Plenty of Buccaneers fans are up in arms in the wake of the final play of the game against the Saints. And while we particularly relish the opportunity to point out a bad call, in this case the officials got it right.
The easy part of the decision that wiped a potential overtime-forcing touchdown pass from Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman to receiver Mike Williams off the board was the ruling that Williams went out of bounds and came back in and was the first one to touch the ball that was thrown to him. Once he’s out of bounds, he can’t be the first one to touch the ball — even if he “re-establishes” himself in the field of play before doing so. Someone else has to touch the ball before the player who went out of bounds, or the catch won’t count.
The harder part is the obvious shove that sent Williams out of bounds. Many insist that it’s illegal contact because the shove came more than five yards from the line of scrimmage.
The explanation is easy. Once the quarterback leaves the pocket, the illegal contact rule disappears.
It’s a nuance that made it harder for the replacement officials to call, or not call, illegal contact. The non-replacements got it right — and it’s always a heads-up move for a defensive back to shove a guy out of bounds if/when the quarterback is out of the pocket and the receiver is near the boundary. That’s what Patrick Robinson did on Sunday, and it’s obvious from his body language that Robinson knew what he was doing, and that he knew Williams’ catch wouldn’t count.