When Ed Hochuli refereed a Chargers-Broncos game in 2008, disaster struck: Hochuli wrongly ruled that Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler had thrown an incomplete pass when Cutler had actually fumbled, and the botched call handed the Broncos the game. When Hochuli refereed in San Diego tonight for the first time since then, he was booed by Chargers fans.
But on a tough call in the first quarter of tonight’s Raiders-Chargers game, Hochuli got a tough call exactly right, to the Chargers’ benefit.
It happened when the Raiders ran a fake punt, with Shane Lechler taking the snap and throwing a deep ball to Jacoby Ford. Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer hit Ford just before the ball arrived, and the Raiders were incredulous, demanding a pass interference flag.
But no flag came, and after a brief consultation Hochuli turned on his microphone and explained a little-known rule: When the offense lines up in a punt formation, there’s no such thing as pass interference on the end man on the line of scrimmage.
The pass interference section of the NFL’s online digest of rules makes it clear: “Whenever a team presents an apparent punting formation, defensive pass interference is not to be called for action on the end man on the line of scrimmage.”
So the call was the right one, and it was also smart of Hochuli to turn on the microphone and explain the rule. When a rule comes up that the fans are unlikely to know, it’s helpful for the ref to explain it.
Ford was later carted off the field with an apparent ankle injury. Chargers tackle Marcus McNeill has also left the game, with a stinger. Late in the first quarter the Raiders lead 7-3.
UPDATE: Hochuli later got a call right on a Carson Palmer fumble that was reminiscent of the Cutler play.