the ground did not cause the incompletion.

They’ll continue to look at this interpretation, but I doubt we’ll see a change.

THE GAME: Detroit at Chicago

THE SITUATION: Detroit had the ball, third-and-8 from the Detroit 38-yard line with 8:18 left in the first quarter. Chicago led 7-0.

THE PLAY: Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford completed a 20-yard pass to Nate Burleson. The ball was stripped by Chicago’s Tim Jennings near the sideline. Teammate Chris Conte was coming from out of bounds and touched the ball, but Jennings made the recovery. Detroit challenged the loose ball recovery ruling and the play was upheld.

MY TAKE: I love these types of plays because there are so many different aspects to them. This is clearly a catch and a fumble, but with the fumble so close to the sideline, the challenge focuses on whether any of the players who touched the ball are out of bounds or have been out of bounds.

In this case, you had the recovery by Jennings, who clearly had not been out of bounds. But Conte clearly had been, and he did come back in and touch the ball before the recovery by Jennings.

Eligibility is not an issue here, in regard to Conte. The only question was, did he reestablish getting back in bounds before he touched the loose ball.

Reestablish? What does that mean?

Conte had to get back in bounds with both feet before touching the ball, which he did. So after all of that, the ruling on the field stood as called.

THE GAME: Washington at Miami

THE SITUATION: Miami had the ball, second-and 8 at the Washington 18-yard line with 6:07 left in the game. Miami led 13-9.

THE PLAY: Miami running back Reggie Bush rushed around right end for 18 yards and a touchdown. Bush threw the ball into the stands after scoring the touchdown.

MY TAKE: This one is going to cost Reggie $5,000. The league has a rule that you cannot throw the ball into the stands.

The rule was put in place because the league was concerned about potential injury to fans getting into fights trying to get the ball. It is OK to hand the ball to someone in the first couple of rows, but you can’t fire it into the stands.

This is not a playing rule; therefore, there is no penalty. But there is an automatic fine. Reggie will get the note early this week.

THE GAME: Buffalo at Dallas

THE SITUATION: Dallas’ Dan Bailey kicked off to open the third quarter and the ball went 48 yards to the Buffalo 17.

THE PLAY: The Bills’ Lee Smith caught the ball at the 17-yard line with his right foot in bounds as his left was still in the air. His left foot then came down out of bounds. Buffalo challenged the runner was in bounds ruling and the play was upheld.

MY TAKE: Special teams coaches are smart guys. If the kickoff is near the sideline, they do everything they can to try and turn it into a kickoff out of bounds, which would then place the ball at the 40.

If a member of the receiving team has established himself out of bounds and then reaches back inbounds and touches the ball, it is a kickoff out of bounds. If he touches the ball before he established himself out of bounds, then the receiving team is forced to keep the ball at the out of bounds spot.

In this case, Smith touched the ball before his left foot came down out of bounds. So it was not a kickoff out of bounds.

THE GAME: Kansas City at Denver

THE SITUATION: Kansas City had the ball, first-and-10 at the Kansas City 29-yard line with 3:23 left in the second quarter. Denver led 10-0.

THE PLAY: Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel completed a 49-yard pass to Jonathan Baldwin, who made a crazy catch as the ball was pinned to the back of Denver’s Brian Dawkins.

Kansas City was called for an illegal formation, but Dawkins was called for a defensive pass interference penalty. The penalties offset.

MY TAKE: We’ve talked often about the 5-15 penalty enforcement. If there are two fouls on a play, one by each team, and one of the fouls is a simple 5-yard penalty and the other is a major 15-yard penalty, the 5-yard penalty is disregarded by rule and the 15-yard penalty is enforced from the previous spot.

My ever-alert Twitter followers asked why these two fouls offset and the 5-15 enforcement didn’t apply. That’s because defensive pass interference is not a 15-yard penalty. It’s a spot foul, and not a personal foul so it doesn’t apply.

Great awareness by my Twitter crew.

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