NFL playoff officiating choices – Are the Packers’ offensive tackles getting away with false begins?

A historic drop in penalty flags helped reduce the highlight on NFL officiating in 2020. So did the abolition of replay evaluate for go interference. However the arrival of postseason football has raised scrutiny on each questionable name, rule interpretation and evaluate.

No worries. We’re right here for you. What follows is a real-time breakdown of the calls you shook your heads at, screamed on the tv for or had been in any other case confused by throughout the wild-card spherical. The latest performs are on the prime.

Packers’ tackles getting an early begin?

Buccaneers-Packers conference title game

What occurred: On a number of events within the second quarter, the Packers’ tackles appeared to leap out of their stance early. Maybe the obvious instance was when left sort out Billy Turner rapidly set as much as go block early on a 23-yard go from Aaron Rodgers to Allen Lazard to transform a 3rd down.

The way it was resolved: No flags had been thrown. In actual fact, there was not a single flag within the first half.

Evaluation: The NFL’s choice to decrease the frequency of flags in 2020 included false begins. There have been 497 flags for it throughout the common season, the bottom complete since a minimum of 2001. Did offensive gamers out of the blue get significantly better at ready till the snap earlier than shifting abruptly? In all probability not. However based on ESPN officiating analyst John Parry, the NFL’s philosophy is to not be overly technical with such calls.

The league needs a false begin to be extra like an offensive lineman on the fallacious rely, not a half second or so earlier than the remainder of his teammates. After all, gamers will all the time push the envelope, and the consequence of fewer flags goes to be extra pushing of the envelope. That is what you noticed develop within the second quarter on Sunday in Inexperienced Bay.

Browns lose ball on touchback amid uncalled unlawful hit

Browns-Chiefs divisional game, 1:42 remaining in second quarter

What occurred: The Browns misplaced the ball when receiver Rashard Higgins fumbled as he dove towards the aim line. The ball trickled out of the facet of the tip zone, activating a much-hated rule that treats the play as a turnover and marks it as a touchback.

The way it was resolved: The play was reviewed, however Higgins clearly fumbled earlier than the ball crossed the aim line.

Evaluation: It was the right name, primarily based on the rulebook. We will debate about whether or not it is honest to name a fumble out of the tip zone a touchback, when a fumble that goes out of bounds stays within the possession of the fumbling group. However the NFL has by no means thought-about altering that rule, and everybody is aware of there’s a danger of a turnover after they attempt to stretch the ball over the road.

Nonetheless, there was a complication right here. What was extra fascinating about this play was that Higgins fumbled on the exact second that Chiefs security Daniel Sorensen lowered his helmet and initiated contact with Higgins’ helmet. That was a transparent violation of the rule the NFL instituted in 2018 to attenuate such hits, which might trigger concussions and neck accidents for each gamers concerned. However the foul was not known as, and it’s not reviewable.

To be honest, it’s a very tough name to make in actual time. Officers have mentioned so from the second it was instituted. They threw solely 40 flags for it throughout the 2020 common season. It is a lot simpler to see in sluggish movement. Regardless, the Browns would have retained the ball and gained a 15-yard penalty.

Unsportsmanlike conduct on Bears TE Cole Kmet

Bears-Saints wild-card game, 9:40 remaining in second quarter

What occurred: Kmet was flagged after catching a 1-yard go to the Saints’ 9-yard line. After Kmet and Saints security Malcolm Jenkins exchanged phrases, two officers received in between them. Kmet tossed the ball to one of many officers.

The way it was resolved: Kmet was flagged for what referee Alex Kemp mentioned was unsportsmanlike conduct. The Bears went from a third-and-5 to a third-and-20, they usually finally settled for a area aim.

Evaluation: It was unattainable to listen to what was mentioned between Kmet and Jenkins — and/or Kmet and the officers. However until one thing else occurred off digicam, we are able to solely assume Kmet violated considered one of these two prohibited acts within the NFL rule e-book: (1) utilizing abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officers or representatives of the league, or (2) utilizing baiting or taunting acts or phrases which will engender in poor health will between groups.

It might be wild if the officers thought-about the ball tossing to be taunting, as an alternative of giving Kmet the advantage of the doubt for simply returning the ball. From afar, the interplay didn’t appear to rise to the extent of a 15-yard penalty in a playoff recreation.

Ravens-Titans wild-card game, 4:28 remaining within the fourth quarter

What occurred: Snead was known as for offensive go interference on a 3-yard go to tailback J.K. Dobbins that had transformed a key fourth-and-2. Snead had taken two steps previous the road of scrimmage and thrown his proper shoulder into Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans.

The way it was resolved: The penalty worn out what would have been a primary down on the Titans’ 20-yard line, which if nothing else would have allowed the Ravens to empty day off the clock (or power the Titans to make use of timeouts). The Ravens ended up kicking a 52-yard area aim to take a 20-13 lead, sustaining the Titans’ one-score deficit.

