Posted October 22, 2013

All-22: A brief history of Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3, the rule that cost the Patriots a win

AFC East, AFC North, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets, NFC South
Bill Belichick was unhappy with the refs, but he had nobody to blame but himself against the Jets.

Bill Belichick was unimpressed with the refs last Sunday, but he had nobody to blame but himself. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was not happy about the penalty that allowed the New York Jets to grab an extra first down and eventually re-try a winning field goal in overtime on Sunday, but the coach has nobody to blame but himself for Nick Folk’s successful 42-yard try that gave the Jets a 30-27 victory.

For those not in the know, the Patriots were originally lined up at their own 38-yard line, as Folk attempted a 58-yarder that veered to the left. Rookie defensive lineman Chris Jones was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play because he pushed a teammate toward the line of scrimmage to help block the try. The Jets were spotted 15 yards on the penalty, lost a yard total on three subsequent rushing plays and then, they put the dagger in.

“The call was for pushing,” Belichick said after the game. “We weren’t on the second level when we pushed him.”

Not so fast, Coach. According to Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 of the 2013 NFL Rule Book, what Jones did was outside the rules, and that rule was changed for the 2013 season:

Defensive Team Formation
(a) 
When Team A presents a punt, field-goal, or Try Kick formation, a Team B player, who is within one yard of the line of scrimmage, must have his entire body outside the snapper’s shoulder pads at the snap.
(b) When Team A presents a field-goal or Try Kick formation:
(1) No more than six Team B players may be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the snap; and
Note: These restrictions do not apply if a team does not present a standard punt, field goal, or Try Kick formation (an equal number of players on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper in a tight formation), or if, after the offensive team has assumed a set position, there is a shift, or a player goes in motion.
Penalty: For illegal formation by the defense: Loss of five yards.

(2) Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.
Penalty: For unnecessary roughness: Loss of 15 yards.

Belichick believed that Jones was in the right because he was at the line of scrimmage when the play went off, but the change in rule reflects a safety concern that actually came from the players’ side. Washington Redskins offensive lineman Will Montgomery says that he brought the problem to the attention of the Competition Committee after he was hurt on a field goal try against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sept. 23, 2012.

“I actually pulled my hamstring because it root-hogged my legs out from underneath me. I did the splits, and I usually can’t do the splits,” Montgomery told FOX Sports’ Mike Garafolo on Sunday evening. “I’m like, ‘Man, this is BS.’ That was the genesis of the rule change.”

The tape doesn’t really jibe, however. The Redskins tried one field goal in the game — a 36-yarder by Billy Cundiff with 36 seconds left in the first half of Cincinnati’s 38-31 win. On the play, there are two Bengals defenders behind the line, but they both clearly drop back at the snap. Montgomery, playing two gaps to the right of the long-snapper, received light contact on the play and walked off the field. Per the league’s official participation chart, he played in all 73 of the Redskins’ snaps that day. He played all 76 snaps against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the following week’s game, as well.

Pushrule1

We’re probably quibbling, though. According to Pro Football Talk, Montgomery brought video evidence of a field goal try in which players were pushed across the line to gain advantage ,and that prompted the league to change the rule. We wouldn’t be surprised if there were several examples of teams looking to get around the former rule. And Montgomery’s a tough guy — he played in all but six of Washington’s snaps in the 2012 regular season.

So, back to the Jets-Patriots drama, which had a couple of precedents.

As Albert Breer of the NFL Network reported, the Baltimore Ravens got away with a push in their Week 5 win over the Miami Dolphins. Miami kicker Caleb Sturgis missed a 57-yard attempt wide left with 38 seconds left in the game, which gave Baltimore its 26-23 win after one Joe Flacco kneel-down. It didn’t affect the play, but you can clearly see defensive lineman Chris Canty (No. 99 below) pushing the line from the second level.

