NFL playoff officiating decisions – Why was Rashard Higgins’ fumble out of the end zone a touchback?

The historic decline in penalty flags has contributed to less attention being paid to the NFL’s officiating in 2020. The same applies to the cancellation of the rebroadcast in the event of disruption to the pass. But the advent of postseason football has challenged all appeals, interpretations and revisions to the rules.

Don’t worry about it. We’re here for you. Below is a list of live calls you shook your head for, screamed at on TV or were confused during the draw. The newest pieces are at the top.

The Browns lose the ball for a touchdown after a failed illegal shot.

Browns-Chiefs Divisional game with 1:42 left in the second quarter.

What happened was: The Browns lost the ball when receiver Rashard Higgins lost the ball toward the goal line. The ball escaped from the end zone and caused an extremely hated rule that treats the play as a turnover and marks it as a touchback.

How it was decided: The game was reviewed, but Higgins clearly stumbled before the ball crossed the goal line.

Analysis: It was the right decision, based on the rules. You can debate whether a team should qualify as an underdog or not. But the NFL never thought about changing that rule, and everyone knows there’s a danger of being turned over if you try to stretch the ball over the line.

However, there have been complications in this area. The interesting thing about this room is that Higgins entered the room just as security chief Daniel Sorensen put down his helmet and came into contact with Higgins’ helmet. This is a blatant violation of a rule the NFL put in place in 2018 to minimize these types of hits, which can lead to concussions and neck injuries to both players involved. But no appeal was taken from the error, and it is not subject to review.

Frankly, it’s a very difficult real-time challenge. That’s what officials have been saying since the law went into effect. Only 40 flags were thrown for him in the 2020 regular season. It’s a lot easier to see in slow motion. The Browns still hold the ball and get a 15-yard penalty.

Dirty Dan likes to play in the playoffs.


– Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) January 17, 2021

Unsportsmanlike conduct by TE Cole Kmet Bears

Bears – Saints, 9:40 left in the second quarter.

What happened was: Kmet was reported after intercepting a one-yard pass at the Saints’ 9-yard line. After an altercation between Malcolm Jenkins, Kmet’s head of security, and the Saints, two officials intervened. Kmet threw the ball to one of the officials.

How it was decided: Kmet was cautioned for unsportsmanlike conduct, which referee Alex Kemp called unsportsmanlike. The Bears went from third and 5 to third and 20 and finally had to settle for a field goal.

Analysis: It was impossible to hear what was being said between Kmet and Jenkins – and/or Kmet and the officials. But unless something has already happened on camera, we can only assume that Kmet violated one of two prohibited acts in NFL rules: (1) using abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures toward opponents, teammates, officials or league officials or (2) using baiting or taunting or words likely to cause disorder between teams.

It would be crazy for the officials to consider the throw a deflection instead of giving Kmet the benefit of the doubt for simply returning the ball. From a distance, the interaction didn’t seem to rise to the level of a 15-yard penalty in a playoff game.

Matching Ravens-Titans with 4:28 left in the fourth quarter.

What happened was: Snead was called for offensive interference on a 3-yard pass to J.K. Dobbins, who converted a key fourth-and-2. Snead took two steps behind the line of scrimmage and threw a right shoulder to the Titans’ linebacker Rashaan Evans.

How it was decided: The penalty would have nullified a first down attempt at the Titans’ 20 yard line, giving the Ravens at least a chance to finish time (or force the Titans to use timeouts). The Ravens eventually scored a 52-yard field goal to take a 20-13 lead, maintaining the Titans’ one-goal deficit.

Analysis: Under the rules, this appeal is moot. The catcher should be no more than one meter from the scratcher’s stomach. Snead was clearly trying to stop Evans from fighting Dobbins. It is doubtful that the appeal significantly prevented Mr Evans from playing the game. It’s also fair to compare the level of contact and restraint to what happened during the Titans’ first touchdown, when receiver A.J. Brown shoved cornerback Marlon Humphrey as the ball came in and was not penalized.

