With the Jets driving for the game-winning score in overtime against the Patriots on Sunday and attempting a 56-yard field goal that ultimately missed, New England was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after officials caught Chris Jones pushing a teammate into the line of scrimmage after the snap.
After the 15-yard penalty, the Jets tried another field goal, and this time, Nick Folk made it to give New York an upset win that didn't go over well with Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
As referee Jerome Boger explained to a pool reporter after the game, "The call was that No. 94 [Jones] on the defense pushed his teammate into the formation. That is a rule change for 2013 that a teammate cannot push a teammate into the opponents' formation ... Any push. It could be with the body, not necessarily with the hand, but with the body into his teammate, into the formation. It's any type of pushing action."
The penalty caused a huge amount of controversy and confusion (Patriots fans immediately took to social media to proclaim that their team had been screwed), mostly because it was unclear whether what Jones did was actual illegal and because it was an infraction that had never been called before Sunday.
As NFL.com explains, the original rule stated that a player couldn't push if he was on the second level (in other words, if he was standing behind the line of scrimmage). Thus, Jones -- who was actually on the line of scrimmage for the snap but then stunted behind his teammate in order to push -- wouldn't have done anything wrong according to that interpretation.
But in the amended rule, it states “players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.” No word about whether or not a player is on the line of scrimmage or if he is on the second level. So, when Patriots coach Bill Belichick disagreed with the ruling on Sunday it was because "We weren't on the second level when we pushed him, no. You can't push from the second level. I didn't think we did that."
Turns out that Belichick's interpretation was incorrect. Which he admitted during a Monday morning meeting with the press. The transcript:
Q: Yesterday you mentioned you didn't bring a player from the second level when discussing the penalty. Reading the rule after, it doesn't mention where the player comes from, but I found a lot of references by [NFL Vice President of Officiating] Dean Blandino to the second level. Why did you have the notion of second level pushing being illegal but line of scrimmage pushing after the snap being legal?
BB: Because obviously we are wrong. What else is there to say? We're wrong.
Q: How did the notion of second level get into your mind initially? I know it was in the proposal initially but did they do a good enough job articulating that second level is also illegal?
BB: Look, it's our job to understand the rules. Whatever the bottom line is, we didn't do it properly. So, what else is there to say?
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