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22 Jan 2018

Clutch Encounters: AFC Championship Game

by Scott Kacsmar

Six years ago today we watched two great games on Championship Sunday. Baltimore had a devastating finish in New England after Lee Evans failed to hang onto what would have been a game-winning touchdown pass, then Billy Cundiff blew a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime instead of a 23-20 loss. Then we watched San Francisco's Kyle Williams etch his name into playoff lore with two huge fumbles on special teams in a game the New York Giants won 20-17 in overtime.

2011 was the first season I started writing weekly recaps of close games, and Championship Sunday has often been the easiest work night of my season each year. This league just cannot seem to get two good, close games anymore. I didn't even have to do a column last year when the Falcons and Patriots easily took care of the Packers and Steelers. Usually we get one good game, like when Seattle came back to beat the Packers in 2014, and one dud like that massive disappointment in 2015 between the Panthers and Cardinals.

This year, we saw one team easily dispose of the other with a dominant performance by its quarterback against a top defense. The other game was close and featured a fourth-quarter comeback and late defensive stand. If you did not watch the games and saw the Super Bowl participants, you probably would have guessed that Tom Brady picked apart the Jaguars while the Eagles pulled out a close one over the Vikings at home, but anyone reading this knows that the roles were reversed. New England had to scrape by the Jaguars while the Eagles really had the Vikings beat at halftime in an astonishingly bad game by Minnesota. Any future reference to Minnesota's historically good third-down defense is going to be met with the reminder that a Nick Foles-led offense went 10-of-14 on third down, and one of those "stops" was a kneeldown by backup Nate Sudfeld to end the game.

But at least we had the one good game, even if the ending felt inevitable.

Game of the Week

Jacksonville Jaguars 20 at New England Patriots 24

Type: 4QC/GWD
Largest Fourth-Quarter Deficit: 10 (20-10)
Game Winning Chance Before: 56.6 percent
Game Winning Chance After: 81.8 percent
Win Probability Added: 25.2 percent
Head Coach: Bill Belichick (53-79 at 4QC and 68-80 overall 4QC/GWD record)
Quarterback: Tom Brady (42-37 at 4QC and 54-39 overall 4QC/GWD record)

Well, I guess the Jacksonville woman said it best in 2016. You can't have a newcomer come in and … steal the show. New England is still the headliner in the AFC and took another step forward in claiming the "team of the decade" title again. Jacksonville came the closest it has yet to its first Super Bowl, but instead they'll see the Patriots play in a record 10th Super Bowl in two weeks after another comeback win.

Not to simplify things too much, but the game really came down to the current trust levels in the quarterbacks. The Patriots have the ultimate trust in Tom Brady. We thought New England might target Jacksonville's sketchy run defense, especially with Brady suffering a right hand injury in practice. Running backs and tight ends were going to be used heavily instead of the wide receivers against Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. But no -- the Patriots went against the grain with 22 targets to wide receivers, who really stepped up on a day where Rob Gronkowski left in the first half with a concussion. Meanwhile, Blake Bortles posted very similar numbers to Brady, but he was largely limited to simple reads and play-action passes, and did very little improvising or scrambling.

The Jaguars tried to hide Bortles after getting the lead, and when he had to deliver at the end, the result was what we've come to expect from comeback attempts in New England. Among active starters with at least 15 career opportunities, Brady has the best record at game-winning drive opportunities at 54-39 (.581), while Bortles has the second worst at 7-24 (.226).

But the first 27 minutes of this game really could not have gone better for the Jaguars. The offense was creative and aggressive in getting Bortles involved on early downs in building that 14-3 lead. The turning point came with 2:23 left in the half. Even though the Patriots had just called a timeout, the Jaguars were slow in getting the play off, and a great catch on third-and-7 by Marcedes Lewis for a first down at the New England 32 was negated by a delay of game penalty. That is inexcusable coming out of a timeout. Bortles was then sacked on the next snap. With the clock was still running, the Jaguars made another big mistake in rushing the punt off, giving New England the ball with 2:02 left and saving the Patriots the two-minute warning. On the ensuing drive, Barry Church knocked out Gronkowski with a concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit, but that drew a big 15-yard flag. Brady immediately attacked deep to Brandin Cooks, who drew a 32-yard pass interference penalty on Bouye. That was a suspect call after there was hand fighting and Bouye ran Cooks out of real estate at the boundary line on a pass he was never going to catch.

That led to a touchdown, and the Jaguars decided to take two knees despite having 55 seconds and two timeouts left in a 14-10 game. I understand the passive approach when Jacksonville was getting the ball to start the third quarter, but how do you not at least run a draw or a screen pass to Corey Grant to see if something good happens? Grant had 59 receiving yards at halftime and didn't get another target the rest of the game. Later on Sunday, the Eagles had 29 seconds before halftime and came out with a safe pass to Jay Ajayi for 11 yards. That was all Jacksonville needed to try too, and the Eagles ended up getting a field goal out of their drive. Doug Marrone had his team playing well on the road, but this mismanagement of the end of the half was a killer.

As the game wore on, the Jaguars just became more predictable and conservative. Defensive players cited a lack of man coverage in the second half as part of the downfall, even though everyone knows playing man is usually the key to slowing the Patriots down. Offensively, Jacksonville sort of took the approach many wish Atlanta would have used against the Patriots in Super Bowl LI, except this wasn't anything close to a 28-3 lead. This was manageable for Brady, even without Gronkowski available. Jacksonville only scored six points on its final eight drives, and that excludes the white flag-raising drive with 55 seconds left before halftime.

In building the 14-3 lead, Jacksonville called six runs to eight passes on first downs. After that point up until the drive where the Jaguars trailed 24-20, the offense went with 13 runs to three passes on first downs. Those 13 runs netted just 25 yards, and the only successful play was a 14-yard run by Leonard Fournette. Overall, Bortles handed off 30 times, but for only 103 yards. That led to a lot of third-and-long situations, and the offense was just 2-of-9 on third down in the second half.

Field position also turned in favor of the Patriots in the second half. Three times a punt by the Patriots pinned the Jaguars at their own 9 or 10. Jacksonville turned one of those drives into points, but had to settle for a field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter after Bortles threw a pass out of bounds on third-and-8. Still, the Jaguars led 20-10 and were just looking for that deathblow. The Patriots reminded us that they will reach deep into the playbook in these desperate moments of trailing by double digits in the playoffs. In the 2014 comeback against Baltimore, it was a 51-yard touchdown pass from Julian Edelman to Danny Amendola that really turned things around. Even in Super Bowl LI, Edelman tried a deep pass for Dion Lewis that fell incomplete before the Patriots converted a crucial fourth down to get the 28-3 comeback going. This time, the lateral pass to Amendola back to Lewis worked for a 20-yard gain, but Myles Jack was able to rip the ball away from Lewis on an incredible showing that really should have gone down as an all-time great play.

Unless there is a new angle out there somewhere, I do not see where Jack was ever down by contact. He was able to get up and had a great shot at a touchdown return to give the Jaguars a 27-10 lead, but he stopped because there was a clear whistle to blow the play dead. Generally, we see referees let these fumbles play out now, and it was ruled a fumble on the field, yet Jack was not allowed to return it. That is a massive officiating error on what could have been a game-clinching score. We saw these blunders in the Titans-Chiefs playoff game where Marcus Mariota fumbled on a sack that was blown dead for "forward progress," an absurd call. Later, Derrick Henry looked to obviously be down before fumbling, but they still let that play out for a return touchdown that was correctly reversed. The Jaguars have every right to be furious about this one.

