Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

03 Oct 2011

MMQB: Quarterly Checkup

Peter King write about Tom Brady, the Hall of Fame vote, and Mike Heimerdinger. Victor Cruz's fumble-that-wasn't also gets some space.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 03 Oct 2011

40 comments, Last at 05 Oct 2011, 8:21pm by BaronFoobarstein


by Independent George :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 11:50am

I noticed this on TV last night - the fact that Dermonti Dawson is considered a 'borderline' Hall of Famer is emblematic of my problems with the HoF voting. I'm not singling out PK for it here, but I can't understand how anyone with a working knowledge of football would consider him a borderline anything.

by Nathan :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 12:44pm

King pleasantly surprised me with this line:

Some things are just plain weird, like Ronnie Brown, a very smart football player, turning around in the middle of the line of scrimmage and throwing the ball away as if it had herpes.

But gave me exactly what I expected with this one:

Devin Hester runs backs punts like he's got sensors on his torso, and anytime anyone gets close, he's able to run away -- without, seemingly, getting closer to anyone else with a different uniform.

by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 1:37pm

I'm ashamed to admit that I share all his thoughts on the Red Sox and the players he mentioned.

by GlennW :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 1:59pm

I don't, for the most part. After such a disastrous collapse, it's the typical knee-jerk "anything and everything must be rotten to the core" response to the situation. The Ortiz-Youkilis hotel lobby story is particularly pointless (keeping in mind that both players have been considered passionate "gamers" in winning championships in the past). I'm pretty sure that even NFL players don't always pile four into a cab when they're traveling together. These guys live in close quarters for a full 7-8 months of the year, and they're not going to leap and give each other high-fives every time they see each other in the hotel (or at least not for your benefit, PK).

by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) :: Tue, 10/04/2011 - 10:23am

In wasn't referring to that anecdotal nonsense. Actually, I'm sure Youk and Papi get along fine. Everything else he wrote about was spot on though.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 1:48pm

I enjoyed the herpes line too. However, his line about Sam Adams prancing for a TD? I don't think Sam Adams ever pranced for anything.

by Thalwitzer (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 4:31pm

He was referring to Drayton Florence's prancing. Sam Adams was many things, but not a prancer.

by MJK :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 10:21pm

I think I know what Brown was up to. It was 3rd and goal from about the half yard line, but he got hit and wrapped up about a yard and a half in the backfield, at the 2. 4th and goal from the half yard line is better than 4th and goal from the 2--in the former case, you have a reasonable chance of getting a TD if you go for it, in the latter case, going for it is a 50% chance at best and most coaches will almost certainly kick the FG. I think he was thinking that, because he was still behind the line, if he threw the ball to the ground forward in the vicinity of an eligible receiver, it would be an incomplete pass and they wouldn't lose the yardage.

I actually saw a RB (it may have even been Brown) avoid a safety by doing this. He was running on first and 10 from his own 1 yard line on a sweep. Ran into defenders still about 3 yards deep, and rather than take the safety, he hurled the ball out of bounds across the line of scrimmage. Since he was still behind the LOS, a forward pass attempt was legal, and since he was outside the tackle box and the ball made it across the LOS, it wasn't intentional grounding. IN that case it was a smart play.

Doesn't change the fact that this was a boneheaded play by Brown. A completely different situation...so many things can go wrong. The worst thing (it being ruled a fumble) did go wrong. But even if it's not, there's a pretty good chance you get an intentional grounding call and get docked 10 yards.

by Southern Philly :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 10:36pm

It was a designed HB option that they have practiced all season. Stupid play call, even dumber execution.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/04/2011 - 9:02am

It was a Chicago-Detroit game. The RB was in the grasp in the end zone, and heaved the ball forward, underhanded, across the goal line, with no eligible receivers within 10 yards. The ball was recovered by Detroit and returned into the end zone.

There were four possible legal rulings:

1. Legal fumble, TD Detroit.
2. Down in end zone, Safety Detroit. (On the play in question, it appeared the Chicago runner threw the ball forward with his knee on the ground)
3. Illegal forward pass, Safety Detroit.
4. Intentional Grounding, Safety Detroit.

There was also a possible ineligible downfield, which would have been a half-the-distance penalty.

The referees ruled it a legal pass, and an incompletion. Chicago scored on the drive, and won by 3.

by Travis :: Tue, 10/04/2011 - 1:18pm

It was Packers-Lions, Week 14 of 2005.

Packers' RB Samkon Gado was originally called for intentional grounding on the play, resulting in a safety, but the referees then determined that 1) Gado was outside the pocket and 2) the throw made it back to the line of scrimmage, so they changed the call to an incomplete.