After all, it was the Ravens’ first OPI penalty of the entire season, in a year that saw the number of such penalties reduced by 40% across the board.

Confusion of bets at the end of the first half

Ravens-Titans game, still 0-11 in the second quarter.

What happened was: The Ravens’ Sam Koch kicked a 43-yard kick at 4:31. But umpire Jerome Boger asked for a hold call and ordered the first strike.

How it was decided: Boger made three announcements total to make it clear that the Ravens would score on the first try and that the offense was against Titans linebacker Daren Bates. The Ravens’ offense returns to the field and quarterback Lamar Jackson kneels down to end the half.

Analysis: Shortly after the shot was fired, Bates caught the Ravens’ long snapper, Morgan Cox, and pulled him to the ground using a technique teams sometimes use to create a lane for another player to pass. It was clearly a defensive move, and as it happened before the hit, the decision was made as if both offense and defense were on the field. That rewarded the Ravens with 5 yards and an automatic first down.

It took Boger a while to figure all this out, and it also seemed like an unprecedented power play against the Ravens, against Anthony Levine Sr. Ultimately, however, Boger’s application of the rules was not challenged.

No call for A.J. Brown to intervene in an attack.

Match Ravens-Titans with 5:39 left in the first quarter.

What happened was: The Titans are credited with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Brown, who looks to be pushing away the Ravens Marlon Humphrey corner as the ball enters the end zone.

How it was decided: It’s touchdown time. Any interference by the recipient or the defendant will no longer be considered.

Analysis: Interference in the passing game is one of football’s most subjective judgments, as we learned in 2019 when the NFL tried unsuccessfully to reign in through replay. NFL rules define him as a player who significantly prevents another player from catching the ball. In practice, senior analyst John Parry told ABC/ESPN, officials look to see if a player gets an advantage at the expense of prohibited actions.


: Watch #SuperWildCard at

– Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 10, 2021

In this case, Brown clearly had more of a grip after pushing Humphrey away with his left hand. So this exhibition clearly meets the definition, both formally and practically. However, it should be noted that the NFL has been rather stingy this season in terms of interference from offensive passes. They threw 72 flags for him in 2020, the lowest number since 2007 and the third since 2001. This season, the total number of flags is down 40% from 122 in 2019.

Washington point announced its return

Bucks-Washington, 9:02 still in the third quarter.

What happened was: The Buccaneers got a touchback after Washington’s Troy Apke picked off a pass near the 7-yard line and – probably thinking he had been hit by a Buccaneer player – threw it into the end zone.

How it was decided: Playback remained in touchback mode.

Analysis: It should have been scored where Apke first took possession of the ball, not at the time of the touchback. The rule states that a kick that falls outside the line of scrimmage is dead as soon as the team taking the kick drops it. You can’t move the ball. Many evaluation questions can be addressed during the game. It was about the application of the rules. Washington should have pinned the Buccaneers deeper than he did.

RB Rams Cam Akers clumsiness is reversed

Rams-Seahawks game 46 seconds from the end of the first half.

What happened was: Officials ruled that Seahawks quarterback Carlos Dunlap had pushed the ball back after a 3-yard run by Akers. The clumsy rebound was credited to Seahawks cornerback Ryan Neal, who took the ball back to Seattle at the Rams’ 26-yard line.

How it was decided: The conversation was reversed during the replay. The NFL ruled that Akers was in contact with the ball before he passed out, and the Rams retained possession.

Analysis: In the end, the league did the right thing, but with some of the other calls we saw this weekend, it was hard to believe the NFL would take this game as a joke. Akers was on his back with the ball firmly in his hand when Dunlap tried to hit it first. At least one official initially ruled out Akers, but he was pushed back. It is always possible that opinions are blocked and if in doubt the staff are correctly in the rotation to ensure they are played correctly using the automatic review.

But in this case, the replay could have still revised the game because there were less than two minutes left. It is decisions like this that undermine confidence in the overall competence of the company.

Officials raise the flag on a Ram’s head QB

Rams-Seahawks game with 5:40 left in the first quarter.

