Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Sep 2007

The Vernon Davis Non-Catch Revisited

As you may have read in The Week in Quotes this week, San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan is pretty upset with Gerry Austin, the referee for last Sunday's 49ers-Steelers matchup, because of a controversial call Austin made in the third quarter. He shouldn't be -- if anything, he should be thanking Steelers coach Mike Tomlin for (unintentionally) giving the 49ers a three-point gift.

First, let's revisit the play in question. The Niners, down by 11 with five minutes left to play in the quarter, are facing 3rd-and-13 at Pittsburgh's 32-yard line. Tight end Vernon Davis runs a simple route over the middle and Alex Smith hooks up with him on a 22-yard pass, giving the Niners what should be a first down. But then Steelers safety Troy Polamalu wraps up Davis and flips him, sending Davis face first toward the turf. Davis extends his arm and the football pops out of his arm as it hits the ground -- though, crucially, the ball itself does not appear to hit the ground -- and flies ten yards in the air, where it is caught by Steelers safety Ryan Clark, who then runs it back to midfield.

The play is ruled a catch and a fumble by Davis, recovered by the Steelers. Nolan immediately throws the challenge flag and Austin goes under the black hood. When he emerges, he reverses the call on the field, and rules instead that it was an incomplete pass. In somewhat convoluted fashion, Austin explains that because Davis only got a "foot and a toe" and didn't make a football move, it wasn't a catch. Or something like that. In any event, the 49ers keep the ball and end up with a field goal.

After the game, Nolan gripes that he should have loaned his "prescription sunglasses" to Austin, and he repeatedly informs the local press that he's seeking "clarification" on the ruling. As an added bonus, Davis also injured himself on the play and will miss this Sunday's game against the Seahawks.

But here's where things get interesting. Last night, HBO's Inside the NFL ran a fascinating piece on Mike Periera, the NFL's Director of Officiating, who oversees a NORAD-style military compound every Sunday to monitor officiating mistakes. During the program, we see Periera reviewing the Davis play, furrowing his brow, and murmuring to himself "the call is correct ... but the Steelers could have challenged whether the ball hit the ground" (or something to that effect -- I'm working off memory here).

Periera's comment struck me, and continues to strike me, as odd. The play initially was called in the Steelers favor (catch and fumble) but was reversed to being an incomplete pass. Surely that's the end of the matter -- you can't challenge on top of a challenge, can you? Well, actually, you can. According to Jon Zimmer of the NFL's Communications and Public Affairs office, who emailed me earlier today:


Mike Pereira's explanation on HBO of the Vernon Davis play is correct ... after the completion of the initial review that resulted in an incomplete pass, the Steelers could have challenged whether or not the ball hit the ground.

So, to recap: the referee incorrectly ruled the play a catch and fumble. Nolan was correct to challenge. But had Mike Tomlin challenged after the reversal, it's likely that Austin would have ruled that the ball never hit the ground, and therefore was an interception. Put another way, Nolan should stop whining.

One final editorial comment. This replay procedure seems twice as complex as it needs to be. When Austin reviews the play, he should look at the entire consequences of the play if the ball never hit the ground, instead of myopically focusing on the narrow question of whether Davis caught the ball or not. Plays should not be reviewed in a vacuum, and it shouldn't require two challenges to get the call correct, should it?

Posted by: Ben Riley on 27 Sep 2007

55 comments, Last at 29 Sep 2007, 10:29pm by Jerry

Comments

1
by Protagoras (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:20pm

It's true that the ruling of an incomplete is absurd since the ball never touched the ground, but it wasn't an interception either because Davis was *down*. Nolan is "whining"—actually he said that the call didn't determine the game—because the officials got everything wrong about that call. It was a catch because Davis had both feet down, which the official admitted at the time. He said it didn't count as catch because one foot was "barely" down and because Davis hadn't "made a football move"—a phrase which actually has been taken out of the rulebook. Then Pereira later explained that it didn't count as that both feet were down because Davis didn't get both feet down before Polamalu hit him. I don't think that's even a rule, but in any case, Davis tightly controlled the ball all the way until his shoulder hits the ground and the play is—or should be—over.

2
by Dan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:35pm

"When Austin reviews the play, he should look at the entire consequences of the play if the ball never hit the ground, instead of myopically focusing on the narrow question of whether Davis caught the ball or not."

