Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Nov 2012

MMQB: Suspense Reigns in NFC Playoff Chase

Peter King looks at the tight race for the second NFC wild card spot, the league's move to ban all low blocks, and Ray Rice's amazing fourth-and-29.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 26 Nov 2012

40 comments, Last at 30 Nov 2012, 1:43pm by caw


by PatsFan :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 10:46am

What about a compromise? No blocks at or below the knees?

by Podge (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 11:45am

I wonder if there's any stats on injuries to players from low blocks? Anecdotally, the only one I can think of is the Eric Berry one, which was way down the field.

Maybe just outlaw low blocks more than a yard down the field or something. I think outlawing low blocks behind the line of scrimmage would be bad, but I think there's a good argument for them being outlawed down the field.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:08pm

I remember George Foster, the jaw-droppingly incompetent Broncos' first round right tackle just dive bombing a bengal player's knee on monday night football yards behind the play. As I recall, it ended the Bengal player's season.
This may not be the kind of low block you are asking about, as this was just a flat out dirty, intent-to-injure play.

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:32pm

Tommie Harris had his career ended because of injuries sustained from blockers diving at his knees.

by Jimmy :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 9:42pm

Tommie was OK until he got leg whipped by Columbo. Leg whips have been illegal for a long time, just a cheap dirty play. He never got the strength back after that and was even more susceptible to cut blocks. I do remember reading draft scouting reports that said he needed to protect his legs more, of course if everyone wasn't allowed to dive at his knees he wouldn't have needed to as much and he would have been even better than he was (and that guy was awesome at his peak, still a fair way better than Melton is now).

by tuluse :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 10:53pm

Yeah, but his peak was 6 games in 2006.

If he hadn't got hurt, and sustained that level of play for 3-4 years people would probably consider him among the greatest DTs of all time.

by daz :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 10:12pm

Its obviously going back a few years but Brady Quinn injured Terrell Suggs on a cheap "block" at Suggs' knees on a INT return in 2009.

And I'm sure that there are a number of defensive lineman (NTs in particular) that have sustained injuries from legal chop blocks

by nat :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 11:15am

Wait! Even worse was Randy Moss yanking down Malcolm Jenkins in full view of the world in the end zone at New Orleans, and a blind official seeing nothing. Horrendous non-call.

It wasn't all that bad a call. It looked like Moss waited until the ball arrived before actually pulling the defender. If not, it was damned close. So it was either a brilliant case of a receiver becoming the defender, or a not-so brilliant case of mistiming the grab by the barest fraction of a second.

Remember, it is ok to have contact before the ball arrives, so long as the contact isn't interfering with the act of catching. Once the ball arrives, interfering with the catch is a good thing.

This was misplaced outrage.

by mawbrew :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:26pm

I thought Moss was way earlier on that play. My memory is that Moss grabbed the DB and swung him around so that by the time the ball arrived the DB's back was to the ball.

by CoachDave :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:36pm

That was a blatant call that was missed...way early, no doubt about it.

by Nathan :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:27pm

Didn't watch much of this game but I saw that play and it seemed clear cut OPI to me. The way they've been calling DPI the past few years they need to start calling those "veteran push offs" WAY more if they want to be fair.

by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 3:09pm

It clearly should have been a penalty on Moss, but it was, in fact, an excellent play by Moss. Jenkins was well positioned to make an interception, and, had the official actually noticed the foul, the resulting penalty would still preserve the opportunity to kick the field goal, rather than turning the ball over.

by nat :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:30pm

I found a video of the Moss play. Here.

Your memory is wrong. The defender gets his hand on the ball before he is turned at all. There is plenty of contact by both players before the ball is thrown, of the kind that is always allowed. Once the ball is in the air, Moss gets ready to grab and pull - and waits until the ball just gets to the defender's hand before yanking him hard to the ground. If Moss had pulled sooner, the defender wouldn't have been able to touch the ball with his hand.

If you wanted to argue that Moss started pulling after the ball crossed the goal line but before the defender actually touched the ball, it's an argument you could make. "Started pulling" is somewhat subjective at this fine time scale. We're talking about the time it takes a ball in flight to go about a foot.

