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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Football rules question

I am a week late to this question about the end of last week's Ravens-Bengals game. Quick reminder: The Ravens lined up to punt from their own 22, with 11 seconds left. The punter took the snap and danced around with the ball, while his teammates committed multiple, blatant holds. The punter finally step out of bounds in the back of the end zone for a safety after time expired. The officials called the holding fouls and awarded the Bengals two points on the safety, but declared the game over, invoking the rule that a half cannot be extended on an offensive hold.

Here's my question: Rule 4, § 8, art. 2(g), on extending a half after time expires, states "if a safety results from a foul during the last play of a half, the score counts. A safety kick is made if requested by the receives."

It seems to apply here--the holding fouls produced a safety (because the punter was in the end zone) on the last play of the game. And the officials announced that the safety was a result of the holds, not the punter stepping out of bounds.

So why wasn't that rule invoked to give the Bengals a chance at a free kick? Why wasn't that rule applicable here?


Posted by Howard Wasserman on December 4, 2016 at 02:05 PM in Howard Wasserman, Sports | Permalink


After watching this play (I was doing my duty as a Cincinnati resident to spend Sunday afternoon being disappointed by the Bengals), my immediate reaction was not, "Darn, the Bengals are now 3-7-1."

Instead, it was, "I wonder what Howard Wasserman will say about this play on PrawfsBlawg."

Something is wrong with me.

Posted by: Donald | Dec 6, 2016 11:06:47 AM

I recall seeing either postgame statements or postgame coverage that made clear the coach was aware of this rule, i.e., that the players had to be sure to commit their holds outside the end zone, lest the gambit backfire and not result in the end of the game.

Posted by: anon | Dec 5, 2016 10:07:56 AM

Howard: Well the officials have to explain what the yellow flags they threw were about. They always announce penalties even if they end up not having any effect. I thought the explanation was clear enough, but I am more familiar with the rules than most fans.

I have not followed the media conversation but it is worth noting that some fouls would allow an extension of the period. If the Ravens had committed a "personal foul" the worst variety, then the period could have been extend after the safety, even if the foul did not cause the safety.

YIKAM: The holding has to start in the end-zone for the penalty to be a safety. One of many examples which suggest that the football rulemakers have not heard of marginal deterrence.

Posted by: Jr | Dec 5, 2016 5:36:42 AM

On further review (ha, ha), specifically parsing out how the ref announced the result, you both are right: They awarded a "natural" safety on the punter stepping out, not on the holding fouls. That reveals a few problems: 1) There was no reason for the officials to mention the holds or there was a reason to mention that they did not affect the outcome of the play; 2) the NFL needs to address safeties occurring as time expires; and 3) the media conversation has been off the mark in its focus on holding not providing a basis for extending the period.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Dec 4, 2016 4:02:17 PM

Yeah, doesn't the hold have to occur in the end zone in order to be directly responsible for a safety? Although, it looks like one of the ravens is holding in the end zone by the time the punter steps out.

Posted by: YesterdayIKilledAMammoth | Dec 4, 2016 3:48:09 PM

My understanding is that for a penalty to produce the safety the penalty (here, holding) must occur in the end zone.

Posted by: Jason Czarnezki | Dec 4, 2016 3:43:42 PM

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