How do we know he didn't do that? He may have just concluded that the ball did hit the ground. As I recall from watching the replay, it was far from clear that the ball never hit the ground.

3
by Sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:40pm

Unbelievable if that is really how the system is supposed to work. The key fact was possession changed. Whether it was technically an interception or a fumble is immaterial.

Here's a hypothetical: Receiver makes what looks to be a catch but opposing coach thought he stepped out of bounds earlier in the route. He challenges, telling the ref "He stepped out, so it's not a legal catch." Ref views tape and determines the guy never did step out, but the replay shows he also didn't make the catch. Would that play stand because the challenge wasn't about the catch?

4
by zip (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:48pm

As an added bonus, Davis also injured himself on the play and will miss this Sunday’s game against the Seahawks.

Which is probably why he fumbled. I've seen a lot of guys cough it when they get hurt, and I can't blame them.

5
by Athelas (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:50pm

On Total Access they showed a replay that showed the ball DID hit the ground--which is what Pereira said, and pointed out clearly.

6
by BHW (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:54pm

On Total Access they showed a replay that showed the ball DID hit the ground–which is what Pereira said, and pointed out clearly.

Really? The angles on the telecast made it look 100% as though the ball did not touch the ground. From the point of view of the telecast angles, the call was beyond absurd in every way.

7
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:58pm

I think it makes sense to analyze only the specific aspects of a play that have been challenged, as opposed to any and all events that may have affected the play outcome. First of all, open challenges would encourage coaches to throw the red flag, in the hope of finding something - anything - wrong with crucial plays. Second, it would put the ref in the difficult situation of having to analyze in a finite amount of time very complex situations, especially for very crowded plays.

Say that, hypothetically, the replay showed Polamalu make contact with Davis before the ball got there - would the referee be allowed to call pass interference on Polamalu, even if the challenge was about whether the pass was complete?

Another example: was any lineman holding when Brady fumbled on that QB sneak attempt against the Bills last Sunday? I am sure there was, on both sides, and it may have influenced the play to the extent that it affected Brady's forward progress toward the goal line, where and when his knee came down, etc. Should the call have been offsetting penalties and ball back to the Pats?

8
by Sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 7:58pm

It makes no sense that coaches' challenges would be handled differently from booth challenges at the end of the game. If they see something weird in the last 2 minutes, they review it and fix it, regardless of whether it initially looked like a fumble but was really an interception, or whatever.

It seems as if the posters above have a far better grasp of what happened than the author.

9
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:01pm

Periera only said that the Steelers could have challenged he didn't say they'd have won. I was initially outraged at the call but after having heard the NFL's explanation and looked at the footage several times, the call was correct.

Davis didn't have both feet down until Polamalu hit him, Davis was not able to maintain control and then the ball did then touch the ground therefore the pass was incomplete. The officials actually did a fantastic job on this one though it didn't appear so at the time (and the language used to explain the decision was confusing).

Nolan hasn't been whining at all about this, he's always very careful to avoid blaming this sort of thing in his statements to the press. He takes the view that if you haven't been good enough to overcome adversity then you didn't deserve to win. Every coach refers calls to the league, not just Nolan. The quote has been taken out of context, you could see Nolan offering the sunglasses on TV, he was smiling and joking.

10
by Sundown (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:03pm

#7: By rule, holding and pass interference can't be challenged. And you can't retroactively call penalties, except for a couple procedure examples like 12 men on the field.

Now I'm going to shut up and see what finally gets hashed out, because now it sounds like the author might be right. My apologies for speaking too soon.

11
by James, London (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:05pm

I was watching this game on and off, including during the play in question. I didn't see a single angle that suggested the ball hit the ground. The end result struck me then, and still strikes me as bizarre. It's either a catch and down by contact, or it's a pick and the Steelers have the ball.

BTW, one of the announcers, (Moose Johnson I think), was all over the possibility of an Interception more or less immediately. I thought it was really sharp work. Am I wrong to want this from every announcing crew?

12
by countertorque (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:09pm

This is ridiculous. You should not have to challenge twice to get the ref to figure out what the hell happened.

Did he turn off the tape with the ball in mid air between Davis and Clark?

After Tomlin challenges that the ball didn't hit the ground, is Nolan supposed to then challenge that Ryan Clark didn't catch it or was down earlier than where the ref spotted the ball?

I've always been in favor of the review system, but why do people insist on making it harder than it has to be?

And for the record, I'm a Steeler fan who thinks that Davis made a catch and was down by contact.

