Wait…What Just Happened…Take Two

Today we’re going to do a take two and go back to a call we broke down last week, the intentional grounding call against the 49ers that resulted in a safety for the Rams.

Here’s a refresher:

Intentional grounding happens when the quarterback is being pressured and chooses to get rid of the football (“throw it away”) rather than hold the football while being sacked. He would choose to do that because if he holds onto the football when he is sacked the ball will be spotted wherever the sack occurred, which is usually well behind the line of scrimmage and results in a lot of lost yardage for the offense.

However, if the quarterback throws the ball away “without a realistic chance of completion” (a judgement call by the refs), he gets called for intentional grounding, which is a loss of down plus a ten yard penalty.

Now, here’s an important part of that rule I completely left out (sorry, guys!):

Along with being thrown away without a realistic chance of completion, the ball also has to fall short of the line of scrimmage for intentional grounding to be called.

Lots of people, including former head of officiating Mike Pereira, have questioned the call made during the Niners/Rams game, because it looks like the ball falls beyond the line of scrimmage when it lands out of bounds. Here’s Pereira’s take:

“The intentional grounding rule states that when the quarterback is out of the pocket, it is not intentional grounding if he throws a forward pass that lands at or beyond the line of scrimmage, including when the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline.

This ball was snapped from the 17-yard line and Kaepenick’s pass landed out of bounds somewhere near the 20. This should not have been a safety.”

The game day officiating crew, led by Carl Cheffers, defended the call:

“It was an intentional grounding…The quarterback rolled out of the pocket and he needs one of two things: He either needs a receiver in the area or he needs to throw the ball beyond the line of scrimmage. The official on that side of the field came to me and reported that neither of those things took place. So we have intentional grounding. And because he threw the ball from the end zone, by rule, that penalty is enforced and the result of the enforcement is a safety, by rule.”

So, who’s right? You be the judge! Take a look at the play (which is shown at the 1:25 minute mark):

Likely, Mike Pereira made the right call. It (briefly) looks like the ball crosses the line of scrimmage out of bounds in this replay.

But, and here’s a glitch in the NFL’s rule system, the play could not be reviewed or challenged because penalties are not allowed to be reviewed by the replay official or challenged by a head coach. Remember what happened to Jim Schwartz on Thanksgiving? That would have been Jim Harbaugh’s fate had he thrown the challenge flag here.

So, even though all scoring plays are automatically reviewed, the safety play cannot be reviewed because it’s a score that is the result of a penalty. It’s a bad loophole in the instant reply system, and it’d be worth looking at and changing in the off-season.

How about games from this past weekend? Any questionable plays or calls come to mind?

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