We explain the big question marks with referees and controversial decisions in this year’s playoffs, including the 49ers’ dramatic finish at Cowboys
Your instincts are correct if you feel like NFL officials have released more bandanas in 2021. Penalties increased to 13.88 per game during the regular season, slightly higher than it was in 2020 (13.14), but still well below what it was in 2019 (16.17) and 2018 (15.87).
That’s the only context you need as you watch this year’s postseason games. It would be a surprise if we see many games full of infractions and, hopefully, we will spend the next four weeks talking about the performance of players and coaches, and not about the punishments they did (or didn’t do).
But there are plenty of rule-based twists to consider beyond handkerchiefs. In the 2020 AFC Championship Game, for example, then-NFL Vice President Al Riveron allowed a non-reviewable play review. Ultimately, he reversed a call that shouldn’t have been considered in the game that decided who would represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
We will cover all your doubts about the decisions of the officials in this space, which will be updated when an explanation of the rules, some important context or any situation with the officials is required. Join this trip. (The most recent plays will be at the top.)
The Cowboys ran out of time
San Francisco 49ers-Dallas Cowboys, Wild Card Round – 0:14 seconds left in fourth quarter
What happened: Time ran out when cowboys tried to get the ball from the 24-yard line of the 49ers on the last play of the game.
How was it resolved: Official Alex Kemp declared the game over, even after the play was delayed for referee Ramon George to adjust the point.
Analysis: Kemp and George did their job. With 14 seconds remaining, the quarterback of the cowboys, Dak Prescott, had rushed for 17 yards. Typically, in that situation, NFL players are advised to hand the ball directly to the referee or other official to speed up the next play. By rule, it cannot be restarted until an umpire has touched the ball to confirm and/or adjust the point.
The final play. pic.twitter.com/e05K3bTvxJ
— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) January 17, 2022
Instead, Prescott handed the ball to Tyler Biadasz, who put the ball on the ground near the 24-yard line and stood on it while the rest of the Los Angeles offense cowboys met. George had to fight his way through the line to get to the ball, wasting valuable seconds. The serve came with a second left, making Prescott’s run meaningless.
This was completely the fault of the cowboys, from the risky play with no remaining timeouts to Prescott’s inability to turn the ball over to an official. Kemp and his team did exactly what they were expected to do.
Darden took a late hit
Philadelphia EaglesTampa Bay Buccaneers, Wild Card Round – 12:01 left in fourth quarter
What happened: The kick returner of the Buccaneers, Jaelon Darden, returned a kick to the 22-yard line, and Darden took a late hit.
How was it resolved: The ball was moved back to the 10-yard line due to a holding penalty by Rob Gronkowski of the Los Angeles Buccaneers.
Analysis: The referees did not call a late and brazen hit on Darden illegal for multiple reasons. Replays showed that Darden was dropped by the safety of the eaglesMarcus Epps. Darden had started to get up, left knee still on the ground, when KeeSean Johnson of the eagles He lowered his head and hit Darden’s helmet. The contact was strong enough to knock Darden to the grass, where he lay for a few moments.
There’s definitely an argument for holding back some tissues at the end of a beatdown, but rules regarding player safety should always be enforced. The hit on Darden was illegal because he was late and also because it was a violation of the helmet rule, which prohibits players from hitting an opponent with a helmet.
Roughing penalty on borderline quarterback for a hit on Brady?
eagles–Buccaneers, Wild Card Round – 14:28 remaining in the first quarter
What happened: The defensive end of the eagles, Derek Barnett, hit the quarterback of the Buccaneers, Tom Brady, after he threw a pass that was incomplete.
How was it resolved: Referee Craig Wrolstad called out Barnett for hitting Brady, moving the ball 15 yards downfield.
Analysis: The Wrolstad team threw the second-most flags for roughing the passer (12) during the regular season, and since the referee is usually the official who oversees that foul, it was reasonable to expect it to happen on Sunday. As it turned out, we heard from Wrolstad in the first minute of the game and not for a good reason.