Still, Jacksonville could have taken more time off the clock and put the game away with an offensive touchdown. New England's Game Winning Chance dipped to a low point of 9.6 percent after the Lewis fumble according to EdjFootball. Instead of capitalizing, the Jaguars went three-and-out. I really think serious consideration should have been given to going for it (or even a fake punt) on fourth-and-1 at the Jacksonville 42. It just did not feel like a spot where Jacksonville could afford to give the ball right back to the Patriots after the emotional lift from the Lewis fumble. It's one of those situations where Marrone gets crucified in mainstream media if the play fails and Brady has a short field to drive for a touchdown, but can you really expect to slay Goliath if you're afraid of a worst-case scenario of giving up a touchdown and still leading 20-17? Make a yard and keep this thing going. Even if you fail, you can still keep the Patriots out of the end zone for a 20-13 lead. You might even get a sack and knock them out of scoring range. Oh yeah, you are most likely to convert the fourth-and-1 anyway -- the Jaguars converted 62 percent of their power runs -- and keep this drive going. It's the type of underdog strategy that teams fail miserably at in the NFL, and the Patriots are all too happy to see that happen year after year.

Even still, we might not be talking about Jack or fake punts if the Jaguars could have found a fourth-quarter pass rush. Marcell Dareus got Brady down for one big sack, but the Jaguars were only able to pressure Brady twice in 15 plays in the final quarter. On a huge third-and-18, he had the time to step up and find Amendola crossing over the middle for a 21-yard gain. The Patriots then brought out the flea-flicker for a 31-yard gain to Phillip Dorsett, tying the longest gain from scrimmage in the game. Amendola fittingly finished the drive with a 9-yard touchdown and the pressure was back on Jacksonville to preserve a 20-17 lead.

Jacksonville's limited passing game hurt in this spot, and the lack of first downs really hurt with field position. Amendola returned a punt 20 yards and the Patriots were already at the Jacksonville 30 in game-tying field goal range with 4:58 left. But the Patriots knew the value of getting the touchdown, and Amendola added to his list of impressive playoff catches with a 4-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone with 2:48 left.

The Patriots led 24-20 in what would be their fourth comeback win in the playoffs since 2014. The only postseason rally attempt that did not work out for the Patriots in that time was the 2015 AFC Championship Game in Denver. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Broncos were able to pressure Brady 10 times in that fourth quarter as opposed to 12 times by the other four defenses combined in New England's comeback wins. It's the only game among the five where the defense actually got more pressure on Brady in the fourth quarter than it did in the game's first three quarters.

Pressure Rate on Tom Brady in Playoff Comeback Attempts Since 2014
Year Game Opp Score Thru 3Q Q 1-3 PRESS% 4Q/OT PRESS% DIFF Final
2014 AFC-DIV BAL Tied 28-28 25.0% 22.2% -2.8% W 35-31
2014 SB SEA Trailed 24-14 20.0% 12.5% -7.5% W 28-24
2015 AFC-CG at DEN Trailed 17-12 25.0% 40.0% 15.0% L 20-18
2016 SB ATL Trailed 28-9 44.7% 20.0% -24.7% W 34-28 OT
2017 AFC-CG JAC Trailed 17-10 22.2% 13.3% -8.9% W 24-20
Source: ESPN Stats & Info

Bortles faced the daunting task of pulling off a fourth-quarter comeback in New England. We've actually seen it in each of the last two seasons, including one by Alex Smith and the Chiefs to start 2017, but the numbers are still unbelievable. Since 2001, the Patriots are 55-3 at home (7-0 in the playoffs) when defending a one-score lead in the fourth quarter. Bortles needed to drive 75 yards, but picked up the first 37 yards in just 36 seconds. Things were looking good until Kyle Van Noy, who had some problems earlier in the game, came in for a big strip-sack to bring up third-and-19. Bortles was fortunate that his fumble wasn't lost. At the two-minute warning, Bortles opted for a short 4-yard throw, but that just brought up fourth-and-15. Bortles then stepped up and delivered a solid throw down the field, but Stephon Gilmore was there for the big pass defense to end the threat.

With three timeouts and 1:47 left, you would have thought the Jaguars had a decent shot at getting another possession. Lewis carried twice to bring up third-and-9, which is usually always a passing situation for Brady. Instead, the Patriots again went against the grain with a run, and Lewis popped it for an 18-yard gain. Prior to that play, the Patriots had 13 carries for just 28 yards. It wasn't easy, but the Patriots did enough in the end to get the win. Jacksonville's inexperience in games like this showed itself at times, but it was a valiant effort either way. I'm not sold that the Steelers would have done better in this game, and it was good to see someone else get a shot at New England for a change.

Jacksonville faced a lot of doubt this postseason largely due to the reputation of its quarterback. However, Bortles made it through 12 quarters of playoff football without a single turnover. There were some breaks in there for sure, but the fact is the 2017 Jaguars are the first team in NFL history to go three games without a giveaway in a single postseason. If this team can hang with the AFC's best on the road, then the future just may be bright if Bortles can show any significant improvement. He'll get Allen Robinson back next year at wide receiver, but this team could still use another weapon and growth from its quarterback, now a likely candidate for a big extension if you can believe that.

Of course, the AFC South should have two new head coaches as well as the returns of Andrew Luck and Deshaun Watson. This run was an invaluable learning experience, but the path should be harder for this Jacksonville team to return to this point. We should not forget that in the regular season this team failed to beat the Titans (twice) or close out the Cardinals with Blaine Gabbert at quarterback, and also lost to the Jets. Finally succumbing to Brady and the Patriots in New England sounds like a formality in that case, but the Jaguars have a lot to be proud about this season.

They just weren't ready to steal the show yet.

Season Summary

Fourth-quarter comeback wins: 53
Game-winning drives: 81 (plus two non-offensive game-winning scores)
Games with 4QC/GWD opportunity: 146/266 (54.9 percent)
10+ point comeback wins (any point in the game): 27

Historic data on fourth-quarter comebacks and game-winning drives can be found at Pro Football Reference. Screen caps come from NFL Game Pass. Game Winning Chance (win probability) data is from EdjFootball.

Posted by: Scott Kacsmar on 22 Jan 2018

92 comments, Last at 26 Jan 2018, 10:20am by Anon Ymous


by Vandal :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 6:51pm

Scott, From footballzebras,fyi:

Ben Austro JANUARY 21, 20186:15 PM
13:53 | 4th qtr. Looking back to the fumble recovery by the Jaguars early in the 4th quarter, there is a question as to whether Myles Jack is down by contact.

Whenever a ball is stripped from a player in possession on the ground, it is down by contact and no fumble. In this case, the ball was not in possession but taken from an opponent’s hands, so this is deemed as “contact” by the Patriots as Jack begins to take control.

Is it possible that there was no hand-to-hand contact? Yes, but there is no way that can be perceived, so the officials are instructed to treat this as down by contact.

The contact, by the way, only has to occur when a player is beginning to secure the ball. It is held until the player finishes establishing control, and is dead at that point.

This was correctly ruled as down by contact. contact on the recovery.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 6:57pm

I hoped Scott would give us analysis beyond whining about officiating.

"That is a massive officiating error on what could have been a game-clinching score."

Not really. Next time consult with officials, not Jaguars fans.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 7:30pm

I hoped Scott would give us analysis beyond whining about officiating.

There's your error, right there. :)

by MHS :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 4:56pm

Is their a specific rule citation of this? I keep seeing credible reporters/analysts making this claim.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 5:18pm

See comment 63:
7.2.1.a "An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended:...when an opponent takes a ball that is in the possession of a runner who is on the ground"

It's the "in possession" bit that doesn't apply to a runner who fumbled prior to going to the ground.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 5:37pm

For the sake of clarity can you please answer a few questions?

1) Let's imagine a receiver leaping up to make a catch who is drilled in mid air and falls to the ground. Since the contact happened before possession was completed, is this player able to get up and continue the play?

2) What if the same play occurs and ball jostles slightly upon contact with the ground, does this mean the receiver is now free to get up and continue the play?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 5:53pm

1. Yes. There used to be an approved ruling that clarified the receiver was only down if contacted on the ground while in possession. I haven't seen any ARs in the official rules since 2013, though.