Evaluation: By rule, this name is defensible. A receiver is not presupposed to make that kind of contact past 1 yard previous the road of scrimmage. Snead was clearly making an attempt to limit Evans from tackling Dobbins. It is honest to query whether or not the decision materially restricted Evans from making a play. It is also honest to match the extent of contact and restriction concerned with what befell on the Titans’ first landing of the sport, when receiver A.J. Brown pushed cornerback Marlon Humphrey away because the ball arrived and was not penalized.

Ultimately, it was the primary OPI penalty on the Ravens all season, a yr wherein there was a 40% lower in such penalties league-wide.

Confusion on punt at finish of first half

Ravens-Titans wild-card game, 0:11 remaining within the second quarter

What occurred: The Ravens’ Sam Koch kicked a 43-yard punt on fourth-and-31. However referee Jerome Boger introduced a defensive holding name and signaled for a primary down.

The way it was resolved: Boger made a complete of three bulletins to make clear that it was the Ravens who would get the primary down, and that the foul was in opposition to Titans linebacker Daren Bates. The Ravens’ offense returned to the sphere, and quarterback Lamar Jackson took a knee to finish the half.

Evaluation: Shortly after the snap, Bates grabbed Ravens lengthy snapper Morgan Cox and pulled him to the bottom in a method that groups generally make use of to create a lane for one more participant to hurry by. It was clearly a defensive maintain, and since it occurred earlier than the kick, it was adjudicated the identical method it will have been if the offense and protection had been on the sphere. That awarded the Ravens 5 yards and an computerized first down.

It took some time for Boger to kind by all of it, and there additionally appeared to have been an uncalled maintain in opposition to Ravens upback Anthony Levine Sr. In the end, although, there was no disputing Boger’s utility of the principles.

No name on A.J. Brown for offensive go interference

Ravens-Titans wild-card game, 5:39 remaining within the first quarter

What occurred: The Titans had been credited with a 10-yard landing go from Ryan Tannehill to Brown, who appeared to push Ravens cornerback Marlon Humphrey away from him because the ball arrived ultimately zone.

The way it was resolved: The landing stood. Potential interference from a receiver or a defender is now not reviewable.

Evaluation: Move interference is among the many most subjective judgment calls in soccer, as we realized in 2019 when the NFL tried unsuccessfully to adjudicate it by replay. The NFL rulebook defines it for example the place one participant “considerably hinders” one other from a chance to catch the ball. In sensible phrases, officiating analyst John Parry mentioned on the ABC/ESPN broadcast, officers search for whether or not one participant positive factors an “benefit” by a prohibited motion.

On this case, Brown clearly had a better catch after pushing Humphrey away along with his left arm. So this play clearly match the definition, each formally and virtually. But it surely ought to be famous that NFL officers had been fairly stingy on offensive go interference this season. They threw flags 72 flags for it in 2020, the fewest complete since 2007 and third fewest since 2001. This season’s complete represented a 40% drop from 2019, when there have been 122 such flags.

Washington punt declared a touchback

Bucs-Washington wild-card game, 9:02 remaining within the third quarter

What occurred: The Buccaneers had been awarded a touchback after Washington’s Troy Apke picked up a Washington punt close to the 7-yard line and — presumably believing it had been touched by a Buccaneers participant — ran it into the tip zone.

The way it was resolved: The play remained a touchback.

Evaluation: The ball ought to have been marked the place Apke first gained possession, and never a touchback. By rule, a kick that goes previous the road of scrimmage is useless as quickly as a member of the kicking group downs it. The ball cannot be superior. There are various judgment calls over the course of a recreation that may be debated. This one was a matter of rule utility. Washington ought to have been in a position to pin the Buccaneers deeper than it did.

Rams RB Cam Akers‘ fumble reversed

Rams-Seahawks wild-card game, 46 seconds remaining in first half

What occurred: Officers dominated that Seahawks defensive finish Carlos Dunlap stripped the ball from Akers after a 3-yard run. The fumble restoration was credited to Seahawks cornerback Ryan Neal, giving Seattle the ball on the Rams’ 26-yard line.

The way it was resolved: The decision was reversed in replay evaluate. The NFL dominated Akers was down by contact earlier than he fumbled, and the Rams retained possession.

Evaluation: The league finally received the play proper, however like a number of different calls we have seen throughout the course of wild-card weekend, it was laborious to imagine that NFL-caliber officers would see this play as a fumble. Akers was laying on his again, with the ball tucked tightly in his arm, when Dunlap first tried to strip the ball. At the very least one official initially dominated Akers down, however he was overruled. It is all the time doable that views had been blocked, and generally in the event that they’re doubtful, officers rule a turnover to make sure it may be adjudicated appropriately in replay by way of computerized evaluate.

