Much has been made about the rule that was apparently violated Rule 12, Section 4, Article 1(b), where a player may not "bat" a ball out of the end zone (I am simplifying here).
Take a look at the video here from SB Nation and a spectacular shot of what the Back Judge Greg Wilson saw.
Public outrage aside about how "bad" a call this is, I think there are a few obtuse points worth mentioning that most have not stated so far.
- Mega kudos to Kam Chancellor, who delivered the hit to cause the fumble and do so before the ball crossed the plain of the goal line. This was a great football play and a rules controversy is sadly overshadowing a phenomenal play in crunch time. #respect
- It is more clear than ever to me that the players, coaches, and staff at that level do not understand the rules of football, with a few notable exceptions. Stories are out now that the guilty player himself did not know the rule, there was no uproar on the sideline about it, or talk of it in the locker rooms until well after the fact, and the TV analysis, when they finally caught on was ... embarrassing. Note to all younger referees, the words "I used to be a pro" mean absolutely nothing in so far as knowledge or application of the LOTG go. This was proven painfully true again last night.
- I happen to think Greg Wilson is a great referee for making the right call. SB Nation allowed for only two possibilities on the matter. (1) Wilson didn't know the rule. or (2) Wilson incorrectly felt that Wright's strike of the ball wasn't obvious. This article also notes that the Director of Officiating was ducking under #2 ... and for him that was really the only choice. I believe there is a 3rd option that existed ... and it was Wilson in essence played an "advantage." Now, understanding that no such construct exists officially in the NFL rules, we see it exercised all the time with fouls like pass interference, some are flagged, most are not and this largely goes to if an advantage was gained or not. Here we have the case that the ball was on the way out from the fumble. There was little doubt that was the case. Even with the players batting the ball (and he did bat the ball) it would have made no difference to what would have occurred next. Why then, if the foul would serve to give a significant and inappropriate advantage to the team who legitimately fumbled the ball, would we do that?
Most clearly do not feel that way, but to me, they are dead wrong.