2. Because #1 is yes, #2 is yes. Unless the ball jostles due to contact with the ground, in which case it's an incomplete pass.

by dryheat :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 8:31am

1. No, absolutely not. If it is a hit from a defensive player that knocks the receiver to the ground, the receiver is down, whether or not someone contacts him while he is on the ground. This actually happens with some frequency.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 9:52am

Wrong (again).

A.R. 15.51 Receiver down by contact
First-and-10 on A30. A2 jumps to catch a pass at the B38 and controls the ball while airborne. B2 jumps to try to bat the pass down and makes contact with A2. They separate and A2 goes to the ground. He immediately gets up and advances the ball for a TD which the officials allow.
Ruling: Reviewable. A’s ball first-and-10 on B38, no clock adjustment. If the contact occurs after the receiver gains control of the ball, then he is down by contact when a body part, other than the hands or feet, touches the ground. Only the Replay Official can initiate a review of this play.


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 10:56am

This is a good find. The other rulebooks I could find didn't have the approved rulings I needed in them.

15.61/15.57 covers the Jack play, although it's unclear which player the referee thought was down by contact. 15.54 would apply in the situation where Jack was believed down.

AR 15.51 is interesting, because it goes to a quiet inconsistency in the airborne version of down by contact.

This is the 2011/2012 version of the rule (AR 7.7)
"Second-and-10 on A30. Both eligible offense A1 and defensive B1 leap in the air to catch a forward pass and collide during a legal attempt to catch ball on the 50. A1 controls the pass and falls to the ground.
Ruling: Ball is dead at spot. A's ball first-and-10 on the 50."


This is the 2014 version of the rule (also AR 7.7)
"Second-and-10 on A30. Both eligible offense A1 and defensive B1 leap in the air to catch a forward pass and collide during a legal attempt to catch ball on the 50. While in contact with B1, A1 controls the pass and falls to the ground on the 50.
Ruling: Ball is dead at spot. A's ball first-and-10 on the 50."


The 2017 AR 15.51 makes a further modification.
Ruling: Reviewable. A’s ball first-and-10 on B38, no clock adjustment. If the contact occurs after the receiver gains control of the ball, then he is down by contact when a body part, other than the hands or feet, touches the ground. Only the Replay Official can initiate a review of this play.


So the rule started as contact in the air was worth down by contact. Then in 2014, that changed, and now B1 had to down A1 while A1 was on the ground. In 2017, we now see that A1 can be downed in the air, but only after gaining control of the ball. I'm unclear on when between 2014 and 2017 this modification came in.

So as it currently stands, you can hit a receiver in the air and "tackle" him that way, but only after he possess the ball. To use the Church-Gronk play; had Gronk held on, that would have been a tackle, even though Church hit him while airborne. Had Gronk been juggling, taken the hit, and caught it after, he could have gotten up and kept running even though he was knocked down by the initial hit.

by Anon Ymous :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 11:32am

Thanks for the detailed info.

The conclusion makes sense, but it still seems to me that it requires a Kearse-esque bobble for the refs to not consider someone down by contact. To use your example, a mild jostle by Gronk would not be sufficient to counteract the earlier contact, but an overt series of kicks and bounces while on the ground would.

Are there any examples more like the former where the receiver was free to continue the play? Are there any where the receiver even attempted to continue the play (and not due to potentially not being down for other reasons)?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 11:43am

Nothing obvious. It's hard to keyword search for those. Most "ground" plays are trick plays on kick returns.

I can't find many contested catch to the ground replays.

I also can't use college videos, because college only requires going to ground. Contact isn't necessary.

by Digit :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 7:27pm

Hasn't that specific rule been brought up -and explained- multiple times in a few threads already?

Contact is considered as having started at the point the defender contacted the ball carrier, not when he controls the ball. If it's possible to somehow contact the carrier and get the ball without touching him, it's sure not obvious in that picture where he just rolls off the player.

This speaks poorly of Scott. Or the editor, who really should have pointed that out at him.

Either way, pathetic. Do your job, or just give up pretense of doing actual analysis, because checking the rule should have been part of your job.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 01/22/2018 - 7:51pm

"I understand the passive approach when Jacksonville was getting the ball to start the third quarter, but how do you not at least run a draw or a screen pass to Corey Grant to see if something good happens?"

I disagree with the first part of this. You are the underdog playing the Patriots in their home stadium. You cannot put enough points on the board in the first half to feel safe. You need to take reasonable risks to try to win the game. I wouldn't even call continuing to try to score points with 55 seconds and 2 timeouts left a risk at all. (And with NE holding only 1 timeout, the explanation that you don't want to risk giving the ball back to Brady again makes no sense. If you throw an incompletion on first down, let's say there are 50 seconds left. Then let's say you give up and run/kneel, and NE calls timeout with maybe 45 seconds left. On third down you can run the clock down to 5-6 seconds and then punt it on 4th down. At this point all you need to prevent is a return TD. And if you are so worried about the remote chance of a return TD that you turn down a reasonable chance to put more points on the board before the half, you might as well just pack up and forfeit).

I could not agree more with the second part. Even if you're going to play it conservative, there's conservative and then there's flat out giving up. Why not run it or try a safe short pass? If you get stopped for a 1-2 yard gain and you want to run out the clock, fine. If you get a surprise 10-15 yards, then you're in business.

by ClavisRa :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:14am

Football Zebras blog of the game explains things well enough. May want to do a bit of research before making false claims in an article.

Bouye won the hand fighting and had Cooks trapped tight to the boundary. He played it perfectly. Then he made a low football IQ move, and put both hands on Cooks' shoulders while riding him out of bounds. That is textbook PI every time. The problem was Bouye's poor play, not the refs. (He got away with holding Cooks' wrist on another perfectly thrown deep pass that sailed through Cooks' lap. Live by the sword, die by the sword.)

Jack was in contact with Lewis at the same time he was in contact with the ball. That means, the moment he had possession of the ball and was still down on the turf, he was down, end of play, by rule. Nothing controversial, unless people use ignorance as an excuse to manufacture controversy.

by sbond101 :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:46am

I have to strongly second the comment on Bouye. He was in perfect position in coverage with no where for Brady to put the ball, then with the ball in the air he decided to put both hands on Cooks as he's riding him out of bounds. What a stupid thing to do.

People have taken to talking about penalty-discrepancies down the stretch with the Pats and to me this is a great example - but not of ref bias but of the kind of game-changing mental mistake that the Pats rarely make and there opponents often do (likely as a result of believing they have to play "perfect" to win @ NE). That flag probably gets thrown ~50% of the time on a play where the DB puts both hands on the WR like that, the odds of a completion on the throw are <5%. A mental mistake, a tickey-tack PI (of the kind Joe Flacco built a career on), and one long offseason to think it over. All I can say is DB is about the last NFL position I'd ever want to play.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 4:42am

That site is far from perfect, and they're the only ones bringing up a rule that doesn't even appear in the NFL's 2017 rule book. Not to mention it's very subjective on when Jack "begins to secure the ball" if we're going to use their language. I don't see how he reached that point until he rolled over and the ball happened to be there. By then, he was never touched by Lewis. Every time you watch these fumble recoveries, you're looking for the defender being touched down. It didn't happen here and the whistle blew too quickly.

The actual NFL statement has said it was a judgment call and the whistle was blown, so there couldn't be an advancement. They have not said anything about Jack being down by contact. If the whistle didn't blow, Jack could have returned that.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 9:11am

Not to mention it's very subjective on when Jack "begins to secure the ball" if we're going to use their language.

No, it isn't, only the point at which the ball is secured is subjective. The origin of the process is rather obvious and quite clearly satisfies down by contact.

If the whistle didn't blow, Jack could have returned that.

