The New England Patriots appeared to get a bad break Monday night against the Baltimore Ravens, but according to the officials — later backed up by the NFL’s head of officials — it’s just how the rulebook reads.
The Patriots appeared to have forced a turnover when defensive lineman Trey Flowers walloped Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco in the pocket and drove him back a few yards. In the process, Flowers ripped the ball out of Flacco’s hands and appeared to wrestle possession away as he fell to the ground.
The officials saw it differently, as referee Ed Hochuli ruled Flacco’s forward progress was stopped at contact, thus killing the play. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick tried to challenge the play, but Hochuli explained to Belichick the play wasn’t reviewable.
NFL senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino attempted to further explain the issue in a segment on NFL Network’s “NFL Total Access.”
“It’s the point of initial contact,” he explained. “So right here (as he points to Flacco being hit), if the quarterback is then driven back, the play is over.”
He continued: “The ball does come out, but after he had been driven back. That’s why the play was ruled dead and that’s not a reviewable play. If you look at the replay, you’ll see the quarterback is being driven backward; he still has control of the football and then it’s stripped out as he’s being pushed back. The play’s over once the referee puts his hand up and blows the whistle. Forward progress and we move the ball back to initial contact.”
Now, in the NFL’s defense, the video and photo evidence (see below) seems to corroborate that to an extent.
Of course, that doesn’t really answer the question. That explanation makes sense for a ball carrier running up field, being hit and then driven back. But the idea of a “quarterback drop back” seems to contradict the idea. NFL Network’s Lindsey Rhodes asked about that very thing, and Blandino said a lot of words without really saying anything.
“The moment he’s first contacted, as soon as he’s driven back, that’s his point of forward progress,” Blandino answered. “So if he’s pushed back a yard, two yards, three yards, it’s over at that point and any subsequent loss of the football will not be a fumble.”
In other words: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Again, that doesn’t really answer how it pertains to a quarterback dropping back in the pocket, but that’s the answer, and the rest of the world has to deal with it. Then we still don’t know what a catch is, so maybe we should crawl before we can walk.
But then again, Blandino might finally have a definite answer on that one, judging by his Twitter account.
H/t to CBS Boston Sports
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images