What To Know : After Week 15

The Fine Fifteen of Week 15:

FIFTEEN: The number of points scored in the Raiders/Chefs game…scored entirely by field goals. I don’t even know.

FOURTEEN: The approximate number of times Brady Quinn had to clap to get the attention of his Center to try and get the ball snapped. The ball never did get snapped, but it was a pretty entertaining sequence nonetheless.

THIRTEEN: The approximate number of feet Knowshon Moreno had to have jumped into the air to clear Ed Reed on a spectacular hurdle. Really, it was something.

TWELVE: The number of carries Ray Rice had against the Broncos, for only 38 yards. Great defensive effort by the Broncos.

ELEVEN: Eleven-and-three, the amazing Broncos record (which, by the way, The Amazing Broncos kind of sounds like a circus side show, doesn’t it?) They’ve won 9 of those 11 consecutively, which is just amazing.

TEN: The number of hits Bucs QB Josh Freeman took from the Saints in an ugly 41-0 loss on Sunday.

NINE: Nine-and-five, the records of two AFC teams heading in opposite directions: the Ravens and the Colts. The Ravens are in the playoffs, but don’t look like a playoff team. The Colts need another win to make it into the playoffs, but their future looks blindingly bright.

EIGHT: Eight-and-six, the record of all three NFC East teams (Giants, Cowboys, Redskins) who are tied atop the standing and fighting it out for playoff contention.

SEVEN: All sevens for the Steelers – as in 7-7, their record – which means they need to win their game against the Bengals on Sunday to claw their way into the playoffs.

SIX: The number of consecutive games the freefalling Lions have lost, most recently at the hands of the woeful Cardinals.

FIVE: Five-Zero-Plus. That’s the number of points the Seahawks have scored each of the past three weeks, 50+ points. They’re only the third team ever to do so.

FOUR: The number of touchdowns the Patriots scored in a thrilling second half comeback effort against the Niners on Sunday night.

THREE: The number of shutouts in Week 15. I mean, WOW. Three shutouts in one week – especially the surprise 34-0 Atlanta put up over the Giants – it’s shocking.

TWO: The number of third downs the Cardinals converted. Out of twelve.

ONE: One-forty-seven, the number of yards Adrian Peterson needs in each of the next two weeks to break Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record of 2105 yards. GO AP GO!

Wait…What Just Happened : Punt

In last night’s Niners at Patriots game there was a substantial debacle over a potential muffed punt.

Between multiple fouls and Ed Hochuli’s classic method of explanation and his microphone cutting in and out due to inclement weather…it was one big confusing mess. Honestly, I’m still confused. But let’s try to break it down as best we can:

What Happened:

The Patriots punted the ball on 4th down. Ted Ginn Jr., a member of the 49ers special teams unit on that particular play, appeared to have potentially touched the football as the ball hit the ground and was bobbling around. The Patriots then appeared to have recovered the ball.

What That Means:

Members of the kicking team (the team that is punting the ball) cannot touch the ball before a member of the receiving team (the team receiving the punt) touches the ball. If they do, it’s a violation. However, if a member of the receiving team touches the ball but does not have possession of the ball (doesn’t catch it or have it in his hands) the kicking team can legally recover the ball (by falling on it or picking it up – any way of gaining possession) and therefore gain possession.

Terms To Know Before We Get Down To The Nitty Gritty:

A muffed punt is when a player touches the football prior to possessing the football. This can happen when the football inadvertently hits a member of the kicking team, or, as in our example, the football touches a member of the receiving team but is not possessed by that player.

An illegal touch (which I believe is synonymous with first touch) is when a member of the kicking team touches the football before a member of the receiving team touches the football. This is a violation, not a foul. (I’m still working on it, but I think the difference between a foul and a violation is that fouls are flagged penalties and violations are not flagged but are leveraged against the team committing the violation.)

Downing the ball is when the ball hits the ground and a member of the kicking team touches it to “down the ball” – or have it called dead – right where it is. You usually see this when a punter pins the ball deep into the opposing teams territory and members of the kicking team attempt to keep it from rolling into the end zone. If they down the ball before it reaches the end zone, it will be positioned wherever they downed it (the 5 yard line, the 2 yard line, etc), but if it goes into the end zone it is ruled a touchback and will be brought out to the 20 yard line, which gives the other team much better field position.

Confusing and not relevant to our current conversation but IMPORTANT:

Downing the ball DOES constitute an illegal touch. However, since it’s a violation and not a foul, it doesn’t carry adverse consequences for the kicking team. If the kicking team downs the ball, it is an insurance policy for a receiver on the receiving team who may want to pick the ball up and return it. Since downing the ball is an illegal touch (first touch) violation, the ball will automatically be spotted at that position (or at the most advantageous position for the receiving team if there were multiple first touches) if the receiver does decide to pick up the ball and return it and fumbles it or loses yardage in the process.

The Result:

Let’s go back to the play in question. The Patriots punted, it looked as if the ball may have touched a 49ers player, and the Patriots recovered the ball. (We’re not even going to get into the other penalties called on the play because illegal touching can’t offset any penalties (because it’s a violation, not a foul) so they were going to stand anyway.)

