Super Sized Zebra Report: More Roughness, Chargers Fans, and a Free Kick

FanHouse's resident referee will chime in weekly with thoughts on major topics relating to officiating. We call it The Zebra Report. Matt Snyder is a high school official with eight years experience. While this is like a third-year resident critiquing the work of a world-renowned surgeon, it's still better than someone who has never worn the stripes.

Week 11

- The Troy Polamalu


. This has been covered everywhere. There's no real need to rehash it much. With an illegal forward pass, as long as it didn't hit the ground, the Steelers should have been able to either accept the penalty or the result of the play (which would have meant declining the penalty). Obviously, they'd take the result of the play since it was a touchdown.

This isn't an official speaking, but a fan of the sport and a fantasy football analyst: Why can't the NFL just put the points on the board? Seriously, they discovered the error just minutes -- if not seconds -- after the game ended. Stats are adjusted during the next week from time to time in the NFL. The outcome of the game was not affected, so this is adjust a stat. What's the big deal?

Willie Parker

- Unnecessary roughness called on Bills late in the game against Browns for pushing James Harrison out of bounds. Tony Kornheiser and Ron Jaworski were up in arms about this call, and their stance was unfounded. Both were saying that the runner's last step was in-bounds. That doesn't mean anything. Harrison was clearly heading out of bounds on purpose, and the Buffalo defender hit him with quite a bit of force as he was passing over the line. At the point where Harrison was contacted, there was no possible way he could have stopped himself from going out of bounds. There's no threat of a cut-back, or more yardage, so you cannot contact him. Part of a defenders job -- and we've gone over this before -- is to know where the sidelines are. That's a 15 yard penalty in every league.

- Devin Hester knocked out of bounds into a Packers player and knocked down, draws a 15 yard penalty. It's hard for me to separate my bias here -- being an avid Bears fan -- but I thought this was the correct call. Just hear me out, Packers fans, before jumping down my throat. The players lined up on the sidelines are generally supposed to protect players when they are thrown out of bounds, not knock them down. Troy Aikman -- who was announcing the game -- said something like, "he got penalized for protecting himself." Did he really, though? He extended his forearm. Could he not have tried to catch and hold Hester up on his feet? Here's my real question: What if it was a teammate? Would this player really have extended a forearm and knocked Ryan Grant to the ground? I doubt it. I'm guessing a bear-hug would have been the result. That's the real issue. This seemed like an opposing player just getting in an extra blow for no reason.

On the same play, the announcers also wanted hands to the face on Hester for an attempted stiff-arm. It did seem like he got under the facemask a bit and pushed the defenders head up just a tad. I could have seen a call on this, but a no-call wasn't awful because he didn't gain an advantage and wasn't putting the defender in serious physical danger. Borderline call/no call, and either way would have been acceptable to me.

"It might be a bit late to answer this question, but in the Cowboys-Redskins game, there was a punt by the 'Skins that appeared to be downed at the one but was then deemed to be a touchback because the ball touched the player when he down on the field and on the goal line. I'm just wondering what the rules are concerning this because I thought the ref blew the call. I believe the 'Skin's player was Cartwright and he grabbed the ball and then lost control before crossing the goal line. The ball then hit another Redskin and was deflected into Cartwright's back as he lay on the goal line, which is apparently why the ref called it a touchback.

I'm wondering why this would be the case, wouldn't the ball be considered downed upon the initial contact? If not, why would the punting team not pull the same type of thing at the 10 yard line, intentionally grab and fumble the ball all the way back to the 5 or 1? Obviously it wouldn't be easy to do, but what I'm getting at is that it seems that Redskins player "advanced" the ball unintentionally, and it ended up costing the team a great deal of field position. But would the call have been the same if Cartwright had touched, fumbled the ball at the 5 and then it ended up bouncing into his back at the 1? There really should be no difference, but I have a feeling that in the second scenario, the refs would have spotted the ball at the 5."

The reference point here is called "first touching." Basically, there's a first touching spot, which the back judge is required to bean-bag (I'm not sure if you can ever see the NFL officials do it on TV), and then a final spot, where the ball ends up. The receiving team has the choice as to which spot they can accept. Obviously, if the final spot is a touchback and first touching is inside the five, the officials don't even bother asking the team because it's obvious where they'll want it.