So, your argument is that Jax could have benefited from a bad call? Why is it a problem that the refs got it right?

by HPaddict :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:17am

The origin of the process is rather obvious and quite clearly satisfies down by contact.

No, it isn't; Jacks clearly finished stripping the ball with his right hand, which, quite clearly, came free, and the ball ended up in his left hand. Without visual evidence of the location of the ball in the intervening period nothing is "rather obvious". Unless you, like Hoodie, believe that Kearse should have been down by contact on his juggling catch in SuperBowl 49.

In other words, what other plays do you have that show the heuristic by footballzebras is correct?

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:01am

Without visual evidence of the location of the ball in the intervening period nothing is "rather obvious".

I'd strongly encourage yuo to watch the play again if you think the strip and recovery weren't all one singular motion.


As for the Kearse play, contact with Butler isn't as apparent and the "bobble" is of an entirely different magnitude. Additionally,and perhaps most importantly, it could be argued that Butler knocked the ball away first, meaning that Kearse didn't begin the process of making the catch until it was sitting on his lap. No such argument could be made for Jack.

But if you want me to say that the "correct" call on that play was that he was down before Butler shoved him out of bounds, fine. Maybe it was, I don't know. Either way, the two plays are so drastically different that they don't suit this particularly discussion well.
I could see a reason for the comparison if we were drafting a rule, i.e. "how much of a bobble is necessary", but not exactly here.

Allow me to ask you a follow up: Say a received leaps to "catch" pass and is hit before he lands. The hit sends him to the turf and creates a bobble more similar to Jack than Kearse, which is immediately corralled. Down by contact?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:20am

It would appear no (apologies in advance, Will).


Here's the interception version of this play.

Here's the fumble version.

Note Watt has been contacted to the ground and has not regained his feet when he establishes possession. He gets up and returns this. Note the announcer discuss that he had not been touched down. This is the same as the Jack recovery.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:45am

It would appear no (apologies in advance, Will).


The Freeman catch has little relevance here, same as the Watt one since it sees the ball literally on the ground before he grabs it. Had the ball squirted out of Jack's hand and he then picked it up, it would obviously be returnable.

The pick one is relevant, though I struggle to see why he wasn't down according to any interpretation of the rule. If it really was the right call, then Jack should have been able to return it.

by HPaddict :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:26am

Either way, the two plays are so drastically different that any argument based on them is moot.

I would strongly recommend that you reconsider your argument if you think that two plays evaluated under the same set of rules, being here those that establish possession while going to the ground in an NFL game, can be called 'drastically different', particularly without an identification of other relevant rules.

I would also strongly encourage you to rewatch the Kearse play; Kearse quite clearly contacted the ball initially (Butler contacting the ball is much less clear) and the contact with Butler is obvious, occurring either concurrent with the ball or before the first bounce. I am unfamiliar with a required 'magnitude', can you identify where it is defined in the context of the catch rules?

I'd strongly encourage yuo to watch the play again if you think the strip and recovery weren't all one singular motion.

I'm not clear on either the importance of or the origin of a 'single motion'. Do you mean continuous contact with the ball? I have already pointed out that Jack finally strips the ball with his right hand but establishes possession with his left hand. Do you mean that Jack didn't change his momentum between those two actions? I haven't seen that aspect being important elsewhere.

Again, I'd ask you to provide similar plays so that we can evaluate your argument with context.

In response to you edit, the very fact that there isn't already a rule that differentiates between magnitudes means that these two plays are comparable. You are using a quantitative difference as a qualitative one; that you wish it were the latter is irrelevant.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:40am

Again, I'd ask you to provide similar plays so that we can evaluate your argument with context.

I offered you a rather common hypothetical. That I cannot come up with links doesn't diminish its utility.

In response to you edit, the very fact that there isn't already a rule that differentiates between magnitudes means that these two plays are comparable. You are using a quantitative difference as a qualitative one; that you wish it were the latter is irrelevant.

I don't dispute that there is some overlap between the scenarios, my contention is that the differences (of which magnitude is only one) make the comparison best suited for fine tuning a rule.

by HPaddict :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 9:44pm

I offered you a rather common hypothetical. That I cannot come up with links doesn't diminish its utility.

I replied to your comment before your edit and, upon completion, did not see your hypothetical. In my understanding, based on the various rulings that I have seen but not on a particular written example in the rule book, the answer to your question is: it depends. If the ball is controlled immediately, down-by-contact. If the ball is not immediately controlled, but remains in contact with the receiver, I would guess down-by-contact. If the ball is free of both players, even if shortly, I would say live.

As I have pointed out, Jack made the final 'strip' with his right hand but established possession with his left. Within the intervening time period, which is both quick and, generally, hidden from view, the ball may have been completely airborne, which is to say, completely free from contact with anyone. If this is the case, and again I have not seen any view which is able to determine the answer, then there is no substantial difference between the Jack and Kearse cases.

Presuming this is the case, i.e., that the ball, after leaving Lewis' pseudo-control and prior to entering Jack's, is completely free, how would you rule? If there is some time limit required, what is it?

I don't dispute that there is some overlap between the scenarios, my contention is that the differences (of which magnitude is only one) make the comparison best suited for fine tuning a rule.

Any desire to fine tune a rule is immaterial; the rules do not differentiate between the two situations. Treating the two differently is, therefore, reliant on a subjective, i.e., non-rule based, interpretation. Again, per the rules, there is no differentiation between the two situation.

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 9:36am

Any desire to fine tune a rule is immaterial

Huh? I didn't say I had a desire to fine tune a rule, I said that the comparison between these plays is best suited for that type of discussion.

the rules do not differentiate between the two situations

They actually could, for reasons I already explained. You latched on to the magnitude of the bobble as if that were the only point of contrast, but it wasn't.

Now, if all of those possible differences are mistaken, then I agree the rule applies to both equally. And if the ball were airborne rather than merely transitioned (which is how it appears in the vid above), then Jack should have been able to return the fumble. This assumes, of course, that Solder didn't tackle him immediately, which certainly could have happened had he not reacted to the whistle.

by Pat :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:23am

"So, your argument is that Jax could have benefited from a bad call? Why is it a problem that the refs got it right?"

If the officials hadn't blown the whistle, it would've been reviewed to see if he was down by contact or not. If he really was down, they would've got it right no matter what.

The right call probably would've been not to blow the whistle if an official didn't clearly see him down by contact, since you can fix missing that, but you can't fix the opposite.

That being said, I tend to think that Jack would've been brought down quickly without the whistle anyway. It's easy to think that someone would have an easy shot at the end zone when everyone else is stopped (or slowing down) because of a whistle.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 9:42am

Scott, Scott, Scott. For just once could you own up to the fact that you're a Steelers honk who hates NE and especially Brady (I guess he touched your Manning doll in bad places or something) and that it horribly, horribly colors your "analysis".

Look around at your fellow staff members (and staff members of the past) and note that despite their ardent fanhood for their various teams they are eminently capable of not constantly whining and cherrypicking stats to fit some predetermined conclusion. So you have proof right in front of your nose that it can be done. Try talking to them and learning from them. I assume doing so is at least theoretically possible.

Then again, perhaps Aaron hired you to be a troll and bring in clicks and thus $. In which case, "Skol!"

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:04am


So what's different about this play?

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:13am

Er. What exactly are you trying to establish here? It's not a fumble, it's a catch, meaning that there wasn't any change of possession involved here.

Why would you try and apply catch rules here when the one you want is the fumble / down by contact rule?

by HPaddict :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:21am

Catch rules are fumble rules here. The process by which possession is established while going to the ground is independent of whether the ball is loose due to a forward pass or a fumble.

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:33am

Except in this case, there isn't any ambiguity about 'whether the runner was down by contact or not'. As it stood, one ref thought the runner was down by contact.

The two cases are not identical just by the nature of the fumble alone.