13
by Ben Riley :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:11pm

#1 If Davis didn't catch the ball, he couldn't have been down.

#2 You make a good point, but the fact that Periera said that Tomlin could have challenged strongly suggests -- though does not prove -- that the NFL's head of officiating thought it was an interception.

#3 Good hypothetical. Be interesting to see if this ever comes up in a game.

#7 I agree that there should be some line drawn on the scope of review, but it should be broader than what Austin did here, don't you think?

#8 Before gratuitously insulting the author, you also make a good point -- reviews handled within two minutes must be comprehensive in scope.

14
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:19pm

The ground level view from the end zone clearly shows the ball touching the ground. It can't have been an interception, Austin actually made the right call.

15
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:22pm

How could he not have caught the ball? He had possession with both feet down. He didn't lose possession until he hit the ground. The ground can't cause a fumble. Therefore it's a completion.

Where's the flaw in this logic? I don't understand how, on review, it can be anything but a complete pass and then down by contact.

16
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:25pm

Re: #7

I think it makes sense to analyze only the specific aspects of a play that have been challenged, as opposed to any and all events that may have affected the play outcome.

According to Jerry Markbreit's "Ask the Referee" columns, the challenging team's stated reason for challenge is only used for determining whether the team wins/loses the challenge (and whether or not it loses a timeout). Markbreit says that regardless of what specific thing the team challenges, the ref is allowed to "fix" all reversible errors he sees in the replay.

17
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:32pm

How could he not have caught the ball? He had possession with both feet down. He didn’t lose possession until he hit the ground. The ground can’t cause a fumble.

The ground can't cause a fumble, but it can cause an incompletion. You have to catch the ball, get two feet in, and maintain possession until you hit the ground. (Thus the 'football move' thing -- if you take a step, and then fall and lose control, it's a fumble, because taking a step is sufficient to establish possession, as is falling to the ground, as long as you maintain control).

It seems like people get confused about similar calls every season. Two feet in bounds is not enough.

18
by Paul (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 8:53pm

#17. exactly. This is what I was saying in the sports bar (A Steelers bar, though there was a very brave SF fan right next to me, though his mother was in Steelers gear). It was very clear from the replays that the two calls possible were incomplete, if the ball hit the ground or interception, if the ball did not. It was not clear on TV whether the ball hit the ground, so I had to accept the ref's call (though I couldn't hear a word he said). I did think it was an interception though. The fumble was never a correct call.

19
by Jim Ryalto (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 9:19pm

this is just the nfl covering up a terrible call by their refs. the "his second foot only hit the ground because he was hit" is total bullshit and not in any rulebook. the whole stadium knew it was a catch and down by contact. And it wasn't the only hometown call the steelers got that day. no wonder Ben 'Seahawks Fan' Riley posted this.

20
by Scott (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 9:23pm

The goal of instant replay should be to get the call right in the most efficient manner. Not to create a game within the game that has little to do with football. The NFL should heed the advice of my late grandma: "keep it simple, stupid."

21
by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 9:37pm

I only remember the play vaguely at angle from a sports bar, but I remember the defender hit Davis, the contact caused Davis to hit the ground, the ball came out. I think Davis elbow hit first. I believe the only part of the body besides the feet that is allowed to hit the ground is the open hand without the ball. Thus from my memory I thought the play call was either incomplete pass because the receiver failed to control the ball throughout the catching process or completed pass with the ball coming out after being down.

21
by johonny (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 9:37pm

I only remember the play vaguely at angle from a sports bar, but I remember the defender hit Davis, the contact caused Davis to hit the ground, the ball came out. I think Davis elbow hit first. I believe the only part of the body besides the feet that is allowed to hit the ground is the open hand without the ball. Thus from my memory I thought the play call was either incomplete pass because the receiver failed to control the ball throughout the catching process or completed pass with the ball coming out after being down.

23
by countertorque (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 9:40pm

If the receiver comes down on anything other than his feet, I thought that whatever he landed on counted in place of his feet. So, if he lands on his shoulder in posession of the ball (which I think he did), then the play should be over as a complete pass, right?

Does he have to get back up on his feet and make a move for it to count as a catch? If he lets the ball hit the ground as he's getting to his feet is it an incomplete?

