Broncos exploit loophole in blocking kicks, NFL explains why Saints lost
The NFL broke down the rule book based on what happened
The ending to the Broncos-Saints game in Week 10 was about as controversial as you can get. Denver won the game on a blocked extra point that was taken back the other way by Broncos safety Will Parks for a two-point conversion that would provide the winning score at 25-23.
It was quite the scene, man.
There were plenty of questions about the legality of what happened, starting with the Broncos pushing down on the long snapper to clear a lane for a player to block the kick and ending with the officials' decision not to overturn what looked like a pretty obvious instance of Parks stepping out of bounds.
The NFL's vice president of officiating took to Twitter in order to explain the issue and provided a video breakdown (below) of the entire play.
It's fascinating, because it turns out pushing down the long snapper to create a hole for someone leaping through the middle on a block is totally legal.
"We're going to watch No. 31 here. He's going to jump over the snapper. He's going to clear the line," Blandino explained. "He's not going to use his hands or arms to gain leverage, he's not going to land on players. So his action is legal.
"Then we're going to watch No. 93 here just over the right guard. He's going to get his hands up top on the snapper and push him towards the ground. That's legal. Open hand push -- if there was a grab and a pull that would be defensive holding. This is a similar concept as an offensive lineman blocking a defensive player can get on top of that defensive player and push him towards the ground, and is legal, versus grabbing and pulling him."
So it turns out this is completely legal. Expect to see plenty more of these instances from teams trying to block extra points or field goals. Teams won't be hyper-aggressive about it, but you better believe people will break it out for the final play of the game if someone's trying to kick a winning or tying field goal or extra point in the future.
The return was just gravy for the Broncos, who looked destined for overtime.
Not so much for Saints fans, who were pretty irate about Parks appearing to step out of bounds. Blandino basically admitted he could have been out of bounds, but there's no way to tell and therefore it's not something the refs can overturn.
"Then we get the return. There was a question whether the defender stepped out of bounds with the right foot. It's very close. Looks like the foot could be out there. White shoe, white sideline. Very difficult to tell from this angle," Blandino said.
"Whenever you're looking at it from this direction, it's going to be difficult to tell if there's green between the foot and the sideline. We need something looking right down the line from either end zone. That's going to be your best look. And unfortunately we just don't get that look. We're going to get a similar shot as your live shot. Again, very difficult to tell if your foot is in or out of bounds from that angle.
"It looks like the foot could be out but you just can't tell. You're looking at it from this perspective, it's impossible to tell for sure. You need something right down the line in order to make a definitive ruling."
The final thing Blandino offered up on the video is the most compelling piece of commentary though. It's a referendum on what we should expect from officials utilizing replay.
"And it's important to remember in replay we're not re-officiating the play. Replay is designed ... to fix obvious mistakes. If it's not an obvious mistake then the call on the field must stand. There was no look down the line, not enough to overturn, that's why the call on the field, that the player was inbounds, stood."
As we understand the comment, the goal isn't to get everything right. The goal is to fix everything that's really obvious.
That makes sense from a perspective of using replay as a safety net, but it flies in the face of logic for why you would want replay in the first place. The goal should be to get calls right, not just to avoid making obvious mistakes.
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