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:37am

More specifically, the angle the ref was looking at:


by HPaddict :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:43am

Nothing is identical to anything else; that is the meaning of those words.

The fumble is exactly what makes the two situations equivalent, i.e., after a fumble any player attempting to recover the ball must establish possession using the rule set that is also used in evaluating a catch: two feet (or equivalent), possession, and, if going to the ground, 'completing the catch'.

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:19am

The argument doesn't work because you're trying to ignore the person who had possession -prior- to that.

The reason the whistle blew in the first place was that they thought the ball was down by contact, and there's considerably less clarity about exactly where the ball was, as it looked like it was recovered by the ball carrier against his leg.

It is in no way equivalent, because the 'down by contact' rule came into play -because- there was a runner carrying the ball.

Using the Kearse catch to justify that tiny, tiny split second the ref has to see that and NOT blow the whistle is ludricious.

by HPaddict :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 9:55pm

It is in no way equivalent, because the 'down by contact' rule came into play -because- there was a runner carrying the ball.

According to the rules, the only effects of the previous state being a runner carrying the ball are: the ball is not dead upon contact with the ground and, in the case of the ball not being recovered, the team of the prior runner retains possession of the ball at the spot of the fumble (modulo the updating of the down).

As such, I only ignore "the person who had possession -prior- to that" because the rules ignore, except in the manners I describe above, the prior possession.

You seem to be making the absolutely ridiculous assertion, however, that the ref was correct in blowing the whistle when he did. That is ludicrous.

by Digit :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 10:26pm

You don't -ignore- it because Jack never had possession of it. The person who had possession and was working on regaining possession was Lewis.

The whole reason the ref blew the whistle in the first place was because he thought -Lewis- regained possession of it and was down by contact.

If you seriously expect the ref to see this in the span of what, .5 second? Where Lewis was apparently the one going to the ground with possession of the ball, then you're the one being unrealistic.

by HPaddict :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 10:45pm

If you seriously expect the ref to see this in the span of what, .5 second?

I don't expect every ref to see that Lewis fumbled; I didn't expect the refs to call the PI on Bouye grabbing Cook's hands either. I forgive the errors by the refs due to heuristics, limited visibility, etc., more than most of the fans that I know.

I do expect discussions, particularly on this boards, to be accurate.

The whole reason the ref blew the whistle in the first place was because he thought -Lewis- regained possession of it and was down by contact.

No, the whole reason why the ref blew the whistle in the first place is because he didn't know that Lewis had fumbled. He thought it was a 'standard' tackle of a runner, in which case anything that happens after contact with the ground is irrelevant.

In addition, and again, the rule does not differentiates between a player gaining possession and regaining it. Too gain possession Lewis needed to satisfy the catch rules; he didn't and, therefore, it was a live ball in the standard sense that a dead ball can be live, i.e., a clear and uncontested recover by the defensive team results in a turnover.

by Digit :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 11:03pm

There, yeah. I agree with you. That's why it's a turnover.

What I don't know is why you seem to think this is something the ref shouldn't have blown the whistle for. Because it's certainly not obvious in real-time.

The specific rule applying to this for 'down by contact' was 'is he in possession'?

Once it was determined that he actually didn't have possession, they made the correct call in saying it was a fumble.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:42am

Here's the relevant bit:

Item 2. Possession of a Loose Ball. To gain possession of a loose ball that has been caught, intercepted, or recovered, a player must have complete control of the ball and have both feet or any other part of his body, other than his hands, completely on the ground inbounds, and then maintain control of the ball long enough to clearly become a runner. A player has the ball long enough to become a runner when, after his second foot is on the ground, he is capable of avoiding or warding off impending contact of an opponent, tucking the ball away, turning up field, or taking additional steps. If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any other part of his body to the ground, there is no possession. This rule applies in the field of play and in the end zone.

Item 3. Simultaneous Possession of a Loose Ball. If a Loose Ball is controlled simultaneously by two opponents, and both players retain it, it is simultaneous possession, and the ball belongs to the team last in possession, or to the receiving team when there has been a Free Kick, Scrimmage Kick, or Fair Catch Kick. It is not simultaneous possession if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control.

The terms catch, intercept, recover, advance, and fumble denote player possession (as distinguished from touching or muffing).

Receptions and fumbles have the same possession rule.

What's interesting is this note about fumbles.
A Loose Ball is a live ball that is not in player possession, i.e., any ball that has been kicked, passed, or fumbled. A Loose Ball is considered to be in possession of the team (offense) whose player kicked, passed, or fumbled it. It is a Loose Ball until a player secures possession or until the ball becomes dead. If it has not yet struck the ground, a Loose Ball is In Flight.

This suggests you cannot down by contact a defender prior to their establishing possession of a fumble from the offensive team. That is, they don't have possession prior to recover, so they are not a "runner" for purposes of the 7.2.1 downing rule. You've merely tackled a defender.

It was a Triplettean missed call.

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:25am

The relevant part to me is:

Dead Ball: When the on-field ruling is
1. a runner down by defensive contact, and the recovery of a fumble by an opponent or a teammate occurs in the action that happens following the fumble;
2. a runner out of bounds, and the recovery of a fumble by an opponent or teammate occurs in the action that happens following the fumble;
3. an incomplete forward pass, and the recovery of a fumble, or the recovery of a backward pass, by an opponent or a teammate occurs in the action following the fumble or backward pass; or
4. a loose ball out of bounds, and it is recovered in the field of play by an opponent or a teammate in the action after the ball hits the ground.
Note 1: If the on-field ruling of down by contact, out of bounds, or incomplete forward pass is changed, the ball belongs to the recovering player at the spot of the recovery and any advance is nullified. If the ball goes out of bounds in an end zone,
the result of the play will be either a touchback or a safety.
Note 2: If the Referee does not have indisputable visual evidence as to which player recovered the loose ball, or that the ball went out of bounds, the ruling on the
field will stand.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:11pm

I'm not arguing that the whistle was blown or the fumble recovery was reviewable in the presence of an inadvertent or incorrect whistle.

I'm just discussing whether the whistle was blown correctly in accordance with the rules. It was not.

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:40pm

That was not your argument, your argument seems to be basically nonsense about 'fumble' vs that circus catch.

In this case, the reason the whistle blew was because it appeared the runner was down by contact.

Your -new- argument, about blowing the whistle, seems to be relying on the ref somehow -not- thinking the runner was down by contact, which I have already shown a picture of.

Here's the thing you're refusing to acknowledge. Until the runner hit the ground, the -runner- was the one trying to maintain possession of the ball. He's the one who has to survive the ground. He's the reason they have to blow the ball dead when he's down by contact because he's the one who has to maintain control all the way to the ground, not the defender.

He didn't complete the 'survival' because the Jaguars recovered the ball when he hit the ground. And once the Jaguars recovered, that was that.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:14pm

Your argument is that because the runner lost the ball before he hit the ground, that this somehow should have been an incomplete pass (despite having carried the ball for 15 yards)?

Is that right?

Because that's the only context in which surviving the ground has relevance. Once you convert from a receiver to a runner, a ball hitting the ground is a fumble (or an illegal forward pass, but I'll not confuse you further with details).

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 2:14pm

No. Because Lewis lost control of the ball in mid-run, which is why you see a video of him trying to pin the ball to his leg. Once that happens, it's a fumble but he's still the 'runner' in question here.

The argument boils down to that the person who is being evaluated in terms of 'controlling the ball' here should not be Jack, it should be Lewis.

Lewis was the one who fumbled, struggled to maintain possession. The time Jack comes in play with regard to attempting to recover the ball is -after- Lewis loses the ball hitting the ground, but at that moment, the ball is blown dead because he's the one who is considered the one who needs to fully possess the ball and he's already been touched down. He's the runner in this case, who has been contacted by Jack.