Bill Belichick thought the punt was muffed. We learned above that a muffed punt is when a player from the receiving team, in this case, Ted Ginn Jr. of the 49ers, touches the ball before possessing the ball. Upon further review, it was decided that the punt was not muffed – it did not touch Ted Ginn Jr. before being touched by the Patriots.


Now we have a situation in which the kicking team touched the ball before the receiving team had a chance to touch the ball. And what does that mean?

You got it! Illegal Touching/First Touching by the Patriots, which results in the 49ers getting to choose the most advantageous first touch to spot the ball.

Here’s the actual rule that was cited in the call:

” ‘First touching’ is when a player of the kicking team touches a scrimmage kick that is beyond the line of scrimmage before it has been touched by a player of the receiving team beyond the line. If the ball is first touched by a player of the kicking team, it remains in play.

“First touching is a violation, and the receivers shall have the option of taking possession of the ball at the spot of first touching, provided no penalty is accepted on the play, or at the spot where the ball is dead. First touching does not offset a foul by the receivers. There may be multiple ‘first touch’ spots, if more than one player of the kicking team touches the ball before it is touched by a player of the receiving team.”

And there you have it: the most confusing way to start a Monday. Holy cow.

What To Know : Week 15

Oh gosh, guys. I really dropped the ball this week. Christmas shopping and freelance working and plain old holiday unproductivity got the best of me. But here’s a quick look at the weekend ahead – it’s a jam-packed one!

GAME OF THE WEEK: SO MANY to choose from. Seriously. Giants at Falcons? Amazing. Big litmus test for both teams. Niners at Patriots? Defense vs. Offense. New old dynasty vs. Old new dynasty. Love it. Packers at Bears for the NFC North? Classic. Colts at Texans? HUGE. But the game I’m most excited for (Packers game notwithstanding)? Broncos at Ravens. We’ll talk more about this in the Storyline to Know. Another one to watch? Steelers at Cowboys. Both are desperate for wins right now, and both have shown the potential to be thumbs-up good or thumbs-down terrible this season.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Dez Bryant, Cowboys oft-troubled wide receiver, will play with a broken index finger and risk permanent injury by opting to delay the surgery needed to fix it. The Cowboys probably need 100% Dez Bryant to have a legit shot at winning this game; I’m not sure that Broken Finger Dez Bryant will be the answer they need.

STORYLINE TO KNOW: Back to Broncos at Ravens. Peyton Manning has a career record of 8-2 against the Ravens. The Broncos are 0-5 against them. It’ll be interesting to see what a difference Peyton makes in the Broncos efforts, and interesting to see how the Ravens offense functions after the firing of Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron.


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What To Know : After Week 14

Let’s keep things plain and simple for this week’s overview:

Biggest Winners: Five teams had huge wins considering playoff potential: the Redskins, Cowboys, Vikings, Seahawks, and Colts. And really…there were six teams…but it seems wrong to mention the Jets. They’re just so unwatchable at this point.

2012-12-10 Cardinals

This adequately sums up the Cardinals quarterback situation.

Biggest Losers: The Cardinals. Literally, since they lost 58-0…and no other team got shut out or lost by a 58 point deficit last week…because that’s just ridiculous. Remember when the Cardinals were 4-0 and on top of the world? What happened, AZ?! But as far as the playoff picture goes, the Steelers, Ravens, Bengals, and Bears all had losses that could come back to haunt them in a few weeks.

Biggest Surprise: Has to be the Panthers stomping all over the Falcons. The final score was 30-20 Panthers, but it wasn’t actually that close. But a close second would be the before-our-very-eyes evolution of the Packers running game on Sunday night against the Lions. They ran all over the Lions in the second half for the win (and welcome back, Ryan Grant!!!)

Biggest Fail: Come on, Buffalo. You can at least catch the guy:

How about you guys? Any highlights or lowlights on the weekend?

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?

What To Know : Week 14

Here we go, ladies! Week 14 has arrived:

GAME OF THE WEEK: Houston at New England on Monday night, an AFC battle. This could potentially be a preview of the AFC Championship game. Vegas is taking the Pats, and so are most other predictors, but I think it’ll be a close one.

PLAYER TO WATCH: RYAN GRANT!!! In reality, this is irrelevant to most of you, and, honestly, it could be irrelevant to the Packers, too. But former running back Ryan Grant, cut from the team prior to this season, is coming back to the Pack!!! The Packers signed him on Wednesday after losing yet another running back (James Starks) to injury and let me tell you…I can’t wait to see Grant get on the field ASAP. He’s slated to play on Sunday against the Lions and will surely be anxious to have a great comeback game at home.

We’re so glad you’re back, Ryan!!!

In other news: Big Ben is also scheduled to start for the Steelers after missing three weeks with the dangerous rib injury. He gets to come back against the ailing Chargers, which, honestly, is a gift-wrapped win for the taking. (Sorry, San Diego.)

STORYLINE TO KNOW: Speaking of San Diego, the yearly Norv-Turner-is-out rumors are circulating on cue again. And, once again, the owner is denying them. You can’t help but feel bad for Turner, who has been put through this circus so many times it’s not even considered breaking news anymore. It’s just normal. But I’d be surprised if the firing doesn’t pan out this time; all signs point to a Turner-less San Diego next season.


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