Given Sunday’s game between the Patriots and the Jets, everybody knows about Rule 9, Article 1, Section 3(2)(b) of the rulebook.
Before that, not many people did. Including game officials, apparently.
As explained by Albert Breer of NFL Network, the Ravens violated the rule against pushing players on the line of scrimmage in field-goal formation during a late 57-yard try from the Dolphins. The kick, if successful, would have tied the game. The kick, if it had come 15 yards closer after the flag that wasn’t thrown, may have been good.
Per Breer, the Dolphins gave the tape to the NFL, and the league conceded (privately) that the call was missed.
A review of the coaches film available via the NFL’s Game Rewind service conducted by PFT (that sounds so official) shows that Chris Canty was lined up between, but slightly behind, Arthur Jones and Haloti Ngata. After the snap, Canty got behind Jones and pushed.
The temptation to skirt the rule surely increases on longer field-goal attempts, when the trajectory of the kick necessarily is lower. In those situations, a strong push could result in a blocked kick.
The league thereafter decided to make the rule a point of emphasis, prompting V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino to send out a video explaining that game officials would be watching for future violations.
While some Patriots fans may point to the failure to flag the Ravens as further proof of a cockeyed conspiracy against the franchise that parlayed the tuck rule into its first Super Bowl win, the broader point is that the enforcement of the rule was, before Sunday, a work in progress. The Patriots either didn’t understand the rule or deliberately rolled the dice on the 56-yard attempt from Nick Folk, hoping the flag wouldn’t be thrown.
Either way, no one can claim ignorance of the rule going forward.