And when that happens, the dead ball rule comes in play - see:

1. a runner down by defensive contact, and the recovery of a fumble by an opponent or a teammate occurs in the action that happens following the fumble;

How is what happened when Jack recovers the ball -not- considered recovery of a fumble by an opponent in the action that happens following the fumble?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 4:37pm

Are you referring to 7.2.1.a? "An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended:...when an opponent takes a ball that is in the possession of a runner who is on the ground"

In the case of Jack and Lewis, Lewis did not have possession when he touched the ground and did not have possession when Jack takes the ball. Therefore he was not a runner in possession on the ground for purposes of this rule.

If you're thinking of 7.2.1.m.2 (erroneous whistle during fumble), it was not an erroneous (inadvertant) whistle. The Navarro Bowman Rule has replaced it, but I don't think this one is applicable. It was ruled a fumble on the field, was it not?

That leaves the referee blowing Jack down by contact, when he was not.

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 5:34pm

Actually, that's the rule I was thinking of, except that it's not as immediately obvious that it's _NOT_ in the possession of the runner as you seem to think it is.

Lewis had the ball, he was in the process of re-gaining it (hence the clutching ball to his leg). He hit the ground. Whistle blows because it looks like it's runner down by contact. (Incidentially, I think, this is exactly where the NFL is saying this was a judgment call. Whether or not Lewis had possession when he landed)

-After- the whistle blows, one ref indicates down by contact. Other ref overrules him and calls it a fumble. Because the whistle has blown, by rule, the dead ball rule apply. Ball cannot be advanced.

You seem to think this is somehow magically obvious to a ref that there is no 'runner'. I'm saying that the video shows the ball being swatted at once, the ball comes out somewhat, Lewis clutches it to his leg, and hits the ground. Because at that point, the actual runner is Lewis, who is trying to regain control, the ref blows the whistle, and the rest is a dead ball. The reason for the refs to do that is essentially because otherwise, that invites other players to hit players -after- the play is potentially done.

But because Lewis did not actually maintain control when he hits the ground (this is when Jack lands on him and the ball and comes away with it), it's a fumble.

Considering that picture, where it looks for all the world like Lewis has regained control, you are basically whining that the ref who blew the whistle was somehow supposed to see that the ball was actually -not- recovered by Lewis, when the thing was he was in the process of re-securing the ball. The OTHER ref, correctly, called it a fumble, but Jack did not actually get a chance to control the ball till he lands on Lewis when Lewis is touching the ground. The whistle has already blown because the runner's already down.

The Kearse situation is not the comparison you should be looking for here - it's the Austin Sefarsian-Jenkins fumble/TD. Except in this case, because Lewis has landed inbound without completing recovery, Jack can grab the ball, but the dead ball rule has already applied -and- it makes allowance for the defender to have recovered the ball.

I think generally, the refs called that one correctly. They can't be sure that the runner -hasn't- recovered, and they're trained to err on the side of 'blow the whistle' in that sort of situation. So the general essence is, either it's a recovery by the Patriots, or it's a recovery by the Jaguars, but no further hits will be allowed because that runs the risk of injuring defenseless players.

by nat :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:29am

Gosh that is mind-bogglingly stupid rules parsing.

Receivers are routinely ruled down by contact when going to the ground based on contact that happens only before they went to the ground. They are neither runners nor yet in possession of the ball when contacted.

This remains true even if they bobble the ball while on the ground. They are down. They were contacted. They are down by contact. End of story.

By your bizarre interpretation of the rules, going to the ground or bobbling the ball would erase all prior contact, treating the player like one who slipped on wet turf and went down untouched. That's simply not how the game of football works.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:09pm

Receivers are routinely ruled down by contact when going to the ground based on contact that happens only before they went to the ground.

Can you find me a video clip of an example? Where a receiver is contacted such that he goes to the ground, but only prior to establishing control (i.e., where he is not contacted while on the ground, with possession of the ball).

How you get to the ground doesn't matter, so long as you don't have possession of the ball when that happens.

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:09am

If that was the case that was bothering Scott, perhaps Scott should have gone into further details about -why- exactly blowing the whistle shouldn't have happened. In fact, I'd be -really- curious to understand exactly how that kind of bang-bang play shouldn't have been called 'down by contact' when it sure looks like, in fast time, the fumble is essentially the defender landing on the player and coming up with the ball.

As is, though, I'm fairly sure that the reason they blow the whistle in that situation is that the ball carrier player is down by contact (-EITHER- one) and they don't want to have a pile-up causing injuries.

Also, I think, based on 're-establishing control', that Lewis was going to the ground trying to establish control and did -not- complete control, which is why it's a fumble.

by TheIdealGrassLaw :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:21am

1) The Jack fumble was blown dead IMMEDIATELY by multiple officials, at the Jacksonville 32 yard line, with most of the patriots players behind or perpendicular to the play. To assume that he was going to score a 68 yard TD return if it wasn't whistled dead is absurd.

2) The NFL doesn't want players diving on guys that are in the process of recovering a fumble due to injury issues. Refs are told to blow the whistle quick on these to avoid exactly that.

3) What Vandal said :) Jack is clearly contacted during the recovery, and it's the same as player who is hit in the air and goes to the ground on a legal forward pass, but who doesn't have control at the time he's hit. That will be blown dead at the spot of the catch 100 times out of 100. He will not be allowed to get up and run because the defender hit him ever so slightly early.

by Pat :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:29am

Yeah, I think you're right here. Was the call incorrect? Yeah, probably. But it wasn't wrong. It's just a bit of bad luck for the Jaguars that the ball wasn't more clearly free, but even in the end, I don't think Jack's getting a TD out of that. He was *lying on the ground* - the only way he'd be able to get up, get to full speed and outrace people is if no one else realized he was allowed to be running. Which has happened, sure, but *that* would be bad luck for the Patriots. So it's a little silly to say "it's unfair to the Jaguars that they didn't have a chance to get super-lucky." Meh.

Honestly, if you want to complain about anything in the Jaguars game, talk about the pass interference call. The Jack fumble is just stupid.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:53am

Honestly, if you want to complain about anything in the Jaguars game, talk about the pass interference call.

Agreed. That's the call I thought was going to generate the most interest.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:17pm

The Jack call is interesting because it's a strange intersection of obscure rules with multiple internal controversies about how the rules actually pertain to component parts.

A DB getting hosed on an uncatchable pass by an overly-generous side judge isn't news. It's olds. Old-school officiating incompetence isn't newsworthy.

by RobotBoy :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 5:30am

The Patriots didn't need zebra help, not when the Jaguars were falling all over themselves to give the game away.
Here's a link to a fascinating (horrifying, if you're a Jags fan) twitter thread from Warren Sharp in which he highlights the poor clock management and brain-dead playcalling of the Jags 4th quarter offense:
'Every. Single. First. Down. Was. A. Run. From. Shotgun. You think the Patriots didn't figure that out? Look at the totals on those four 1st & 10 runs as the quarter progressed: 2 yds 1 yd 1 yd -1 yd.'
When it comes to the referee bias accusations, there was real fear in Patriots Nation last week after Clete Blakeman was named to the officiating crew. Blakeman has, in past games, called far more penalties against the Pats than whatever team they were playing.
One of the jobs attributed to the mysterious Ernie Adams is scouting referee tendencies as part of weekly game prep. I don't know if this is true, or if all teams do this, but if any teams do, NE is certainly one of them. I can certainly imagine Belichick drilling his players to avoid a common penalty call from a particular ref.
As far as the Lewis fumble goes: I don't know if I've seen all he angles but it sure looks like Jack has his hand over Lewis' arm and possibly touching ball when it starts to come loose. After Lewis rolls over another time, it looks like his foot is probably in contact with Jack's body.
Mostly the Jags lost because they flinched, something they didn't do against the Steelers a week ago. Now they can't stop whining about how the loss is everyone's fault but their own. Hate NE if you like but at least you don't hear NE players looking for scapegoats when they get beat.

by RobotBoy :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 6:18am

Last July, Sharp wrote an article entitled, "Predictable Offense & Prevent Defense: No Team Blows Second Half Leads Like the Jaguars."
Holy Nostradamus, Bortleman!