But assertions of "clear" interference are really just a sign of bias or not understanding the rule. Yanking the defender to the ground is a good thing on a pass like this. It's allowed, even encouraged. The trick is to let him touch the ball first. Better yet, yank him at the exact moment he touches the ball, or close enough that the ref can't clearly determine which happened first.

by Bonzer (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:33pm

What? Dude, you are high. First, the article has examples of bad calls for last week, OPI being one of them.

Jenkins does NOT get his hand on the ball before he's turned. When Moss looks behind him to locate the ball, he realized Cap throw it too short and to the inside. Jenkins was in perfect position to catch the ball, but Moss grabbed him, then pulled him down to prevent an interception. Both receiver and defender are suppose to play for the ball, not each other.

Put it another way, if Moss had inside position, but Jenkins was on the outside and pulled Moss down, would that be defensive pass interference?

by CoachDave :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:39pm

Couldn't agree more.

I have no idea how someone who isn't sight-impared can watch that video and think it's not OPI.

Honestly...your long and drawn out narrative doesn't even remotely fit what actually happened.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:51pm

I thought it was OPI but the non call didn't make any difference, if it had been called they'd have kicked the field goal anyway. It was really a very smart move by Randy on a throw that Kaep has to learn to throw much better.

by nat :: Fri, 11/30/2012 - 10:11am

Both receiver and defender are supposed to play for the ball, not each other.
Ok, we've established that you don't know the rules...
Of course you can play the man. You just have to wait until the ball arrives.

It all comes down to the referee's judgment of when the pulling started to interfere with the catch and when the ball arrived. All the outrage about how hard Moss pulled or how he was not playing the ball is just ignorance talking.

The referee had already decided that the various contact before the pull did not rise to illegal contact by Jenkins or interference by either player. So it came down to - in real time - the referee deciding whether the pulldown was clearly started before the ball arrived. The refs are instructed to not call interference unless they can make that clear determination. This referee did not decide the way you wanted. Get over it.

by Gus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:52pm

He's already being turned by Moss before he touches the ball. It's pretty clear. And it isn't, to you, somehow, do you really thin Jenkins reaction is that of someone who wasn't interfered with? If Moss's play was legal and Jenkins had broken up the pass without thinking he had a chance to pick the ball off, he would've been celebrating.

It was a clear case of OPI. The 49ers had the end of that game handed to them on a platter. Two other non-calls--DPIs--went against the Saints in that fourth quarter. Easily some of the worst officiating I've seen since the Pats-Bills game.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 7:45pm

Jenkin's reaction is a poor way to judge, since he would have had the same reaction whether Moss's play was interference or not. I.e. he definitely had a chance to intercept, so if Moss had made a very good and non-interfering defensive play, Jenkin's would still have been upset.

by caw :: Fri, 11/30/2012 - 1:43pm

The non-call on Moss didn't change the game in any meaningful way. Had they called the penalty, very likely the 49ers still would have gotten the same 3 points on that drive.

by Never Surrender :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:34pm

Misplaced outrage? Peter King? You don't say.

by Bonzer (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 2:12pm

It was a bad call, earlier in the game Joe Morgan did the same thing to Carlos Rodgers and got flagged for OPI. Rodgers initiated the contact, but Morgan pulled his arm to prevent the interception. If Morgan was called for OPI, they should've called Moss for OPI.

At least neither resulted in a touchdown for the Seahawks.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 4:40pm

The officiating was pretty bad overall in this game. There were too many borderline flags. The way they were calling OPI and DPI seemed almost random. There were also some big misses. Moss's OPI was one. So was the Saint's first touchdown, when Thomas's knee clearly hit the turf before the ball was in, and one of Crabtree's catches, when he was incorrectly ruled down on the verge of a big gain.

Don't want that crew again.

by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:31am

That Crabtree play was a REALLY bad miss by the officials. He was nowhere close to being down and the way he acted it seemed like it was a late whistle because he'd spun away and went several yards before coming back. It also demonstrated the amazing difference in how the regular refs are treated compared to the replacements. Aikman was doing color on the game and just sort of casually commented he hadn't thought watching the play live that Crabtree had been down, almost as if he wouldn't have even mentioned it except for the replay being shown.

by Sophandros :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:08am

Thomas wasn't touched by a defender before the ball crossed the plane of the goal line, so the fact that his knee was down is irrelevant. This isn't college.