There was also a declined holding call on Mark Tauscher on the play. The holding took place in the end zone, which should have resulted in a safety, but somehow the refs saw otherwise.

At the time, there were 7 minutes to go in the 4th quarter and the game was tied at 13. The Packers would win 16-13 in overtime.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 10/04/2011 - 1:56pm

Yeah, there we go.

I seem to recall that replay showed the ball didn't make it back to the line of scrimmage. It crossed the goal line, but not the LOS.

One of the worst examples of creative home town officiating I've ever seen.

by Verifiable (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 1:39pm

"Of the top 40 rushers in football, guess who's the least efficient? Chris Johnson, at 2.88 yards per carry. But of course the holdout had nothing to do with that" So why didn't the Titans meet his demands earlier?

by are-tee :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 3:09pm

"Victor Cruz, after catching a Manning pass, was hit by a Cardinal defender, nearly fell to the ground, then righted himself and ran forward a few steps before inexplicably going down without contact."

Inexplicably? Cruz just silpped and fell. It looked to me like he didn't try getting up because he thought he was down by contact, or forgot that he wasn't playing under college rules, but I don't see any way he was "deliberately giving himself up"

by GlennW :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 3:27pm

The league should clarify this rule, I think. Any runner who intentionally flips the ball away after going to the ground (for any reason) is "making no effort to advance" and is thereby deliberately giving himself up. This is PK's point and it's a fair one, and my personal opinion is that a runner should be declared down under such circumstances, no fumble, because exact intent is impossible to determine. But Tony Dungy's point is also valid-- this rule has never been applied as such-- rather the runner needs to somehow signal his intention to an official, which is not part of the written rule however. So the rule as commonly applied versus written is contradictory, actually.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 4:13pm

Cruz didn't flip the ball anywhere, he just left it on the ground.

by GlennW :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 4:26pm

Either way, it was obviously intentional; Cruz was voluntarily giving up the ball and declining to advance further (the football didn't accidentally come loose or something), all before hustling back to the huddle. The manner of releasing the football doesn't change the fact that what Cruz did is completely consistent with the rule as *written*. The rule as commonly applied, yes, Cruz should probably being looking for an official and only relinquishing the cherished rock after he hears a whistle or sees a signal. So tighten up the rules language...

by are-tee :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 4:46pm

"when a runner is out of bounds, or declares himself down by falling to the ground, or kneeling, AND making no effort to advance ...''

Assuming this is the exact language of the rulebook, the key word is AND. You have to "declare yourself down by falling...AND make no effort to advance". I interpret that to mean that if you fall by accident, you're not declaring yourself down. Just making no effort to adavance without the first part is not enough.

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 4:50pm

A few years ago when Plaxico Burress spiked the ball because he thought he was down by contact, he "was voluntarily giving up the ball and declining to advance further (the football didn't accidentally come loose or something), all before hustling back to the huddle." Yet it was a fumble.

by nat :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 5:08pm

Burress wasn't down when he spiked it. You have to be down. That's in the rule. No parsing or nitpicking needed.

Really, the Burress spike isn't relevant at all. It's funny. But not relevant.

by GlennW :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 5:25pm

Burress had gone to the ground untouched, same as Cruz (trust me, I'm a Steelers fan). This was his first NFL season, and in his excitement after a big gainer he stood up and did that ball-spinning thing before any defender had contacted him. Pretty obviously Burress was "making no effort to advance", but not for the same sensible reason that Cruz didn't.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 5:41pm

At the time he released the ball, he wasn't down.

by nat :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 8:04pm

Bingo. Got it in one.

by GlennW :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 5:16pm

I agree, and that's not the only such example of the way this rule has been interpreted and enforced. That's why I'm saying that the "making no effort to advance" component (which Plaxico wasn't doing either) to this rule should be explicitly clarified. Because at the very least, Cruz was very obviously trying to save time and hustle back to the huddle, as opposed to hotdogging like Plaxico.

As for the other interpretation, that the player must also intentionally fall to the ground or take a knee, well, if he'd only slipped (as Cruz appeared to) then I guess you're requiring him to get back up, then go back down in order to meet this strict requirement. Seems unnecessary in order to voluntarily give oneself up, but all the more reason to clean up the rules language.

