The Patriots lost to the Jets on Sunday as a direct result of the application of a new rule prohibiting the pushing of defensive players during field goal attempts by other defensive players. The rule was properly applied, but that hasn’t stopped some Pats fans from insisting that the team was screwed.
It started when coach Bill Belichick explained after the game that the push didn’t come from the second level. But the rule, as we explained it, doesn’t restrict the prohibited conduct to pushes from the second level.
The problem is that the NFL previously has explained the new rule on its official website by suggesting that the rule applies only to pushes from the second level. As explained by Tom Curran of CSN New England, a September 2013 story posted on NFL.com specifically refers to the second level when explaining the rule. In a video accompanying the story, V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino likewise refers to the “second level” when explaining the rule.
Giving Pats fans some raw beef for their burgeoning conspiracy theory is the fact that, per Curran, the article on NFL.com was changed earlier tonight.
Some are suggesting that the rule itself was changed after the game, but that’s definitely not the case. The hard copy of the rule book that we’ve been using all year in the NBC viewing room contains the new rule, and it makes no reference to the “second level.”
And here’s where I need to disagree with my good friend and colleague from CSNNE. Curran explains that Belichick got the idea that the rule only applied to the “second level” because of the item posted at NFL.com. I have a hard time buying the notion that Belichick would rely on an interpretation posted at NFL.com in September 2013, given that the rule was passed in March and codified in the rule book before the start of the preseason in August.
Besides, and as we reported earlier tonight that, when officials met with teams in the preseason, they explained that the new rule applies to all defensive players on a field-goal try, regardless of level.
If Belichick were to claim that he was given incorrect information when NFL officials visited the team before the season, that would get our attention. Even then, the rule says what it says, and Belichick seems to be sufficiently meticulous to have noticed that the plain language of the rulebook didn’t mesh with the suggestion that the push must come from the “second level.”
UPDATE 10:47 p.m. ET: In fairness to our pal Tom Curran, he wasn’t really suggesting that Belichick was surfing NFL.com for rule interpretations. Tom’s point is that Belichick’s reliance on the “second level” came from somewhere. If the league was referring on its official website to the “second level,” the league is the most obvious culprit.