After Sunday’s win over the Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium — capped by another crazy play followed promptly by the game-winning touchdown pass, just like Super Bowl XLII — Giants quarterback Eli Manning seemed to think the Giants had gotten away with one, thanks to the ruling that kept the ball in New York’s possession after receiver Victor Cruz went down with the ball . . . and got up without it.
Eli’s beliefs likely arose from his own experiences. On an NBC Sunday night last year at Philadelphia, Eli ran for a key first down late in the game. Instead of sliding, he clumsily fell forward, losing the ball when he landed on the ground, and ultimately losing the game.
But here’s the difference. Manning promptly lost the ball when he hit the ground. Thus, Eli didn’t “declare himself down by falling to the ground, or kneeling, and making no effort to advance,” as required by the rule. Instead, he hit the ground without being contacted by a defensive player and lost the ball when he landed, the only situation in which the ground actually can cause a fumble.
Cruz fell to the ground and made no effort to advance. He didn’t have to literally “declare himself down” like Michael Scott declaring bankruptcy; under the rule, once a player falls to the ground and makes no effort to advance, he necessarily has declared himself to be down and the play is over.
So Cruz got up thereafter without the ball, it didn’t matter. The play already was over.
It’s possible that the rule has been applied incorrectly in the past, most notably in 2000, when then-Steelers rookie receiver Plaxico Burress hit the ground untouched, got up, spiked it, and saw Danny Clark of the Jaguars run 44 yards with the ball in the other direction. But the rule was applied correctly on Sunday by the officials.
I’m the first guy to accuse the officials of screwing up, like referee Mike Carey did on Sunday night when he missed Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata putting his helmet in the back of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez. So when they get it right, it’s only fair to say so just as loudly — especially when so many are claiming that they got it wrong.