What happened was: When Rams quarterback John Wolford plunged to the ground after a two-yard run, Seahawks defender Jamal Adams dropped his right shoulder and hit Wolford in the head. Officials first threw the flag at Adams. Wolford has left the game and has been replaced by Jared Goff.

How it was decided: Justice John Hussey announced that no penalty would be imposed because Walford was considered a runner and therefore not subject to the protections that normally apply to quarterbacks.

Analysis: While it is true that Walford did not enjoy the protection of the quarterback in this room, what happened led the following broadcast analysts to different conclusions. Mike Pereira of Fox Sports and Terry McAulay of NBC said the killing was illegal because Walford had quit and was therefore a defenseless player. But the NFL rules do not address this particular situation. ESPN is John Perry’s Twitter feed: QB – head first – rider – shoulder to helmet is not a violation under the rule. In the end, the whole series was redundant.

For the second game in a row, the Seahawks took the starting quarterback out of a playoff game with a hit to the head. In the previous case, Jadeveon Clowney’s hit on the Eagles’ quarterback, Carson Wentz, was decided accidentally and nonviolently. Walford, meanwhile, was taken to the hospital as a precaution, according to a Rams spokesman.

Why wasn’t that the sound of the Colts?

Colts Bills game with 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

What happened was: On a fourth-and-10 on Ring’s final possession, receiver Zach Pascal made a 17-yard catch and dropped to the Bills’ 46-yard line. Pascal got up and made a mistake with the ball, which was picked up by the Bills on what would have been a swing play. Officials in the field, however, felt that Pascal was out of touch after the first fall.

How it was decided: Bills coach Sean McDermott called a timeout as the Colts rushed to the line of scrimmage, but was unable to intervene with less than two minutes remaining. During a timeout, Al Riveron, senior vice president of operations for the NFL, reviewed the call. It wasn’t immediately clear if his recall had stopped the game or if it was a McDermott timeout. Nevertheless, Justice Brad Allen announced that the challenge would be sustained without further explanation.

Analysis: The NFL shared on Twitter that there was no clear and definite evidence to overturn the decision, and Buffalo was not asked to provide a pool report for further explanation. Because the reruns seemed to confirm that Pascal had not gone out before he went up, and that he had not come down when he lost his possession. We will update this ticket if the NFL or Riveron provide additional clarification. But according to all the evidence available at the time, the accounts should have been in possession. Had the Colts come back to draw or win the game – the Bills won 27-24 – that decision would have been well thought out.

At #INDvsBUF, the field solution is that the runner went down by contact. There was no clear and obvious visual evidence to overturn the decision, so it stands.

– NFL Official (@NFLOfficial) January 9, 2021

Clock runs after passing

The Colts-Bills Wild Card with 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

What happened was: The game clock continued to run after the Colts’ receiver, Michael Pittman Jr. tripped.

How it was decided: The clock hasn’t stopped.

Analysis: This play caused a bit of a commotion on social media, but it controlled the game well. Leaving the field of play is not the same as leaving the field of play. According to NFL rules: When a player leaves the field of play, time is counted when the referee signals that the ball is back in play.

Invoices are credited to two side outputs

Colts-Bills game, less than 2 minutes into the second quarter.

What happened was: Account holder Gabriel Davis was credited with 37 and 19 yard sideline receptions. In both cases, the frame-by-frame replay showed that he may not have had both feet in the field.

How it was decided: With less than two minutes left in the game, the NFL rerun manager reviewed both games. In any event, Judge Brad Allen only announced the first challenge. Allen did not explain why an official’s cap was on the ground when Davis made the first catch; often this means that the player(s) is eliminated and no longer eligible as a receiver.

Outrageous record by Gabriel Davis @DavisGB1 @BuffaloBills


– Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 9, 2021

Analysis: You can get a picture of Davis’ left foot hitting the white part of the sideline after the first take. Same with the second technique, where he may not have removed his toe completely before going out. But the NFL retransmission system requires a much higher standard than is possible. It has to be clear, preferably in real time, that Davis is out of position before he takes over. If the decision was incomplete in this area, the review system would likely support it as well.

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