Zebra Report: Rice's Low Block, Brooking's Taunting and More
Zebra Report is FanHouse's analysis of actual NFL rules and how they are to be applied ... because most fans think they could do a better job than the NFL officials, yet definitely could not. Click here for an introduction as to how we do things.
Though this will hardly surprise long-time readers, I still have to point out the four divisional playoff games from this past weekend were void of game-changing controversial calls. Whenever you can emerge from a series of playoff games without hearing something lame like "the referees cost ____ the game!" it's a good thing for all of us.
Obviously, that doesn't mean there were no calls needing clarification or even a handful of missed calls. That's the nature of the beast. Again, when each team is perfect, we can start to expect the officials to be perfect. Until then, such is life watching a game played and officiated by humans.
• Reader Mike V. called my attention to this one, so give him a TZR tip o' the cap, please. Anyway, the play in question is Sidney Rice's second touchdown catch of the day. He motions in and cuts a defender at the knees before heading out into his pattern. You can watch the video by clicking here and starting at the 3:08 mark on the NFL.com highlight package. Now, this one is close, but -- to me -- emerges clear. Here are the portions of the rule that apply (12-2-16, p. 86).
A chop block is a foul by the offense in which one offensive player (designated as A1for purposes of this rule) blocks a defensive player in the area of the thigh or lower while another offensive player (A2) occupies that same defensive player in one of the circumstances described in sub-sections (1) through (10) below.
(3) On a forward pass play, A1 chops a defensive player while A2 confronts the defensive player in a pass-blocking posture but is not physically engaged with the defensive player (a "lure").
In this situation, you could watch the play back and determine a few things. First of all, "A1" in this scenario would be Rice while "A2" would be the Vikings' right tackle (No. 71, Phil Loadholt). DeMarcus Ware is cut by Rice while it appears that Loadholt is engaging a different defender. Loadholt did appear to start to turn his body toward Ware, but the defender Loadholt initially engaged appeared to try and stunt to the outside of Ware -- meaning Loadholt didn't "lure" Ware before the cut. I don't believe he lured him at all, in fact.
Thus, it's my view that a no-call was correct here, as Rice's block was legal. As a matter of fact, it's pretty obvious this was the exact intention of the play-call, so Brett Favre wouldn't have to deal with Ware and Rice would be able to sneak into the secondary uncovered. Brilliant call.
If not, that's a lot of good luck, no?
• As we all know, in that same game the Vikings tacked on a late TD and came under scrutiny from some Cowboys and fans. Judging from the amount of comments we got on our piece, it was certainly a hot button topic. Most felt as I did (which I didn't say in the post because I was going to let the fans concentrate on the call instead of coming after me), which was that you're a professional football team and should stop them if you want the score lower.
Anyway, that's beside the point here. Reader Logan submitted a brilliant observation, in that Keith Brooking going after the Vikings' sideline following the play could be construed as "taunting" and Logan wanted to know how the NFL rulebook defines taunting. To save space, I'll include only the parts of the rule that apply (12-3-1, p. 87).
(b) The use of abusive, threatening, or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates,
officials, or representatives of the League.
(c) The use of baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.
Now, we don't know exactly what Brooking was saying, so we can't be 100 percent sure he violated item (b) -- though we can probably all guess he was doing so. Looking at item (c), however, I believe Brooking should have been flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Honestly, how could you not construe him as baiting the entire Minnesota sideline into "ill will?" He'd probably even admit that's what he was doing.
I'm not sure why it wasn't called, but my best guess would be that no officials saw him in time to do more than sprint over there and make sure nothing escalated. It's tough to make a call on something like that without having seen the whole development. Plus, let's not kid ourselves, the score was 34-3. What difference would the penalty have made? The most important thing was getting there and making sure there was no fight.
• The officials overturned their initial ruling of catch and fumble by Malcom Floyd (check it out by watching the highlight here, beginning at the 1:40 mark) in the first half of the Chargers eventual loss to the Jets. I believe this one was close, even if CBS color commentator Phil Simms became fighting mad over the reversal (and even came off as peeved at his partner, Jim Nantz, in the process).
For those in favor of a catch and fumble, you have this (8-1-3, p. 50)
(a pass is complete if a player ... ) (a) secures control of the ball in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground; and (b) touches the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands.
Note: If a player has control of the ball, a slight movement of the ball will not be considered a loss of possession. He must lose control of the ball in order to rule that there has been a loss of possession.
For those in favor of an incomplete pass, you have this:
If the player loses the ball while simultaneously touching both feet or any part of his body other than his hands to the ground, or if there is any doubt that the acts were simultaneous, it is not a catch.
If you watch the slow motion replay, it does appear the ball came loose from Floyd's control when he brought the ball in and attempted to tuck it away. It's clear it was loose before the hit by Jim Leonhard and then complete control was lost after the hit.
You have to ponder the entire rule in situations like these and it simply boils down to judgment. Thus, we've included a poll. What do you think?
• Vincent Jackson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for kicking Rex Ryan's challenge flag late in the fourth quarter. There is nothing explicit about kicking the opposing coach's challenge flag as being illegal, but the unsportsmanlike penalty gives officials discretion in this call by saying this:
There shall be no unsportsmanlike conduct. This applies to any act which is contrary to the generally understood principles of sportsmanship.
• Finally, I would like to touch upon the block that was thrown on Kurt Warner and ended up knocking him out of the game temporarily on Saturday. I have heard some people saying this was a cheap shot. Warner had just thrown an interception and was in direct pursuit of a ball-carrier. He's fair game to be legally hit and he was.
That's all I've got for this week. Like I said, it was a relatively uneventful weekend in terms of officiating controversies. Sure, there were a few Ravens' interceptions taken away, but those calls were pretty blatant and even the most casual observers knew those were the correct calls. As always, if you have a question, don't hesitate to e-mail me or ask it in the comments section. I'll answer everything worthwhile.
Got a rules-related question? Whether it's elementary, high school or NFL, email TZR and he'll see what he can do.