Breer was told by two sources that the Dolphins turned that tape of that play into the league, and the league admitted it should have made the call against the Ravens — which would have given Miami a new set of downs. At that point, NFL VP of Officiating Dean Blandino sent out a video re-explaining the rule, and specifying that game officials would keep a sharper eye out for such tactics.

PusruleRavensDolphins

This didn’t dissuade the Patriots from giving it more than one shot.

New England’s 30-27 Week 6 win over the New Orleans Saints featured a play very much like the one that got the Pats flagged against the Jets. With 2:44 left in the game, Saints kicker Garrett Hartley tried a 39-yard field goal, and the same two characters — defensive lineman Chris Jones and offensive lineman Will Svitek — were involved as Jones pushed Svitek into the scrum. The Saints were criticized for the clock management that let New England overtake them as time ran out (and justifiably so), but one wonders what the Saints would have done with 15 yards and a new set of downs at that point.

PatsSaintsPushRule

And then, there was the flagged play itself, which Belichick admitted that he misunderstood the next day.

“Because obviously we are wrong,” the coach said, when he asked why he didn’t get the rule change. “What else is there to say? We’re wrong …  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?”

After the game, Jets head coach Rex Ryan appeared to be unaware of the technicalities of the penalty, but one wonders if Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan warned his twin brother about New England’s tactics.

“The coaches watch every single play of every single game, so we’re aware of the opponents’ tendencies and everything else,” Rex said on Monday. “My comments with the officials, I’ll just leave that way.”

Pats-Jetspushrule

Well, there was one thing left to say on Tuesday, when Belichick was asked again about the play. Before his standard “We’re moving on to [insert next opponent here]” response, he dropped a little bomb on a conference call with the Miami media.

“Well, I mean, since they [the Jets] were using the play themselves, I don’t even know about all that.”

Upon further review, it does appear that the Jets may have engaged in similar subterfuge. With 19 seconds left in regulation, Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski booted a 44-yard game-tying field goal, and it certainly looks as if linebacker Quinton Coples pushed defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson into the breach. This was not a flagged play, perhaps because the Pats had not alerted the refs to pay attention to the rule they were, you know, supposed to watch.

Jets98PushRule

Former Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff, now an ESPN Radio analyst and occasional contributor to TheMMQB.com, told ESPN’s Rich Cimini that New England’s version of the gambit was pretty transparent.

“I watched the tape. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes,” Westhoff said. “I can’t prove this — I don’t know what they teach — but those guys are pretty sharp up there [in New England]. I can’t imagine them running a technique and not being aware of it. In my opinion, it was coached, taught and implemented that very way. I think they did it on purpose and got caught.”

It took long enough, and more than enough warnings, but it seems that the NFL’s officials have finally come on board regarding a rule that has been a point of focus since before the season began.

Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3, guys. Learn it, know it, live it.

25 comments
fgoodwin
fgoodwin

I thought one teammate pushing another was illegal on ALL plays, not just special teams?

Willis
Willis

Definition of ironic: Pats fans claiming to have been cheated 

da
da

By the way, you're not supposed to line up on the snapper's shoulder pads. That's part of the rule. Yet the Jets and the Patriots did it all day long. In fact, I bet people line up on those pads on a majority of the 300+ kicks made this season.


In other words, the refs are now calling a penalty 1 out of every 300 times the rule is violated.

tom o
tom o

Really Mike Westhoff? There's an impartial observer.

UnishowponyWherebeef
UnishowponyWherebeef

This is, without question, the stupidest article ever written (no, I've never seen an article written by Ray Lewis).

This is a penalty that has never been previously called. 

No one is cheating and it's definitely not "New England’s tactics" unless you are willing to claim that being offsides is a "New York tactic" (hey, maybe it is...)

The bottom line is that referees should not call penalties (unless they are egregious) that give one team a victory. It lessens the meaning of actually playing 60 minutes.



Gs1
Gs1

The Pats got robbed. The refs should know that the rules don't apply to the Pats!! Idiots!!

Jon8
Jon8

Bla Bla Bla! Hey Ferrar, print the rule on holding! Now, by rule, holding occurs on every single play! You want that called Ferrar?!