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 9:41am

Having watched the reply above, I wonder if it was even a fumble. When the ball comes into view, it appears to be sliding loose, but Lewis' knee hit the turf a significant interval before that. Of course, the fact that the Pats didn't challenge lends credence to the call on the field.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 9:43am

It was ruled a turnover on the field and thus subject to automatic review. (a) NE wasn't allowed to challenge, and (b) the automatic review upheld the call on the field.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 9:59am

If it's possible to control a ball against your helmet, it's possible to control a ball against your knee. That said, the initial loss of control of clear and, if control was regained, it was brief and hard to distinguish between the absences it was bookended by. A fumble was the right call to make.

by sbond101 :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:25am

Yeah, It was a very strange play and I don't think either the issue of whether the ball was re-controlled pinned against Lewis or whether Jack would have been ruled down by contact had the whistle not gone are clear in the rules. That said what the officials did was reasonable - including the whistle designed to protect Lewis from getting ground into the turf at the end of a play where the closest official thought he was down with control of the ball (and fumbled afterword) - the league needs more whistles protecting vulnerable players, not less.

It's also worth putting the quick whistle in a bit of context. The Jags had already made a number of "statement" hits including in the game: (unflagged) In the endzone after a TD, the hit that knocked Burkhead out of the game, and an unblocked hit on Brady; (flagged) the Gronk hit. The refs had let the players play a little bit and the Jags had very consciously been making every opportunity to hit a Pats player count. In that context you can see why a ref might be a bit quicker with the whistle with an apparently vulnerable player.

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:35am

Huh. I never thought about that part about how many hits the Jaguars were landing.

Ah well.

Live on the edge, die by the edge, I guess.

by HPaddict :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:27am

If it's possible to control a ball against your helmet, it's possible to control a ball against your knee.

Why is this relevant? Maybe if Harrison had ended up with the ball but Tyree never lost the ball.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:47am

That you must ask this question is truly befuddling. I hope I'm wrong, but I get the sense you aren't interested in offering anything but snide remarks.

by HPaddict :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 10:22pm

And I am getting the sense that you are attempting obfuscation using clear irrelevancy. The Helmet catch is irrelevant because Tyree never lost control of the ball. That Tyree's catch is the Helmet Catch, rather than the Thigh Catch, besides being slightly more astounding, is irrelevant in an evaluation under the rules.

A direct comparison of the Helmet Catch with various catch/non-catch rulings from this season is difficult due to the subtle changes in the catch rules over the intervening decade. In an evaluation of the Helmet Catch under today's rules, however, it would remain a catch because the ball remained in Tyree's control through his contact with the ground.

If the ball had bounced out upon the initial contact with the ground it would be ruled incomplete.

If the ball had bounced out upon continuation of the contact with the ground it would likely be ruled incomplete a la James.

If Harrison had, somehow, stripped Tyree during that, it likely would be ruled an interception.

Lewis did not maintain possession through contact with the ground. As such, his situation would be evaluated as some combination of options 1 and 3 above, likely depending on whether the ball became loose (a la the Kearse catch).

by Anon Ymous :: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 9:45am

The Helmet catch is irrelevant because Tyree never lost control of the ball

I was referring to whether something can be controlled with a hand against another object in isolation, so whether control was maintained or lost subsequently has no bearing on my comment. Frankly, this should have been obvious considering I agreed a fumble was the correct call.

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 2:46pm

No argument. My comment was based on what was seen in the article, which apparently did not include the initial loss of control by Lewis (which makes my question moot.)

by morganja :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:47am

It was a fumble incorrectly blown dead. Among the many obnoxious things Patriot fans do is to cite some incorrectly argued claim from a dubious source and then call everyone 'stoopid' for not agreeing with it. I will reference the deflategate 'air pressure defense' nonsense as a perfect example.
It was a fumble. It should not have been blown dead. In fact, in every other case, the play is not blown dead. They let it play out and then go and see if it was a fumble.
Yet again, the refs handed the Patriots a critical game. It's gone on long past the point that any rational person can make excuses.
Outside of New England, interest in the NFL is plummeting. Players know the games are fixed. Fans know the games are fixed.

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 11:30am

If the refs really wanted to hand it to the Patriots, they would just have said 'not a fumble, runner down by contact' in the first place. There's -some- room for that, via the 'held the ball to his leg'. (Even though I think he didn't control the ball.)

by PatsFan :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:15pm

Still waiting for you to tell us all how NE stole just 0.2 PSI out of those balls (that's the amount that the NFL's own consultants said the balls were short) and who took the air out of the Colts' balls to make them be below their pre-game measured pressure as well.

Also, are you ever going to whip up the willpower to stop watching the games you claim are so fixed? Or are Robert Kraft, Sheldon Adelson, and their "friends" doing the Ludovico Technique on you?

by RBroPF :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 4:01pm

Hey look, it's "science is nonsense" Moganja. Oh joy!

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:09pm

Perhaps I'm a bit early on this, but can anyone who has watched Philly for most of this year explain to me why NE has nearly a 60% chance of winning, according to FO odds? Or a 5.5 point favorite in Vegas? Is it all tied to Foles?

I'm struggling to see why this game isn't closer to a pick 'em. Frankly, if I knew Foles would have a good game - not a great one like this past week, just a run-of-the-mill good one - I'd say Philly will most likely win.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:15pm

5.5 favorite probably because of stupid money from NE fans.

I agree with you it should be a pick-em at best. Even if Gronk plays I expect NE to lose this game. Even with white jerseys :)

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:30pm

I just realized that the odds don't included this past week yet, so the 17% gap will surely close. (EDIT: Or not, since week 20 was this past week.) Still, I'm not feeling optimistic right now barring the Oakland version of Foles showing up.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:19pm

It's Foles.

A couple of odds-makers have said with Wentz it would have been pick-em.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:30pm

Yeah, I know Foles is a factor, but with Wentz I'd make Philly a 3-5 point favorite, so I'm still seeing a good sized discrepancy.

It's also amusing given that the only BB/Brady SB to be decided by more than 4 points was the one that went to overtime. Surely people would take any >3 point underdog by now, right?

by Pat :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:24pm

So just to point out, the FO odds imply that the Vegas line is too far in the Patriots direction. A 60% win probability is a 3-point spread, not a 5.5-point spread (which would be more like a 67.5% win probability). Patriots being a 3-point favorite doesn't sound too far off.

In fact, *most* of that 3-point favorite spread would actually come in *special teams*, which most fans wouldn't see by eye. In weighted DVOA, the two teams are actually 10.2% apart in NE's favor, which is a 2.2-2.3 point boost in New England's favor (in regular DVOA it's less, but still a decent 1.1-1.2 point difference) .

In terms of offense/defense, they're pretty close - New England's offense + Philly's defense is 14.2%, and Philly's offense + New England's defense is 16.4%. So "straight DVOA" would nominally see New England as a 2-ish point favorite, which is more bullish on the Eagles but still pretty close to the FO 60% win probability.

edit: Per the @fboutsiders Twitter feed, the 'official' playoff odds give New England a 58.1% chance - that's actually a 2.5 point spread, not a 3 point spread. So an even bigger swing against Vegas, and very close to the "straight DVOA" expectation, with almost all of that coming from special teams.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:32pm

Thanks for the detailed breakdown.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 1:41pm

The FO odds are partially based on play when Wentz was still active, aren't they?

I read those as being the odds if Wentz were playing. Which makes the Vegas odds -1.5 to -3 because of Foles.

by Pat :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 2:04pm

The weighted DVOA odds are probably around half-Foles, half-Wentz. Post-Wentz Philly has had ~5.5 games, so the highest-weighted games aren't Wentz at this point.