First touching protects the return team from the scenario he described, where the team can bat the ball backwards to create worse field position.

Week 12

- A couple roughing the passer penalties in the Raiders/Broncos game. I'm just gonna repeat what I've said in the past. The officials are carrying out orders from the powers-that-be of the NFL. As I've said before, several officials have been severely downgraded this season -- which affects postseason assignments -- for not calling roughing the passer or unnecessary roughness when Roger Goodell and his cracksquad of fun/safety police have deemed a play too rough. We are going to have 15 yard penalties on calls we deem questionable all season, so let's just get used to it and move on with life.

- The Free Kick Field Goal! Woo hoo! Shane covered this already, and the rule was explained pretty much correctly. And to answer the "if that's true" part, yes, the team can still kick if the fair catch was made when time was expired. Teams have tried it since 1968, just not successfully. I can remember one time, actually, in recent memory where it almost happened. If memory serves, it was Neil Rackers at home against the Rams in 2006. The problem is, there was a penalty on the previous play, and once Scott Linehan saw what the Cards were planning on doing he accepted the penalty, and this time ordered his punter to kick the ball out of bounds. Oh, and just for fun, here's a youtube of this rule being applied correctly in high school -- with a successful kick. The confusion of the announcers make it well worth the watch. Hit-tip to commenter Brian for this find:

- No defensive pass interference can be committed on the outside receiver on a fake punt. Yes, this is true and was applied correctly. There are obvious reasons for the rule. Usually the outside guys on a punt are double-covered and chucked all the way up-field. You could just throw the ball right at him after the snap and gain an interference call everytime. Allowing this to happen would create a significant advantage for the punt team. In related news, Jim Haslettwasn't happy with his team for this play.

- Reggie Wayne springs Anthony Gonzalez on a "pick play" for a touchdown against the Chargers. Oh, those poor Chargers. To hear it from their fans, they'd be undefeated right now if not for the officials screwing them all the time. Because, you know, everyone has a huge agenda against San Diego. On this particular play, that's never getting called, and the reason is quite simple. Antonio Cromartie -- who is falling quite short of his predicted interception total -- chucked Wayne. It almost looked like he chucked him into the pick. You can't penalize an offensive player for getting knocked off his route, and you can't judge whether or not Wayne was going to try and pick the defender. All bets are off when the defensive player starts contacting him. No call was the right call.

- Chargers thought the pass interference call where Wayne got knocked down should have been nullified due to it being uncatchable. Here's the explanation I would always give to a coach who wants to whine about a ball being uncatchable: We don't know if it would have been catchable or not, because your defender knocked a receiver down. If it's uncatchable, tell him to let the receiver keep running, and then it will fall incomplete. It's pretty simple. You can't blame others for your own mistakes.

- The late spot, where the Colts were initially given a first down. I think the officials made the correct decision in not initially measuring. Had they stopped play, it would appear they were giving the Colts a virtual timeout to gather themselves. The initial spot was obviously incorrect, and that's why the replay officials buzzed in, and the slight error was rectified. The only real complaint I would even accept in this situation was the pre-replay spot.

Of course, this would be coming from people who have no idea what it's like to stand on the sideline and try to judge the furthest point that was reached by the ball when someone is moving at full speed and in mid-air, only to be clocked by a defensive player (also moving at full speed) and knocked backwards. Furthermore, the official on the side probably wasn't exactly lined up even with the receiver, unless it was an incredible coincidence. You hope to be right on the spot, but you can never be sure where the pass is going.

This officiating crew was maligned for the entire game during our Sunday night live chat on FanHouse -- and in the crowd in San Diego from what I've heard -- and it just provides more examples to me of people who have no idea what it's like to call a game.

That's all I've got for this week. I'll be back next week. This was certainly not an all-inclusive list of calls which were whined about by fans in either week. That list would be seemingly infinite.

As always, if you want a rule or play reviewed (even if it's a local 8th grade game), you may submit one to our mailbox.

Super Sized Zebra Report: More Roughness, Chargers Fans, and a Free Kick originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Tue, 25 Nov 2008 12:00:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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