Hey, given the fact that the officials ruled the way they did on this Cruz play alone (versus similar plays in the past), I don't think the league has any choice but to clarify the rule. As Ken Whisenhunt put it: "What's the understanding of that rule? I don't know."

by tuluse :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 5:31pm

the player must also intentionally fall to the ground or take a knee, well, if he'd only slipped (as Cruz appeared to) then I guess you're requiring him to get back up, then go back down in order to meet this strict requirement

Or just stay on the ground until it's clear he isn't going to advance the ball, not just drop the ball and stand up.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 6:38pm

Cruz fell down and thought he was down by contact. That's not giving yourself up. Dropping the ball is giving the ball up not giving yourself up. Nothing Cruz did constituted giving himself up, therefore he fumbled the ball. There's nothing ambiguous here unless you think that Cruz did not believe himself down. But that's not an issue of rule but an issue of judgment, and in those cases I think it's reasonable to demand a clear signal that a player has given himself up before treating the play that way.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 7:21pm

In a few years, when the NFL has finally removed all hitting from the game, the ball-carrier may simply remove the flag himself.

by dryheat :: Wed, 10/05/2011 - 12:06pm

I would make the case that intentionally leaving the ball on the ground and hustling back to the huddle is a clear signal of voluntarily ending the play.

That being said, over the last several years, that play has been called a fumble numerous times...usually when a player goes down as the result of contact with a teammate. I like Sunday's interpretation of the rule better, as there's really no way for a ball carrier to know who contacted him from behind to get him to the ground, and assuming it's a teammate is going to lead to pointless extensions of plays, extending the game and leading to injuries to unsuspecting players on the field.

THAT being said, there's no harm in the ball carrier yelling "Down!" or something to signify that he's voluntarily ending the play.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 7:20pm

The only thing more surprising than the fact that there's controversy about this call is the vehemence with which people will defend absurd opinions about it.

by Alexander :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 10:52pm

I don't understand why people want the Cardinals to get the fumble. The only reason I can think is a love for rules. It would be a hug injustice if that was ruled a fumble, the Cardinals did nothing to deserve the ball there, there was no strip, the Cardinals had their chance to win the game, play defense. Why are people so obsessed with the rule? If the rule says that what happened there is a fumble then the rule should be changed, because giving windfalls to undeserving teams is stupid.

by GlennW :: Tue, 10/04/2011 - 10:37am

Seriously? There's controversy because the officials on the field seemingly blew the call based on all known precedent, and the call was a game decider. NFL officiating decisions don't get much bigger than game deciders. Even more pertinent, the officials made their call based on a rules interpretation and not the more typical onset of temporary blindness (i.e. they didn't think for a second that Cruz intentionally took a knee). This is exactly the type of situation that the NFL should work to clean up or at least clarify-- our guys blew it or got it right, and here's why-- but they may just choose to ignore it as usual.

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 5:49pm

It wouldn't be a Week 4 MMQB without misuse of the word "quarter pole." It was good to see he got it out of the way in his first sentence fragment.

by TomC :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 6:33pm

I found it very odd how he gushed about Hester then decided to name Julius Peppers Special Teams Player of the Week. I mean, Hester scored one TD and set up another (with a long kickoff return), while Peppers merely got a hand on a terribly hit FG attempt that probably would have clocked the person behind him in the facemask.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 7:31pm

I think Danieal Manning deserves some kind of extra special special teams award for managing to block a field goal and then pick himself up and throw a completely unnecessary illegal block in the back to nullify the ensuing touchdown return.

by ChrisZ (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2011 - 2:01pm

Although the announcers seemed pretty sure it was Manning who drew the flag, I think it was in fact Brian Cushing's far, far, stupider block in the back some 15-20 yards away that drew it. That's where the flag was thrown on the field.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 10/05/2011 - 3:17pm

If it was Cushing's block that drew the flag, then the foul would have occurred prior to the change of possession since the ball was still loose at the time. The resulting penalty would have caused a Pittsburgh first and 10 at the six yard line and an untimed down. I think it must have been Manning's block that was called.

by ChrisZ (not verified) :: Wed, 10/05/2011 - 3:55pm

Cushing's block happened at almost the same time as Joseph picking up the ball. It is clearly before in the replay, but it's close. The flag ends up right at the feet of the Steeler blocked by Cushing, which is really quite far away from where Manning was. I think they probably actually threw the flag on Cushing and messed up the timing of those two things a little bit.

by Jerry :: Wed, 10/05/2011 - 6:29pm

Who did the referee announce the penalty on?

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 10/05/2011 - 8:21pm

His long explanation declared the foul to be "on the defense" but didn't mention any player by number.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 10/03/2011 - 6:38pm

King correctly listed the Steelers' pass protection twice in his segment on things he doesn't like.