24
by Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 9:42pm

Here is a GREAT link at NFL.com in which Pereira reviews 3 plays from Sunday (including this play)

http://www.nfl.com/videos

This will take you to the Video Section and then choose

"NFLTA: Official Review - Sept. 26"

It is a very insightful weekly feature that they run. In summary he says it is incomplete because Davis' 2nd foot did not hit the ground before it was impacted by the defender.

25
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 9:51pm

#16:

Interesting. I think I have often heard game commentators insist that the only issue that could be reviewed/reversed was the one that had been challenged, but what do they know anyway?

So, is it theoretically possible for a coach to lose a challenge (and the t.o.), but get the original call reversed anyway based on some other issue?

26
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 9:53pm

re: 17, 18

You have to catch the ball, get two feet in, and maintain possession until you hit the ground.

It was very clear from the replays that the two calls possible were incomplete, if the ball hit the ground or interception, if the ball did not.

Neither one of these explains what happened. He had the bal in his hand until he hit the ground. It's clearly the ground that causes the ball to come out.

So, in the first case, all criteria for the catch were made. Two feet are down. Check. Maintains possession until he hits the ground. Check.

In the second case, I think it's irrelevant whether the ball hit the ground or not. There are plenty of cases where the ball is the first thing to hit the ground. So what?

The argument for incomplete seems to hinge on the fact that he didn't have his second foot down when the defender made contact. I've never heard this rule before. Where did it come from?

27
by Jason (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:18pm

If Davis hadn't been hit before getting both feet down and then got hit then it would have been a catch.

However, since he was hit 1st in order for it to be a catch he had to hold onto the ball after contacting the ground

28
by navin (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:24pm

I think people are confusing two different rules about catches.

1) One rule is that if you catch the ball and get two feet down, it is a catch. If you hit the ground and the ball comes out, you are down by contact. This is the rule that should apply to this past weekend's game. I believe Davis did get both feet down before the contact, but I'm going to watch it again to be sure.

2) The second rule is that if the act of making the catch causes you to fall to the ground, you must maintain possession through the fall and during the contact with the ground. This is the rule invoked at the end Tampa-Washington game in 2005-6 playoff game, but it does not apply to the game this weekend. The act of catching the pass did not cause Davis to fall, the tackle caused him to fall.

29
by navin (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:33pm

Okay, I watched the video and I was wrong about the call during the game. The rules I mentioned still apply, but Davis did not get both feet down before he was hit. I did not know that you had to get them down before you were hit--it was an interesting clarification for me to learn.

30
by Jim Ryalto (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 10:58pm

you've never heard of that rule because it does not exist.

31
by Jim Ryalto (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 11:06pm

this is just the NFL making up lame excuses for an obviously slanted game.

-the Davis "incompletion"
-Big Ben not being called for an obvious intentional grounding that would have taken the steelers out of field goal range on third down.
-2 extremely dubious illegal contact calls on a niners CB when the Steelers were 3rd and long. Both times called by the same ref 15 feet away, mid-play, when it looked as though Big Ben was going to get sacked. Once, the niners stopped the play and the penalty gave the steelers a new set of downs. the other time, the steelers completed a pass for big yards anyway, so the penalty was declined. the "contact" was clearly inside of 5 yards. shades of Tim Donahey.

These were all clear hometown calls. There is no rule that says that if you get two feet down, but are hit in the process, it doesn't count. Periera is full of shit and covering for a terrible ref job.

32
by Jerry (not verified) :: Thu, 09/27/2007 - 11:07pm

Re #16:

Markbreit says that regardless of what specific thing the team challenges, the ref is allowed to “fix� all reversible errors he sees in the replay.

Not just "allowed to", "supposed to". When the current replay system was implemented, I heard a number of people say that referees had to look at the entire play, not just the point of challenge.

33
by rk (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 12:09am

Jim Ryalto, where did you get your copy of the NFL Rule Book? I've never seen one available.
P.S. The call that gave the Steelers a 1st down was defensive holding. It doesn't matter how close to the line of scrimmage you are, you can't ever hold a receiver who doesn't have the ball.

34
by Jason (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 2:00am

The even more interesting feature of that Video is that weird ruling regarding spiking the ball on the playing field. The defensive team actually benefits by committing a penalty on the play as opposed to if only the offense gets penalized with the spiking

35
by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 5:33am

I've always found it very strange that you have to make a football move on the field, but not in the endzone.
I've learned that it is complete if you catched the ball and have 2 feet (or toes for that matter) on the ground.
.
Oh and Nolan should stop his boo hoo.