However on this case, replay might have reviewed the play regardless as a result of there have been lower than two minutes remaining. It was the type of choice that erodes confidence within the total competence of the enterprise.

Officers choose up flag on hit to Rams QB’s head

Rams-Seahawks wild-card game, 5:40 remaining in first quarter

What occurred: As Rams quarterback John Wolford dove to the bottom after a two-yard run, Seahawks security Jamal Adams lowered his proper shoulder and hit Wolford within the head. Officers initially threw a flag in opposition to Adams. Wolford left the game and was changed by Jared Goff.

The way it was resolved: Referee John Hussey introduced there can be no penalty as a result of Wolford was thought-about a runner and thus wasn’t topic to protections usually afforded to quarterbacks.

Evaluation: It is true that Wolford would not get quarterback safety on that play, however what occurred subsequent prompted differing takes from broadcast officiating analysts. Fox Sports activities’ Mike Pereira and NBC’s Terry McAulay each urged that the hit was unlawful as a result of Wolford was giving himself up and due to this fact a defenseless participant. However the NFL rule e-book doesn’t account for that particular scenario. ESPN’s John Parry tweeted: “QB – head first is runner – shoulder to helmet isn’t a foul by rule.” Backside line, your entire sequence was debatable.

It is the second consecutive season the Seahawks have knocked a beginning quarterback out of a playoff recreation with successful to the pinnacle. Within the earlier case, Jadeveon Clowney’s hit on Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz was thought-about incidental and never forcible. Wolford, in the meantime, was taken to the hospital for precautionary measures, based on a Rams spokesperson.

How was that not a fumble by the Colts?

Colts-Bills wild-card game, 50 seconds remaining in fourth quarter

What occurred: On fourth-and-10 on the Colts’ closing possession of the sport, receiver Zach Pascal was credited with a 17-yard catch and fell on the Payments’ 46-yard line. Pascal received up and fumbled, which was recovered by the Payments in what would have been a game-clinching play. Officers on the sphere, nonetheless, dominated that Pascal was down by contact after initially falling.

The way it was resolved: Payments coach Sean McDermott known as a timeout because the Colts hurried to the road of scrimmage, however he couldn’t problem as a result of there was lower than 2 minutes remaining within the recreation. In the course of the timeout, NFL senior vice chairman of officiating Al Riveron reviewed the decision. It was not instantly clear if his evaluate stopped the sport, or if it was McDermott’s timeout. Regardless, referee Brad Allen introduced that the decision would stand with no additional clarification.

Evaluation: The NFL said on Twitter that there was no clear and apparent proof obtainable to overturn the ruling, and there was no pool report requested in Buffalo to additional clarify. As a result of replays appeared to substantiate that Pascal was not contacted earlier than he received up, and that he was not down when he misplaced possession of the ball. We’ll replace this put up if the NFL or Riveron provides any additional clarification. However by all obtainable proof in the intervening time, the Payments ought to have been given possession. Had the Colts come again to tie or win the sport — the Bills won 27-24 — this choice would have been closely scrutinized.

Clock runs after fumble out of bounds

Colts-Bills wild-card game, 26 seconds remaining in fourth quarter

What occurred: The sport clock continued working after Colts receiver Michael Pittman Jr. fumbled out of bounds.

The way it was resolved: The clock was not stopped.

Evaluation: This play brought about a good bit of uproar on social media, but it surely was acceptable recreation administration. A fumble out of bounds isn’t the identical as a participant going out of bounds. In accordance the NFL rule e-book: “If a fumble or backward go by any participant goes out of bounds, the sport clock begins on the referee’s sign {that a} ball has been returned to the sphere of play.”

Payments credited with two sideline catches

Colts-Bills wild-card game, below 2 minutes, second quarter

What occurred: Payments receiver Gabriel Davis was credited with sideline receptions of 37 and 19 yards. In each instances, frame-by-frame replays confirmed he won’t have gotten each ft down in bounds.

The way it was resolved: As a result of there have been lower than 2 minutes remaining, the NFL’s replay official instituted opinions of each performs. In every case, referee Brad Allen introduced solely that the unique name stood. Allen didn’t clarify why there was an official’s hat on the bottom as Davis made the primary catch; usually meaning a participant or gamers has run out of bounds and is now not an eligible receiver.

Evaluation: You could possibly make a frame-by-frame judgment that Davis’ left foot touched the white a part of the sideline after the primary catch. The identical goes for the second reception, the place he won’t have absolutely executed a toe drag earlier than stepping out of bounds. However the NFL’s replay system requires a a lot increased commonplace than “would possibly.” It have to be “clear and apparent,” ideally in live-speed motion, that Davis had stepped out of bounds earlier than gaining possession. Had the on-field ruling been incomplete, the evaluate system possible would have upheld that as effectively.

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