Friday, November 25, 2011

Ravens 2011

Congratulations to all four teams for a great season!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Two Crazy Calls

A couple of crazy calls from last night Chiefs-Chargers game are worth another mention.

The first call was Dexter McCluster's non-fumble. That interpretation defies explanation. It will be interesting to see what the league has to say about it. My guess is that the NFL will follow up with an admission of a blown call.

The other is a little sketchier, but I think equally incorrect. Matt Cassel's forward pass that was ruled a fumble was in fact, a forward pass.

To understand why, we first have a look at what the NFL considers a forward pass. The digest is here, but the rule and key terminology is this (my emphasis in bold):
  1. Section 22 Pass and Passer
  3. Article 1   A Pass is the movement of the ball caused by the runner who throws, shoves (shovel pass), or pushes (push pass) the ball (3-28-1).
  4. Note: The term is also used to designate the action of a player who causes a pass as in, “He will pass the ball.”
  6. Article 2  It is a Forward Pass if:
  7. (a)   the ball initially moves forward (to a point nearer the opponent’s goal line) after leaving the passer’s hands; or
  8. (b)   the ball first strikes the ground, a player, an official, or anything else at a point that is nearer the opponent’s goal line than the point at which the ball leaves the passer’s hand.
  9. Note 1: When a Team A player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional movement forward of his hand starts a forward pass. If a Team B player contacts the passer or the ball after forward movement begins, and the ball leaves the passer’s hand, a forward pass is ruled, regardless of where the ball strikes the ground or a player.
  10. Note 2: When a Team A player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his hand starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.
  11. Note 3: If the player loses possession of the ball while attempting to recock his arm, it is a fumble.
  12. Note 4: A fumble or muff going forward is disregarded as to its direction, unless the act is ruled intentional. In such cases, the fumble is a forward pass (8-1-1) and the muff is a bat (12-1-8).
Have a look at Cassel's throw here:

A passer throws a football using two useful forces. One is the rotation of the passer's shoulder to whip the arm forward, relative to his body. The other force involved is less obvious, yet still very important to the physics of the pass. That force is the forward movement of the passer's body as he steps into the throw.

Like a pitcher in baseball, a quarterback's pass typically in is enhanced by a stride in the direction of the throw, which in fact, also moves the ball forward. In the case of Cassel's pass, it is very obvious that he is striding or running forward and therefore moving his hand forward when the ball leaves his hand.

Note that the rule does NOT say the ball or hand must be moving forward relative to the player's body.

I heard the talking heads on TV making some point about refs looking for the 'empty hand coming forward' or some such nonsense. I have no idea how these refs are coached or taught to try to understand whether a play like that is a forward pass or not. But based on the way the rule is written, and the simple physics evident by both Cassel's forward movement and the direction of the ball, Cassel's hand HAD to be moving forward.

The pass rusher's arm is clearly moving backward and collides with Cassel's forearm. If that had been the only force - in other words, if Cassel's hand was NOT in fact moving forward - the ball would have gone either straight down or perhaps even backwards if Cassel had kept hold of it after the defender's force was applied.

Quick question for the NFL guys - how did the ball go forward, if Casell's hand wasn't moving forward?

If the NFL is trying to suggest that the arm or hand must be moving forward relative to the passer then they need to rewrite the rule and insert that phrase. Otherwise it was another blown call. The fact is the Chiefs had two fewer turnovers than the refs gave them, and the Chargers were fortunate to have a chance to win the game at the end.