36
by Alan Milnes (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 5:54am

The ground can’t cause a fumble.

That rule does not exist!! If a player is untouched by an opponent and falls to the ground with the ball popping loose it is a fumble. It is a misconception because once a player is touched by an opponent as soon as anything other than a foot or hand touches the ground the play is over.

37
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 8:37am

33: That holding call on Clements was absurd, he got a fantastic jam at the line of scrimmage while within the mandated five yards. He never held. Just because Holmes is a shrimp are Dbs not allowed to jam him?

Can anyone explain how Roethlisberger was not called for that intentional grounding play? That one really was a head scratcher.

38
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 8:42am

This was a very simple play to understand. Davis did not get both feet down before being hit and falling to the ground. Now normally, if this happens and the player then loses the ball, which then hits the ground (and that's what happens 98% of the time) it's an incomplete pass.

But in this case, the ball popped into the air and was subsequently caught in the air. If an offensive player catches it, that would be a completion; since a defensive player caught it, it's an interception and can't possibly be anything else.

The officiating in this game was bad overall (the non-intentional grounding against Roethlisberger was ridiculous, and Johnston also immediately pointed that out). You know how Bill Simmons is always pointing out that the NBA likes to assign its least competent officials to games where it's in the NBA's interest for a certain team to win? It seems like more often than not, even during the regular season, there are a lot of badly officiated games where the mistakes help the Steelers more than their opponents (and the Colts as well).

Well, I just ticked off two rabid fan bases. Not bad for a few minutes' work.

39
by chiptochip (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 9:39am

So is it true that if the receiver is contacted by a defender in the air, he has to maintain possession after hitting the ground for it to be a completion? This is in contrast to the situation where he is not contacted by a defender and just has to get two feet down for it to be a completion. Is that right?

40
by MRH (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 10:25am

Wouldn't it be nice if Pereira could cite the rule book paragraph covering this rule and we could all go look at it because the complete rule book was posted on NFL.com's web site? Would that be so hard to do?

41
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 11:22am

So is it true that if the receiver is contacted by a defender in the air, he has to maintain possession after hitting the ground for it to be a completion? This is in contrast to the situation where he is not contacted by a defender and just has to get two feet down for it to be a completion. Is that right?

I believe that in both cases you have to control the ball all the way through the fall. So if you hit the ground and it pops out, that's an incompletion.

If you take a step, that also establishes possession.

42
by Mikey (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 11:38am

My problem with the ruling was that it seemed to disregard the rule that the referee must have "indisputable visual evidence" in order to overturn a call.

I'm looking at a 2006 rule book and this phrase is considered important enough to be italicized.

Perreira's comment seems to imply that this part of the rule was not applied correctly. After all, why would Tomlin challenge indisputable visual evidence?? Perreira's comment suggests that the evidence was quite literally disputable.

According to the rule book there should NEVER be a need to review an overturned call.

No call overturned by replay should ever need to be reviewed by Perreira. The evidence that overturns the call should be conclusive.

In this case the call on the field - right or wrong - should have stood.

43
by Ben (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 12:10pm

2007 Rulebook, Rule 8, Section 1, Article 8:

A.R. 8.10 While in midair, a receiver firmly takes hold of a pass, but loses possession of the ball when his shoulder lands on the ground with or without being contacted by an opponent.
Ruling: Incomplete pass. Receiver must hold onto the ball when he alights on the ground in order to complete the reception.

44
by hooper (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 12:11pm

Re: the NFL link from #24

Great link. I wish I had known about that earlier. My quick takes on the 3 calls:

1 - The V. Davis call seems to be a consequence of treating the rulebook like law, where you can get some funny ruling on events that don't quite fit the definition. It makes sense the way the "law" is written, whether or not that was the intent of the rule writers. Then, once the ruling was an incompletion, I think it would have been hard for the Steelers to win a challenge, because the evidence wasn't conclusive that the ball did not touch the ground.

2 - The Favre "Tuck Rule" play makes sense. Going back to the law analogy, they sacrificed intent for clarity. Setting aside the evolution of the Tuck Rule, they decided it was better to avoid judgement calls at the expense of ruling a nonpass an incompletion. Fine with me, as long as they're consistent.

3 - The forearm rule was one I didn't know explicitly. Clearly, it's a rule for minimizing injury risk. Had the defender gone for the wrap-up tackle rather than the big hit, it wouldn't have been a problem, but I can't fault him for that.

