Sunday night’s win by Seattle over the Eagles included a key moment when quarterback Russell Wilson flipped the ball to running back Mike Davis in an effort to convert a key third-down play when the Seahawks were up only by seven points.
Though it looked like a lateral at full speed, closer inspection seemed to show the ball moving backward before curling forward. On PFT Live, Wilson (an accomplished baseball player) was asked to put the play in baseball terms.
“That was a ball hit in the middle of the line, playing second base you gotta go up and get it with the glove and pitch it to shortstop at second base,” Wilson said. “He flips it over the bag, gets it to first base, double play, bang.”
In football terms, Wilson believes it was a lateral.
“The thing was I kept moving forward so that’s why obviously it definitely felt — it felt like it was backward to me,” Wilson said. “Everybody was concerned whether it was forward or not, but it definitely felt backward to me. It was a cool play; I know that. That was fun.”
Making it more fun (for the home team) was the ability of the Seahawks to get to their next play before the Eagles realized that a challenge flag was in order. And it’s clear that, if the Eagles had thrown the red handkerchief, the play would have been overturned.
The rule book defines a forward pass as happening when “the ball initially moves forward (to a point nearer the opponent’s goal line) after leaving the passer’s hand(s)” OR when “the ball first touches the ground, a player, an official, or anything else at a point that is nearer the opponent’s goal line than
the point at which the ball leaves the passer’s hand(s).” So even if the ball initially moved backward, it was first touched by Davis at a point nearer the opponent’s goal line than the point at which it left Wilson’s hand, it was still a forward pass.
And if it had been overturned on replay review, who knows whether the Eagles would have come back to win the game?