It's also worth noting that really, the playoffs change a lot here. Foles picked up 410 DYAR in the playoffs, and had -44 DYAR up until then (excluding Week 17: I don't ever like including 'partial games' when it's obvious the team wasn't actively trying to win). So that's 366 DYAR for 4.5 games, which prorates to 1300 DYAR for the season...

... and is virtually identical to Wentz's prorated 1358 DYAR.

Let that sink in a second. The only reason that Foles isn't roughly matching Wentz's statistical pace for the year is the Dallas Week 17 game. The one where no one cared.

by Cheesehead_Canuck :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:33pm

You guys don't really think the Patriots are losing this game... do you?

by Digit :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 12:41pm

I think it depends a lot on which Nick Foles shows up, honestly.

The Patriots thrive on reducing variance into what they can handle.

Nick Foles is a huge can of variance.

by amin purshottam :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 4:46pm

Of course not. Memo has already gone out to all the officials, head office and anyone else involved to make sure All calls, especially the close and important ones, go against the Eagles. The evil empire must win. It’s signed by the commissioner. I was able to get a copy.

by GiantOctopodes :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 7:10pm

As it pertains to the pass interference call, please see rule 8, section 5, article 2, for prohibited actions while the ball is in the air:

"e. Cutting off the path of an opponent by making contact with him, without playing the ball."

He had both hands on the receiver 30 yards down the field and applied leverage to him pushing him out of bounds while blocking his path to the ball with contact. It's textbook, definition pass interference. If you think there's no way Cooks makes it to that ball if he's not being held up and pushed out of bounds, you haven't seen Cooks play, for the Pats or the Saints. As such it is definitely not "uncatchable", as it would have been catchable without interference.

Now, what part of that do you dispute? That Cook's path was not cut off? That there was not contact? That the Defensive Back, who was riding him out of bounds and made no play on the ball, was somehow playing the ball? I mean there are questionable pass interference calls all the time, but this one was flagrant and I don't see how anyone could fail to see that barring a willful ignorance of the rules.

As it pertains to the fumble:

Maybe it shouldn't have been blown dead. It was not immediately apparent it was a fumble, they were likely blowing Lewis down. In fact even upon review it is not immediately apparent he did not retain possession of it against his leg until a knee or equivalent body part was down. Had it been called runner down by contact on the field, I suspect it would have stood as called (and the internet would be burning down right now).

However, even if I grant that it was a fumble (it was), and that it shouldn't have been blown dead (maybe), and that he wasn't downed by contact in the process of grabbing the ball with his left hand (doubtful), the supposition it would have made any difference at all is an inane one. Look at the videos and gifs of it. Nate Solder (77) is RIGHT THERE, staring at him as he's getting up with the ball. He doesn't tackle the guy because the whistle has been blown, the play is dead. Had the whistle not been blown, it's unlikely Jack would have even made it to his feet, much less made it down the field.

It's a real shame this site which prides itself (brands itself even) on "intelligent analysis" seems to lack a basic understanding of pass interference rules and spends digital ink on wishful thinking alternate reality fantasy analysis, while spending no digital ink at all on what kind of schematic or formation changes we saw (or lacking that, difference in execution by individual matchups) which led to such drastically different results in the 4th quarter vs the 1st. I can get "hot takes" about "teh refs boo hoo" from anywhere. Can't this site offer me something more?

by Raiderfan :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 8:16pm

Well, the site also offers great comments like yours, which is why I visit it multiple times a day. +1 to you.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 8:26pm

If you stay away from Kacsmar’s pieces you’ll be greatly increasing the odds of getting “something more”.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 10:13pm


by Pat :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 10:10am

"He had both hands on the receiver 30 yards down the field and applied leverage to him pushing him out of bounds"

They *both* had hands on each other, there wasn't a push from Bouye, and Bouye didn't initiate the contact. They were swiping hands at first, and then Cooks turned around too early to look for the ball. Then Cooks *put his hands on Bouye* to push *him* away. and Bouye then put his hands on Cooks.

In the replay it's hard to see that Cooks put his hands on Bouye first, but he did (because he put them inside his frame, and you're looking at Bouye's back). Not that it matters anyway, because Bouye isn't grabbing, shoving, or pulling.

Yes, after that Cooks ends up going out of bounds, but it's hard to call that "cutting off a route" when Cooks actually goes out of bounds due to *shoving Bouye away*. And of course all of this is happening 10 yards away from the ball anyway.

You can freely argue that he's cutting off his route, which I disagree with. But he doesn't even initiate contact, and Bouye doesn't shove him, so it's pointless to talk about that part as if it's obvious.

by GiantOctopodes :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 3:38pm

Your response doesn't make sense to me.

So what if they both had hands on each other? Are you attempting to argue Cooks was cutting off the path of the defensive back to the ball? How is the contact with Cooks on the defensive back relevant to the call? It is illegal to cut off the path of a player to the ball through contact. That is what we are assessing as to whether or not it occurred here. As Cooks was not between the defensive back and the ball, there is exactly zero chance he was guilty of an infraction relating to that course of action.

The "oh he did it first" part does not matter at all, for the reasons stated above. Cooks going out of bounds (or not) is irrelevant to the infraction occurring. Both hands were put on the receiver. That's contact. With that contact, the defensive back cut off his path to the ball. That's pass interference, unless you make a play on the ball, which he did not. Please tell me you understand that, or I fail to see a purpose in continuing a conversation.

As to it being "10 yards away from the ball", please keep in mind that Cooks runs a 4.33 40. That means he is when running in stride (which he was) he is less than a second away from a spot 10 yards down the field. He was held up and ceased running in stride, you can say not due to the contact, but the point is, if that defensive back is not there and is not making contact with him, from where he was at the time the ball was thrown he can easily reach that point on the field. It's not relevant "oh where he ended could he make a play on the ball", it's "had there been no interference could he have gotten to that spot", and the answer to that is assuredly yes.

by Pat :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 5:55pm

"So what if they both had hands on each other? Are you attempting to argue Cooks was cutting off the path of the defensive back to the ball?"

No, I'm arguing that Cooks was trying to shove him away. Which he did. The only time Bouye made contact with Cooks was literally on the arm that was grabbing Bouye's jersey.

"It is illegal to cut off the path of a player to the ball through contact. "

Yes, and that's not what happened. At all. The contact from Bouye didn't impede or redirect Cooks. He didn't push, shove, or grab him at all. His hands went to Cooks only after Cooks put his hands on Bouye *to shove him*, and they barely did anything anyway. The contact has to impede or redirect the player, otherwise they don't tend to call it, and it doesn't.

Again, if you watch the play, Cooks doesn't slow down, break stride, or anything until he's out of bounds. There's no contact from Bouye that impedes him. The only time he changes direction is when he ends up out of bounds after shoving Bouye.

Maybe you could say "well, if his hand was on Cooks maybe him going out of bounds was due to a shove" but man, that'd have to be a perfectly timed shove to look exactly the same as being caused by shoving a guy's helmet. Which is half the point here - Cooks ended up out of bounds after shoving Bouye, and I don't get how you throw a flag there since you don't know *who* actually caused the contact that ended up with him out of bounds.

by Digit :: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 8:46pm

Turning Point showed a replay of multiple officials explaining to Jalen Ramsey that it was pass interference because Bouye had two hands on the player -and- didn't look back for the ball. Apparently the 'didn't look back for the ball' was the key point.

by Anon Ymous :: Fri, 01/26/2018 - 10:20am

Sound F/X of that discussion is here: https://youtu.be/auA-koYrNJo?t=3m10s

"He's facing him driving him out of bounds" - which, according to the subsequent replay is an accurate description. It isn't until after riding Cooks outside that Bouye finally turns his head around.

by contrarycomet :: Wed, 01/24/2018 - 3:52pm

Deleted. GiantOctopedes said it way better.