Now I'll have to go back and watch more of those.

45
by bravehoptoad (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 12:23pm

re: 43

...while in midair....

Since Davis wasn't in midair, these rules don't apply.

46
by Ben (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 12:33pm

re:45 He still needs to get both feet on the ground and maintain control until after he hits the ground. He was in the air when he caught it. Even if he taps both feet, he still needs to maintain position through the fall, just like a receiver on thesidelines.

The refs also have a fudge rule in the book (stated in two different places, both after the incompleted pass and completed pass articles):

Note: If there is any question by the covering official(s) if a pass is complete, intercepted,
or incomplete, it is to be ruled incomplete.

Which is what the ruling was in this case.

47
by Eli Manning: Mike Periera\'s Lover (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 1:11pm

I saw the ball hit the ground. IIRC, it was a ground-level end-zone angle. They only showed it once in the game broadcast and cut away quickly, the announcers never even made mention, but I'm 99.9% sure that ball hit the ground.

48
by Balaji (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 3:00pm

#38: "It seems like more often than not, even during the regular season, there are a lot of badly officiated games where the mistakes help the Steelers more than their opponents (and the Colts as well)."

Yeah, that was a big help in 1999 when the Steelers got official letters of apology from the league over bad game-deciding calls in three consecutive games. Good thing the league was there to "help" them miss the playoffs that year.

49
by Loki9179 (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 3:13pm

If Austin, after reviewing the play, OVERRULES the call on the field and says it is incomplete, then under the rules he needed indisputable evidence to make that decision. Thus, it would have been pointless (or stupid) for Tomlin to challenge Nolan's challenge and say it was an interception. Austin had already indicated that there was indisputable evidence of an incomplete pass, i.e., the ball had to have hit the ground.

Had Tomlin challenged, what would Austin have done? The pass was already ruled incomplete. There is nothing left to review, as you obviously cannot intercept a ball that is incomplete because it touched the ground.

I think that the call makes sense all the way around, and there is no real reason to question Tomlin's decision.

50
by Walt E (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 3:33pm

Ben in #43,

The 2007 Rule Book has been published? When I looked on Amazon in late July to purchase mine it said it wasn't due out till October. Where and when did you get yours?

51
by Ben (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 4:37pm

Amazon lists it as in-stock. Search for 'NFL rules'. It's listed as the 2008 edition

52
by Justin Zeth (not verified) :: Fri, 09/28/2007 - 11:05pm

#43: Yeah, I should have clarified this by stating something I've stated before, that NFL officiating changed around 2003-2004 or so, and changed in such a way that it often seems awfully like the referees are going out of their way to help one team (the 2005 AFC playoffs, most notably the Colts-Steelers and Patriots-Broncos games, were the absolute nadir of this).

NFL officiating is bad and getting worse--bad enough to make people such as myself wonder whether it's completely on the up-and-up. The interpretation kindest to the NFL is that the officiating is NOT deliberately slanted toward whichever team the NFL is financially interested in seeing win, but rather, the officiating is just really incompetent. And at some point, Pereira has to be held accountable for that.

53
by CrazyBoB (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 12:06am

Re: 16 and 32, the more I think about it I realize that this is the best way for the system to work, but can lead to a potentially strange result. Here is a hypothetical...
Lets say the play happens the exact same way except for two differences. First the ball clearly doesn't hit the ground, and second the play is initially ruled incomplete. Lets say that then Mine Nolan challenges saying that it was actually complete, then it gets reviewed. The official would have to come out and rule that it was a completion and an interception. So SF would "win" the challenge and not lose a timeout but also lose possession.

And to take it a step further it could be conceivable that in this situation you could have both coaches try to challenge the same play. Which I think would be hilarious, but also a nightmare to figure out. Perhaps they would need replay to determine who challenged first.

54
by chiptochip (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 3:38pm

Re: 53, in that case Nolan probably wouldn't have challenged, because he'd realize that if the ball didn't hit the ground the only possible result would be interception.

Also, can you even challenge an incomplete pass? I'm never clear on which plays are challengeable.

55
by Jerry (not verified) :: Sat, 09/29/2007 - 10:29pm

Also, can you even challenge an incomplete pass? I’m never clear on which plays are challengeable.

You can challenge whether a pass is complete or incomplete, regardless of how it's ruled on the field. The only exception is the force-out call, since it's entirely the official's judgment on the effect of the force.