YOUR Questions : Three Game Play Scenarios

One of the most exciting parts of running this website is getting quality questions from readers about things that happen on the field. It’s helpful for me to learn more about what happened and then explain it, and hopefully helpful to all of you to have some questions answered. If you want to join in on the party, feel free to send in questions (by email, Facebook, Twitter, comment, carrier pigeon) anytime!

Here’s the most recent roundup of great reader questions:

Jens, all the way from Germany, asked:

I think there was an interesting situation in [the Packers vs. Lions] game when the last TD by Jones was reviewed and ruled an incomplete pass. As I understood, the pass receiver must take 2 steps inbound the field before he becomes a runner and only then its sufficient that the balls crosses the goal line without the runner needing to have both feet in the end zone. But Jones second step yesterday was already in the end zone and so he stayed a receiver which had to have both feet on the ground which he didn’t have. Did I understand that correctly?

This goes hand in hand with something we talked about last week in Ashley’s Rookie Season – what constitutes a touchdown? In this scenario, it was a little unclear at first whether James Jones was running into the end zone as a runner or catching the ball in the end zone as a receiver. He caught the ball right at the edge of the field and was kind of in no man’s land.

As a runner entering the end zone from the field, a player has to take two steps in bounds to establish himself as a runner and then get the football across the goal line to score a touchdown. As a receiver catching the ball in the end zone a player needs to have planted both feet in the end zone after catching the ball for a touchdown.

In the replay the officials saw that Jones tok one step inbounds on the field…and one step in the end zone. So he was neither an established runner getting the ball across the goal line or a receiver catching a pass with two feet in bounds.

But the best part of the play was the denial that happened in the stands before this touchdown was recalled. Poor guy can’t catch a break!

Michelle asked: 

We’re watching the Saints-Patriots game… at the end, they weren’t even really lining up. What are the rules in terms of having a distinct line of scrimmage where people can’t move (in case of false start) vs what was happening in the last minute and a half of the game?

This is something we’ve all seen before: in the last few minutes of the game when the offensive is rushing to get down the field and score players line up haphazardly and get the play off quickly.

While it looks a little sloppier, the rules are still there. The line of scrimmage is still an impassable line, the offense still has to have 7 guys on the line, and they still have to set up and pause for 1 second, but it looks much less “set” because it happens so quickly and the defense usually doesn’t set up, either – hence not really lining up.

In the Patriots at Saints game specifically, both teams play a fast offense. Tom Brady drove the ball down the field at lightening speed in what was likely a pre-planned, pre-rehearsed 2-minute drill. The offense knew how they had to set up, the defense had to cope. As per Rob Ryan’s face after the game, we all know how well that went.

Erin asked:

I’m currently watching the Bills [vs. Bengals] game and there was some discrepancy about whether or not a touchback ruling would stand – the refs were reviewing the play to see if the ball hit the pylon (?) or if it was out of bounds (and therefore dead). Can you clarify a) what the pylon is and b) where the ball has to be to to be “dead” and c) what out of bounds is? 

Ok, so here’s the situation: when a team is kicking off (to start a new drive) and the kick goes into the end zone or out of bounds beyond the end zone, it’s ruled a touchback (a ruling in which the ball is brought out to the 20-yard line to start a new drive). If the kick goes out of bounds prior to the end zone it’s downed at the spot where the kick landed.

In Buffalo, if the kick had gone out of bounds at the 1-yard line (or between the 1-yard line and the end zone), it would have pinned the Bengals all the way back to that 1-yard line – they would have had to start the drive barely a yard outside of their own end zone. If the kick hit the pylon – the orange cone indicating where the end zone begins – it would have been ruled a touchback, and the Bengals would have started on the 20-yard line.

So a) the pylon is the orange cone that indicates where the end zone begins, b) the ball is dead when it hits out of bounds, and c) out of bounds is anywhere outside of the field of play, which is outside of the white lines that run along the perimeter of the field.

Thanks for a great round of questions, everyone! Keep them coming!

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One Response to “YOUR Questions : Three Game Play Scenarios”

  1. Ellen October 25, 2015 at 11:02 pm #

    On a kickoff, if the receiving team has not touched the ball before it goes out of bounds and the ball goes out of bounds between the two goal lines, the receiving team can choose a) to take the ball at the spot where it went out of bounds, b) take the ball 30 yards from where the ball was kicked. In the latter case, they would normally get the ball on their 35 yard line. (Kickoffs are usually from the kicking team’s 35 yard line. However, if a penalty was enforced on the kickoff, the kickoff might have been from some other yard line.)

    Punts are different. If a punt is kicked out of bounds, the ball is spotted where it went out of bounds.

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