The Crabtree missed call was bad, but in real time you can see why they called it as they did.

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Kyle D. (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 6:22pm

I'd say the opposite. The main television shot from up above made it look more like he'd touched his knee down (though even live I didn't think he was down) but the replay from field level made me wonder how anybody standing just a few yards away could possibly have thought he was down. And the ref was maybe 5 yards away at most. That was one of the more blatant misses I'd seen in a long time.

by opticallog :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 12:13pm

I am the only person that thinks that the Boldin block was clearly a block in the back? I watched the replay half a dozen times (one time even in slow motion on my DVR) and Boldin puts the DB on blast on his right shoulder blade. I'm not a fan of either team (niners fan here), so I don't think I'm being biased about what I saw. How is no one talking about this?

I guess my point is, this Peter King column is the first to even casually mention the blatant block in the back. Yet do we really think Ray Rice gets the extra 3 inches he needs for the conversion without that unflagged penalty? I'm sorry, I'm not impressed.

by Marko :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:37pm

I only saw it a few times and I didn't look at that part of it closely, but I had a similar reaction to yours. I think no one is talking about this because it happened against the Chargers, who have one of the most apathetic fan bases in the NFL and don't play in a large media market. You would have heard a lot about this if it happened against any one of the following teams: Patriots, Steelers, Bears, Packers, Giants, Cowboys, Eagles. But I doubt that it would have happened against most of those teams (I wouldn't be shocked to see it happen against the Cowboys or Eagles).

by daz :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 10:21pm

Look at it from another (better) angle http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t52qAAbD0hA&feature=youtu.be

IMO it was mostly into Weddle's side (but that may be my Ravens fan bias talking). The fact that Weddle doesn't land on his stomach (as you'd expect if he was pushed in the back) but flipped onto his own back because of the hit leads credence to it not being an illegal block in the back too imo

by RC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:14am

I'm seeing something completely different in that video than you.

It looks like Weddle turns his body towards Rice, and then Boldin plants his shoulder between Weddles numbers. Looks like pretty clear block in the back to me.

by akn :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:54am

No horse in this.

Looking at your video (and other angles), it's pretty clear to me that Boldin's shoulder makes contact behind Weddle's shoulder, which is a block in the back. Weddle was also defenseless, and Boldin left his feet, though no contact with the head was made.

On a kick or punt return, that's called every time, as the refs are looking for it. On a game ending 4th and 29 play, however, the refs were clearly concentrating elsewhere, such as Rice and the parade of bad tacklers he was leaving in his wake.

by bubqr :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:21pm

No horse either, and blatant block in the back. weddle ends up on his butt only because his torso/right shoulder hits Ray Rice and makes him spin.

by Gus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:55pm

Not even close to a block in the back. Still should be illegal for leaving his feet though.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 7:48pm

You really believe it's "not even close"? Is that hyperbole, or are you just trolling?

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 7:54pm

I disagree that it's called every time. Especially in real time. He's about this close to just being on the side.

by opticallog :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 12:25pm

What I see in the video is Boldin hitting Weddle in the back of the shoulder, which is why you see his arm flail in front of Boldin, not behind. It does appear a little less black and white from this angle though.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 12:58pm

Is it possible for the NFL to not allow any more cancer victims to visit Packer opponent locker rooms in advance of the game with the Packers? Green Bay is now 0-2 in such situations. (Pagano with the Colts/young man with Giants)

//completely tongue in cheek

by LionInAZ :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 7:01pm

Must be payback for Rodgers ignoring that cancer patient who tried to get his autograph at the Green Bay airport last year... (tee-hee-hee!)

by CoachDave :: Mon, 11/26/2012 - 1:55pm

Spam filter seems to be on super-aggressive mode.

by Jerry :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:00am

For those of you didn't read the column, or kust haven't read this article, a nice piece on an undrafted free agent's attempt to make the Falcons.