Here is why the NBA Officials have it all over the NFL Refs:

They are full-time pros, not part-time amateurs!

NBA Refs employ the concept of no harm, no foul! NFL Refs are liked trained monkeys and have no concept of ignoring a hold 40 yards away from the play that had absolutely no bearing on the outcome of the play!

So stick your rule book, Ferrar!!

decredico
decredico

Of course they did!  Every team does this.

RedDan
RedDan

Several things: 1) The Jets played a good game and the Pats played half a good game and failed to adjust. 2) The Jets put themselves in position to win, and the Pats put themselves in position to have one play lose them the game.... That said... 1) What about the play at the end of regulation where the Jets did the EXACT same thing? Do you think a new set of downs at the 10 or so yard line would have made a difference in the game, i.e. touchdown and game over for Pats? 2) Why did the refs decide to call this penalty for the VERY FIRST TIME, EVER on a game-changing play? 3) Do you ever start to wonder why the HE** Rex Ryan went for a 56 yard field goal, rather than playing for field position and relying on his good, and high-performing defense?? Perhaps because he'd "alerted" the refs and was expecting the call? As in "watch Jones and Svitek, ref!"??

My points are as follows: Congrats to the Jets for outplaying the Pats - you may have deserved to win, but winning that way is pretty lame, and it sours what should have been a good and solid effort. Pats need to step up on offense and give their hurting defense a rest - Josh McD in particular needs to pull his head out. And finally, the NFL and the refs need to get their sh!te together and stop deciding games on ticky-tack nonsense, game-changing bad calls that are subjectively and irregularly applied in unequal and inconsistent ways. That goes for Pass Interference, Holding, "Pushing," and all the rest. It looks bad and makes EVERYONE mad. The final play of the Pats/Saints game -- that holding call was pretty obviously missed. Pass Interference in particular is way, way over the line to the point where many are actually game-planning around trying for PI (Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, here's looking at you!). And now this new, highly subjective, only-once-called "pushing" business. There is exactly ONE instance of it being called, and at least 100 instances of it not being called, even after the rule change... including about 7 minutes prior on the same game. Makes one not want to watch.

If I want to watch games be decided by subjective application of vague and poorly thought-out rules, I will watch NBA basketball.

JamesMartens
JamesMartens

Isnt this their same excuse for spygate?  Everyone is doing it?  Maybe Hernandez should try the Patriot defense.

williamglenn@hotmail.com
williamglenn@hotmail.com

The Jets won because they outscored the Pats 20-6 in the second half, Brady couldn't complete half of his passes, and the Pats were 1 out of 12 on third downs. Even if the Pats had taken over after Folk missed the FG, there's nothing to suggest they could've moved very far down the field. They could've just as easily gone three and out again. But it doesn't matter. The Jets benefited from the timing of the penalty. So what? They won. Belichick and Pats fans have much more to worry about than the fact that they got nailed on a penalty. Tom Brady's stat line was worse then Geno Smith's. I'd be concerned about that.

JamesMartens
JamesMartens

@UnishowponyWherebeef If you check on how long this rule has been in effect you might realize why it has not been called before.  New rule....has to be enforced sometime.  And as for not calling penalties that might give a team a victory.  At what point in the game do you determine this should implemented?  A penalty on the first drive of the game could affect the out come just as easily as one on the last or second to last play.

Tmad
Tmad

@UnishowponyWherebeef What are you going to do, change the rules book so that it says they should only call egregious penalties?  I have this argument with my hockey fan friends all the time. The refs didn't give the victory. The Pats did.   I think it would be a bad idea to give the refs even vaguer guidelines.

anon76
anon76

@Jon8 

Actually, NBA refs go by the rule "every call goes the superstar's way".  Kobe charges into the lane and draws contact with a defender who's established position?  Blocking foul.  Lebron comes into the lane late to give help and initiates contact?  Charging.  I much prefer NFL refs approach to at least try to call it fair vs. the NBA refs tendencies to call based on who was involved.  And that goes triply so for rules that were instituted to protect player health!

