Monday Night Football. Seattle vs. Detroit. With under 2 minutes to go in regulation, Seattle’s Kam Chancellor punches the ball out from Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, as he’s about to cross the goal line. Fumble. As the ball heads out the back of the end zone, Seattle’s KJ Wright intentionally taps the ball to hurry it out of bounds with the back judge staring right at the play. Touchback. Seattle ball. Allowing Seattle to protect their 3 point lead.
Except, according to NFL retired referee Gerry Austin, a batted ball is illegal by rule 12, section 4, article 1, and Detroit should regain possession at the goal line. Apparently, Austin is the only one on the planet that knows this rule. No one on the field, in the booth, or in NY – including officials, coaches, players, commentators, analysts, SportsCenter, not even Steve Young or Ray Lewis – knew this rule or said anything during the play.
Dean Blandino, the NFL’s VP of Officiating, stated, “Judgment call on the field. Back judge felt it wasn’t overt…” Austin, who brought the rule up in the first place which caused the controversy, later said if it wasn’t a solid call, he wouldn’t have made a game changing call either.
As a Seahawks fan, we came out on the fortunate side of this no call, as head coach Pete Carroll said. But as one who likes to analyze sports, let’s ask the question how can a rule be left to one’s judgment? Why does the NFL have so many stringent rules that the majority of the NFL universe didn’t even know this one?
Yes, it impacted the game in a way, but at the same time we can’t speak in absolutes that it definitely changed the outcome. The Lions still had to score and then stop the Seahawks from pulling out one of their miraculous last minute drives. And let’s face it, if the judge had thrown the flag and enforced the penalty, the conversation would be centered around a rule that makes no sense that no one has heard of and how it cost Seattle the game.