It’s the worst rule in football, and the powers-that-be consistently refuse to get rid of it.
You know what it is, if you’re a regular to this Internet destination. Or, as of Sunday, if you’re a Ravens fan.
In a field-position battle that Washington led 13-10 in the third quarter, Baltimore had pinned the visiting team at the one with a punt. Facing second and eight from the three, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw a pass that linebacker C.J. Mosley intercepted and returned toward the end zone.
As Mosley approached the goal line, he reached forward with the ball and lost possession of it. It then rolled into the end zone and out of bounds.
The result? Even though Washington didn’t cause or recover the fumble, they were awarded the ball at their own 20, 18 yards down the field and with a fresh set of downs.
Of course, if the ball had gone out of bounds before breaking the plane of the goal line, Baltimore would have kept possession. So why do the rules give the other team possession at the 20 when the fumble bounces into the end zone before going out of bounds?
It makes no sense, and it’s horribly unfair. Still, rarely if ever has the league made a push to remove it from the rulebook.
Actually, the Ravens may be inclined at this point not to agitate for change. There’s an odd dynamic among NFL teams that if/when an unfair rule strikes, the team on the wrong side of the rule believes that the next time around they’ll benefit from it.
As unfair as the rule is for the team that loses possession in the field of play and sees the ball go out of bounds in the end zone unrecovered, it’s a windfall for the team that goes from being on the verge of giving up six points to getting the ball on its own 20.