RedDan
RedDan

Couple more things: 

1) How are the officials going to make this call with any consistency at all, given the chaos on the Line of Scrimmage during kicks? What happens if an OL pushes a DL sideways, and that DL bumps into and pushes the back of the nearest DL? Is that a penalty? What happens if a DL runs a stunt, and gets bumped into the back of his partner on the DL? Is that a penalty? 

2) What about the various and apparently misleading (and mysteriously and rapidly changing) versions of the rule regarding the "second level" pushing vs. "any pushing at all"? where did that confusing crap come from?

3) If line of scrimmage pushing is dangerous, and lining up over center is dangerous, and these types of plays are going to be penalized to prevent injury, regardless of whether they impact the play or not... then why focus on kicking only? What about during regular play? Seems like regular scrimmage is just as dangerous, if not more so, than kicking... 

Seems like the solution to all of this is to ban offensive and defensive line play at all, go back to schoolyard touch football "1 mississippi, 2 mississipi, 3 mississippi..." and for field goals and punts, there is no defensive line play allowed at all. Ban fake punts and fake field goals, force the DL back 5 yards from the line, and call it good.

KevinDoucette
KevinDoucette

@JamesMartens Actually everyone is doing it. That's why they made it a penalty. It's just a penalty (like Holding or Pass Interference), nothing more. Spygate was outside the game, this was just another penalty within the game. Don`t try to make into something bigger.

fixyoursNOW
fixyoursNOW

@williamglenn@hotmail.com You're right about the Jets playing better than the Pats, who have lost 4 defensive starters in 2 weeks, have barely had a slot receiver this season, have only one starting running back and finally have one of five of Brady's targets back from last year. Yet the Jets still needed that penalty to win. What does that say?

KevinDoucette
KevinDoucette

@williamglenn@hotmail.com I agree. the title says "rule costs Patriots a win". It never cost them a win. It denied them another chance to score but they still could have lost.

cha
cha

@williamglenn@hotmail.com Your correct the pats and Tom Brady suck! They are the worst team and quarterback in the nfl.  @ JamesMartens your right also. The pats only do spygate and whine and no other nfl team does that. Well guess what dudes?? get a life cause you two are crazy. Your talking about a great quarterback and team and coach. You wish your team was as good! GO PATRIOTS GO!!!!!!!!!!!! LOV E OUR PATS!!!!!!!!!


vickman64
vickman64

@RedDan Best post I've read about this call and the Jets cheap victory.  Thanks Dan!

UnishowponyWherebeef
UnishowponyWherebeef

@KevinDoucette

Au contraire. The penalty should have been called on the Jets when the Pats kicked the FG at the end of the game to tie the score. 

The Pats would have had 1st and 10 on the Jets11 with 19 seconds left. Enough time for two or three shots into the end zone. 

TD and the game is over.

KevinDoucette
KevinDoucette

@cha @williamglenn@hotmail.com He's actually right. He never said anything that wasn't true. The Jets front 4 were all over Brady all day. they better sure up the front line or Brady will continue to be in trouble. No QB like getting hit. Look at Manning this past weekend. The Pats D certainly had no resemblance to the first 6 games either. Loosing 4 of their top defensive players has finally caught up with them. They need Talib and Kelly back ASAP or we can expect more of this. I'm with you on 'Go Pats' but it's not going to be easy.

Diogenes_Sinope
Diogenes_Sinope

@UnishowponyWherebeef @KevinDoucette 

Au contraire.  The Pats would have had 1st and 10 on the Jets 11 with 19 seconds left.  Enough time to fumble for a Jets TD recovery or pick 6 TD and the game is over.

You can deal in "ifs" and "maybes" all you want, but the world works on reality.  You find your problem, you find the solution, and apply it in the future and move on.  That's not just football, that's life.  Live in it, learn from it, leave it behind.