EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The rule that helped the New England Patriots triumph over the New York Jets on Sunday doesn’t make a lick of sense. But the Patriots love it nonetheless.
The Jets had put together an 11-play, 74-yard drive with 8:31 left in the fourth quarter when tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins caught a pass at the Patriots’ 1-yard line and appeared to rumble over the goal line for a touchdown that would have cut the Patriots’ lead to 24-21. But cornerback Malcolm Butler knocked the ball loose in Seferian-Jenkins arms just before he crossed the goal line.
If an offensive player fumbles through the end zone, it’s a turnover and touchback for the opposing team. Because Seferian-Jenkins lost control of the ball, recovered it and then didn’t “survive the recovery” by juggling it when he landed out of bounds, the Patriots got the ball at their own 20-yard line and were able to drain almost two more minutes off the clock before punting back to the Jets.
The officials initially ruled the play a touchdown then looked at the replays (it’s unclear which ones were definitive), reversed the call and ruled that it was a fumble out of bounds rather than a touchdown.
Why do some folks call this the dumbest rule in sports? Because a fumble out of bounds anywhere else on the field gives the ball back to the offensive team at the spot of the fumble. A fumble out of bounds and through the end zone should do the same, in theory.
“Well, I like the rule right now,” safety Patrick Chung, who was close to the play, said after the game. “So, I’ll take it, but I mean, it’s just the rule. I don’t make the rules. It benefitted us, so we’ll take it.”
Butler knew right away that Seferian-Jenkins had fumbled while crossing the goal line and that it should be ruled a touchback. He got into the official’s face and was informed by the ref that the play would be reviewed. Chung and fellow safety Duron Harmon, who also was near the play, only thought they had stopped Seferian-Jenkins short of a touchdown.
“Good rule,” Butler said. “I love that.”
Butler admitted he’d be singing a different tune if the call had gone against the Patriots.
“I love it,” Harmon said. “I love it. I love it, especially as a defensive player. That’s an opportunity to give a seven-point swing, a six-point swing, get the ball back to the offense.”
In completely unsurprising news, one Jets player was not a fan of the ruling.
“I’m pretty sure everybody’s going to look back and say that was a BS call,” wide receiver Jermaine Kearse told reporters.
Seferian-Jenkins, who said he didn’t think he fumbled, took the blame for the controversial call nonetheless.
“I have to have better ball security,” he told reporters. “If I take care of the ball the way I’m supposed to, and I don’t let it move or anything like that, we don’t have this discussion.”
Thumbnail photo via Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Images
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