Barnett hit Brady below the waist but above the knee. The NFL rule book states: “A defender may not initiate a spin or lunge and forcefully hit the passer in the knee area or below, even if another player is contacting him.”
This was a rule the NFL developed in part after Brady suffered a torn ACL from a low blow in 2008. However, the hit was legal, and if you have any doubts, you can note that Brady himself never he asked Wrolstad for punishment.
Was it really roughing the passer?
Las Vegas Raiders-Cincinnati Bengals, Wild Card Round – 1:51 left in fourth quarter
What happened: Bengals defensive end Khalid Kareem made contact with Raiders quarterback Derek Carr after Carr threw a 15-yard pass to running back Josh Jacobs.
How was it resolved: Referee Jerome Boger threw a rough handkerchief at the passer. The extra 15 yards gave the Raiders a 30-yard gain in total, putting the ball at the Bengals 35-yard line as the Raiders drove for what could have been the tying (or winning) touchdown.
Analysis: The NFL has moved dramatically over the years to protect quarterbacks, creating rules that prohibit them from being hit hard in the head or neck area, as well as below the knee, when they are on the pitch. in the protection bag or in a defenseless position.
Boger did not specify why the bandana was thrown, but at best, it appeared Kareem’s right shoulder or arm brushed Carr’s helmet. It would be up to Boger at that point to determine if that contact was “forced.” He’s not tasked with taking the game situation into account, but I’d like to see any call be obvious to the viewer, whether it’s in the fourth quarter of a playoff game or the first quarter of Week 1.
Carr did what he should have done; He explained his case to Boger, throwing his head back and pointing to his helmet. It’s always possible that another angle would show stronger contact, but from what we could see on replay, it didn’t.
A bad whistle in the Bengals scoring
Raiders-Bengals, Wild Card Round – 1:15 remaining in the second quarter.
What happened: Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow walked to the right sideline on his third down when he was at the Raiders 10-yard line. With the ball in the air, a whistle was heard on the source broadcast. Then Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd caught the pass and scored.
How was it resolved: After a lengthy discussion by the officials, led by referee Jerome Boger, the play was marked as a touchdown.
Analysis: Unless the whistle came from the crowd or from somewhere other than the seven officials on the field, this didn’t have to be a touchdown. There are two options. The whistle was intended to declare Burrow off the field, or it was an inadvertent whistle. In either case, NFL rules require the play to end at the whistle.
NFL Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1(m) states: “When an official erroneously blows the whistle while the ball is still in play, the ball is immediately dead.” In this case, the rule goes on to say: “If the ball is in the player’s possession, the team in possession may elect to put the ball in play where the play was declared dead or replay the play.”
So the score shouldn’t have counted and the play had to be replayed. It is not reviewable. Players often stop playing when they hear the whistle and it is unfair to allow action after the whistle to count.
Burrow stayed in bounds to make it 20-6 ????
— ESPN (@espn) January 15, 2022
A similar play occurred during a 2015 game between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. In that case, official Gene Steratore correctly stopped the play, even as Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola was running upfield, but misplaced the ball where Amendola was when the whistle blew.
Raiders exit from the 2-yard line after the receiver leaves the field
Raiders-Bengals, Wild Card Round – 1:18 left in the first quarter
What happened: Raiders kick returner Peyton Barber grabbed the ball, which was bouncing near the sideline, and went out of bounds at the 2-yard line.
How was it resolved: Barber was called out at the 2-yard line and put the Raiders in awful field position for his third possession of the game.
Analysis: Barber was trying to take advantage of a little-known rule in the NFL in an effort to drive the ball to the 40-yard line. What he wanted to do was get off the field and then touch the ball. When a ball touches a player after he has gone out, the ball is declared out of bounds at that point. If Barber had left the field first, the Bengals would have been penalized for an outfield kick and, by rule, official Jerome Boger would have put the ball at the 40-yard line. ruled that he stayed with him when he came out at the 2-yard line.
Multiple teams have tried to take advantage of this rule in recent years, deliberately walking off the field and then touching the ball, most notably the Green Bay Packers’ Randall Cobb in 2021.