Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Why the NFL’s statement is completely wrong

This is bullshit, and I’ll tell you exactly why it’s bullshit.  Here’s Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 5:

Simultaneous Catch. If a pass is caught simultaneously by two eligible opponents, and both players retain it, the ball belongs to the passers. It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control. If the ball is muffed after simultaneous touching by two such players, all the players of the passing team become eligible to catch the loose ball. 

What you should be asking yourself is what it means to have “control.” Control is not possession. In fact, if you look at Rule 8, Section 1, Article 3, Item 4*, you’ll see “control” discussed in the context of “going to the ground (the Bert Emanuel rule). Control is necessary to establish possession, but control is NOT possession. Control is also discussed in sideline catches, going to the ground, and in the description of what constitutes a completed pass itself. (Rule 8, Article 3 (a))

 This is important because one might argue (still incorrectly, I would say) that Tate and Jennings had “simultaneous possession.” What I mean by that is that both had control of the ball, touched two feet (or a body part) in bounds, and maintained control long enough to perform an act common to the game. That’s possession. But that’s not the rule for determining that a simultaneous catch was made. That rule, again, says:

“It is not a simultaneous catch if a player gains control first and an opponent subsequently gains joint control.”

Not possession. Control. Control comes before possession. Here is a picture of Jennings with control of the ball and Tate with control of Jennings arm.
Jennings had control first, hence no simultaneous catch, hence no touchdown. The NFL is spewing utter bullshit with this statement, and all you need to do is apply the rule properly to see it. They provided us with the rule and then pissed all over it.

 *Ball Touches Ground. If the ball touches the ground after the player secures control of it, it is a catch, provided that the player continues to maintain control.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Know The Fair Catch Kick!

At the end of the first half of the Pats-Ravens game the Patriots made a somewhat baffling decision to take a knee. The Pats still had two timeouts and if anyone can move a team down the field in under a minute, it’s Tom Brady.

The Ravens were content to let the Pats run out the clock, but had they been a bit more on the ball they probably could have forced a shot at a fair catch kick with an outside chance of blocking the punt for a TD or safety.

The Ravens took 2 timeouts into the locker room with them after Tom Brady knelt at his own 9 yard line with 16 seconds left. Had Baltimore taken a TO there it would have put the Pats in a 3rd and 11 situation with 15-16 second left and forced them to run another play. Had the Pats taken another knee the Ravens could have used their final timeout to force a punt from the Patriot 9 yard line or so.

Zoltan Mesko had 2 punts on the day for a 36.5 yard average with a long of 53. Assuming Mesko hit a 37 yard punt with the line of scrimmage as the 9 yard line, this would have put the ball at the Patriot 46 yard line, allowing Billy Cundiff a shot at a 56 yard-fair-catch kick. While Cundiff obviously struggled and is, by all accounts a substandard kicker, this would have been very low risk, and since the defending team may not attempt to block a fair catch kick, even poor kickers have extended range when trying them.

It is possible that once the Ravens started taking timeouts that the Pats would run some plays instead of merely taking a knee, but that also plays into the Ravens’ favor as it increases the chances for a turnover.

I should also acknowledge that forcing the Pats to punt is not without risk to the Ravens. The 49ers went out of their way to prove that. That said, the risk to the Pats is much higher.

In a fair catch kick situation, the returning team does not need gunners, just one or two returners to ensure that a fair catch can be made.* Everyone else can go all out for a block. This can lead to blocks and rushed, bad punts. A team trying to prevent a fair catch kick does have a few options. They can punt the ball out of bounds; however with over ten seconds remaining there is no guaranty that this will drain the entire clock. They can also attempt to kick away from the returners, but this increases the chances of a shorter kick.

It would have been very difficult for the Pats to prevent a fair catch kick once they kneeled themselves into 3rd down. Even kicking it out of bounds would have probably allowed the Ravens a long field goal attempt.

I’m a big fan of any weird NFL rule and there may not be any weirder rule than the fair catch kick. The Ravens deserved to lose for denying us the opportunity to see it.

*It's a good idea to put two players back there. You should have one player deep to field a standard punt, and one short to prevents a squib in an attempt to run out the clock (or an outright shank).