More on the non-call for grounding from Thursday

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On Thursday night, Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston seemed to commit intentional grounding by launching a rainbow more than 15 yards down and at least five yards away from where his intended receiver was standing, in order to avoid a sack in the end zone. It wasn’t called by the officials, and it wasn’t mentioned at all during the broadcast.

As it turns out, the non-call was the right call. It still should have been mentioned during the broadcast, for reasons set forth below.

A little-known 2016 adjustment to the official NFL casebook, which contains approved applications of the official NFL rule book, contains an exception to the intentional grounding rule when a quarterback is in the pocket and about to be tackled. The quarterback can avoid the sack by throwing the ball out of bounds — and it can “sail” over the head of the receiver — as long the receiver is outside the numbers. If, however, the receiver is inside the numbers, a throw that “sailed over the head of the receiver” and landed out of bounds would result in a flag for intentional grounding. (A.R. 8.84.)

On Friday, former NFL V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira pointed out this caveat to the official grounding rule, which generally requires the ball to be thrown in the direction of and land in the vicinity of a receiver.  Pereira explained that the officials had been applying this interpretation of the intentional grounding rule for years, long before the casebook was revised last year to reflect this exception.

However, Pereira characterized the outside-the-numbers exception as permitting the ball to be thrown out of bounds as long as the quarterback doesn’t “launch it into the stands.” The 2016 adjustment to the casebook, if applied literally, allows the quarterback to send a rocket right out of the stadium, as long as the intended receiver is outside the numbers.

And so it seems that more clarification is needed as to whether there is a limit to how far the ball can go when the quarterback has a receiver outside the numbers and opts to throw it over them mountains in order to avoid a sack. The casebook suggests there isn’t; Pereira suggests there is.

Meanwhile, it’s important that this exception to the grounding rule become more broadly communicated and understood. For plays designed to have a receiver flare outside the numbers just a few yards from the line of scrimmage, this exceptions could be nearly as important as the one that allows a quarterback outside the pocket to throw it away, as long as it passes the line of scrimmage.

13 responses to “More on the non-call for grounding from Thursday

  1. There were a lot of bad calls in that game. I had absolutely no problem with this one.

    Past the line of scrimmage and near a receiver, what more do you want?

  2. The intentional grounding situation I see called more inconsistently is when a receiver breaks an option route outside and the QB throws the post. I’ve seen this called both ways, but really it’s hard to justify not throwing the flag when there is nobody within 20 yards of the pass.

  3. On a deep drop, I have often wondered why a QB wouldn’t just ground it instead of taking the sack (assuming they can’t get rid of it in a legal fashion). If they are on a deep drop, the net result would be essentially the same, except the QB may be able to avoid the hit and the chance of a strip sack.

    If a deep drop has you close to or more than 10 yards deep, the net result either way would be moving to the next down and the ball at the spot (of either the sack or the penalty). On a shorter drop, it would make a difference in yardage, but that would be it.

  4. Spiking to stop the clock is also intentional grounding. It’s silly as the defense has no chance to make a play on the ball and the clock stops. The ball is not even thrown in the direction of s receiver.

    This is another way offense is prioritized over defense in the rules. I would love to see rule changes to reward good defense. My idea is that a forward pass exists only beyond the line of scrimmage. Any pass behind the line of scrimmage is considered a lateral. There would be a lot more turnovers and action!

  5. I think the only time it should be called is, while in the grasp of a defender, the QB throws the ball downward and it doesn’t land or pass within 6ft of an eligible receiver.

  6. I refer readers to 1st NE play in 2008 SB where Brady was flagged for intentional ‘airing.’ The Giants blitzed, and Brady threw it from end zone to hash marks around the 35. Two points to Giants, and the late 4-point lead made it highly unlikely to catch up and tie/pass the Giants. Worst call in that season (2007).

  7. I get what Perrera is trying to say, but here’s the thing. The rule says he can avoid the sack by throwing it over the head of a receiver outside the hash marks. But if you look closely the ball sails out of bounds about 10 yards further down the field. It was nowhere close to Brate.

    In the great scheme of things of the calls that have gone against the Pats this year, this wasn’t in the top 10, but it still irks (mostly because it brings up the superbowl call.

  8. When the Pats play well its rare the put themselves in a position where the refs can decide the game. Any team that does so has the chance to be screwed by the refs. Pats won so it really doesn’t matter what penalties were called on them, how ticky tack and what was or wasn’t called on the Bucs.

  9. Kinda pathetic to realize the non call was correct 3 days later and then blast another networks announcer’s for it.

  10. docsmith54 says:
    October 7, 2017 at 12:47 pm
    I refer readers to 1st NE play in 2008 SB where Brady was flagged for intentional ‘airing.’ The Giants blitzed, and Brady threw it from end zone to hash marks around the 35. Two points to Giants, and the late 4-point lead made it highly unlikely to catch up and tie/pass the Giants. Worst call in that season (2007).
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    1) That was SB46 in 2011.

    2) There was no receiver within 30 yards of where the ball landed at the NFL logo at midfield.

    3) If Brady had thrown an accurate pass to Welker when the Pats were up by 2 at midfield with 4 minutes to play, the Pats may have been able to run the clock out instead of giving Manning the chance to beat them again.

  11. This wasn’t even remotely the worst of anything the refs did that night. The “roughing the passer” calls were both shaky and we watched not one but TWO Patriots have their helmets ripped off (one was Brady) with no calls. They have enough issues without having to play games 11 on 17. Don’t even get me started on that farce of a game against the Panthers.

  12. 12brichandfamous says:
    October 7, 2017 at 11:37 am
    Spiking to stop the clock is also intentional grounding. It’s silly as the defense has no chance to make a play on the ball and the clock stops. The ball is not even thrown in the direction of s receiver.

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    Except, there is a specific exception to the rule that addresses, and allows, the ball to be spiked.

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