Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

16 Oct 2013

NFL Closeup: Kenny Stills and the 50/50 Ball

Height, vertical prowess, and strength are helpful, but there is technique involved with winning a “50/50 ball.” His touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter against two Patriots defensive backs is a great example. Here is a frame-by-frame demonstration.

Posted by: Matt Waldman on 16 Oct 2013

10 comments, Last at 17 Oct 2013, 1:26pm by Theo


by Nick L. (not verified) :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 1:48pm

Looks like the definition of offensive pass interference to me. Stills creates a good two feet of separation by pushing off the defender's upfield shoulder.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 3:17pm

Agree. All of the comments about Dennard not playing the ball like a receiver, and not being square to the ball, and not getting a good jump are because Stills basically held him down.

Don't get me wrong, its a heads up play by Stills, and pros need to do those things when they can get away with it, but it absolutely is Offensive PI.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 2:25pm

Do you have anything like that for Thompkins's catch over Greer? It would be interesting to compare the two.

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 6:50pm

I guess it is a difference of opinion, but if he pushed off, then he did a good job of hiding it. It looks more like his hands are on Dennard "feeling" him. He pushes off juuuuust enough to get an extra inch and the ball flies over Dennard's arm.
Also I think that it's a good enough throw by Brees. It looked a little short, but ended up travelling a little further than anticipated. Stills jumps up and away - he doesn't have to jump through the db. So he is shielding the defender from the ball - just asserting his position. "legal" opi.

to me I don't define OPI as "did the offensive player interfere with the defensive player" since it's just NOT called that way. OPI is when you egregiously tackle the defender way before the ball even gets there... apparently!

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 6:56pm

It's not called that way, but thats the way it's defined.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 6:57pm

Also, the rules say the defender has as much right to the ball as the offensive player. If you switch the player's position so Dennard is the receiver and Stills the DB, I'm almost 100% sure it gets called D-PI

by Reinhard (not verified) :: Thu, 10/17/2013 - 12:55pm

hey I used to play DB, so trust me I get super frustrated with the way it is called, vs. the way it is defined in the rules! But this play in particular doesn't frustrate me as much as it does you :)
Ronnie Lott had a nice quote on the radio after one of the niners games where they flagged a WR on the other team for OPI. "It's nice when the refs acknowledge that, you know, once in a 5,000 times, the wide receivers do sometimes push off, a little"

by LukeT (not verified) :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 9:31pm

there is a big difference between protecting your space and pushing off. Stills arms never straighten out and Denard does not get pushed backwards, he just whiffs. And the safety is way late to get over given the down and distance. Terrible secondary play, but good job Kenny. I'm already regretting dropping you from my fantasy team last week.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Wed, 10/16/2013 - 9:55pm

His arms wouldn't straighten out holding someone down.

by Theo :: Thu, 10/17/2013 - 1:26pm

... and then BAM! hit hits you.
It should be called "catch interference".