Given the number of comments and e-mails generated by our item from last night regarding referee Alberto Riveron’s curious decision to flag Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for an “illegal forward pass” that resulted in a safety, we need to clarify a couple of things.
Our theory on this is that Riveron initially wanted to rule that Rodgers had committed intentional grounding, but that Riveron’s crew persuaded him that the Favre-style desperation underhand throw wasn’t intentional grounding, most likely because a receiver was in the general vicinity of the ball.  (The official rules also permit a quarterback who’s outside the pocket to throw the ball to an area away from any receiver, as long as the ball lands “near or beyond” the line of scrimmage.  And contrary to what folks might be finding elsewhere via Google, the official rules use the term “near or beyond” when describing what a quarterback who’s outside the pocket must do to avoid intentional grounding.)
And so, because Riveron likely was troubled by the notion that a quarterback could make an ungainly, stumbling heave in order to avoid a safety, we believe that Riveron decided to find a way to award the safety by calling the thing an illegal forward pass.
But it simply wasn’t an “illegal forward pass.”  It was a legal and appropriate pass.  If it had been caught, no flag would have been thrown.
The question is whether it was intentional grounding; since Riveron didn’t call it intentional grounding, we can only assume that he and his crew decided that it wasn’t.  And since in 35-plus years of watching pro and college football games we’ve never heard “intentional grounding” described as an “illegal forward pass,” we’re convinced that Riveron was bending the rules on the fly to fit the outcome that he believed was appropriate.
In our view, Riveron focused more on the ugly initiation of the pass than on where it landed.  Watch the video.  The ball lands in the vicinity of a Packers receiver, and it was potentially catchable.
It was far more catchable (or, more accurately, far less uncatchable) than the ball that Giants quarterback Eli Manning spiked to the ground a yard or so from the feet of tight end Kevin Boss last night.  That maneuver didn’t draw a flag, and the absence of a penalty for intentional grounding prompted loud boos from the Philly faithful.  (Amazingly, the usually rock-solid duo of Al Michaels and John Madden said nothing about the non-call, or the crowd’s reaction to it.)
Bottom line?  As one commenter has pointed out, Riveron tried to base the call on Rodgers’ intent.  In so doing, Riveron ignored the rules.  For a first-year referee who surely hopes to stick around much longer than that, this was worse that simply blowing a call.  Riveron placed his own beliefs above the plain terms of the rule book.
And while the NFL will rally around Riveron’s post-game attempt to equate an illegal forward pass with intentional grounding in order to avoid drawing further attention to the mistakes that officials have made this season, we hope that the powers-that-be explain to Riveron in no uncertain terms that a big part of exercising judgment is realizing when not to do so.


  1. Great now we have activist referees to go along with activist judges. It is not the referees job to determine intent or to influence the scoring of the game, it is their job to enforce the rules in a fair and impartial manner. Period.

  2. If this was a blown call as you are saying, why wouldn’t the Booth step in and change it? Doesn’t the NFL have someone in charge up in the booth to correct these calls? I personally thought that this was a penalty. A-Rod tried to do something/anything to avoid the 7…No matter what this was/wasn’t A-Rod made a bad play.

  3. Manning was NOT in the end zone trying to avoid a safety. All Manning would have lost was some yardage. The Packers were risking and, due to the call, gave up two points. Very, very different scenarios. Still, it’s painfully obvious that Pereira has NOT clarified the rules for his own officials. Not surprising when you take into account his own advice of “when in doubt, throw a flag”. He needs to go – SOON.

  4. I can’t wait to hear how Mike Pereria spins this on Official Review…just say the ref f’d up Mike…don’t tell us how you almost always get it right, just say they f’d up!!!

  5. If you can get a better view (like from behind the endzone) and Rodgers doesn’t have control of the ball and the ref can argue he “smacks” it forward without establishing control. This would be illegal right?

  6. For what it’s worth Peter King agrees with you:
    From Monday Morning QB
    “The officials screwed up an early safety call on the Packers that, obviously, could have been a huge difference in a one-point Green Bay loss. While being upended in the end zone, Aaron Rodgers threw an underhanded pass that landed about three yards from Packers tight end Tory Humphrey, and ref Alberto Riveron called it an illegal forward pass. Only it wasn’t, because quarterbacks often make underhanded scoop passes, which this was. After the game Riveron called it intentional grounding, and it wasn’t that either, because Humphrey was so close. So this was a gift two points for the Vikes.”

  7. ” And contrary to what folks might be finding elsewhere via Google, the official rules use the term “near or beyond” when describing what a quarterback who’s outside the pocket much do to avoid intentional grounding.)”
    “near” what the —- exactly what does that mean? and these lawyers didnt notice this wording that means nothing?
    these are lawyers who write these rules exactly that way for one reason – they speak the english language well – they are experts at manipulating words and in these cases to keep the ref in control of who wins or loses the game.
    much like down by contact in the past until complaints make them change it , so they invent a new rule for some other play that still gives ref sole control over that type of play.

  8. It just doesn’t matter, they Packers didn’t deserve to win this game, period. OL stinks, DL stinks, LB’s stink, play calling stinks. The better team won, end of report. And I’m a huge Packer fan, and couldn’t hate the Vikings any more then I do. The Packers suck right at the moment

  9. So what you’re saying is Riveron Ed Hochuli’ed the Packers because felt the need to assess a penalty when there shouldn’t have been one and found one he figured he could get behind?
    The reality is this call ultimately wound up being the difference in the game. Vikings fans can celebrate the win all they want (and they will) but just know that it’s a cheap win similar to the way the Broncos won against the Chargers, and if that had happened to you, you would be bitching about it too. Don’t say you wouldn’t, because you’d be lying.
    That being said, that wasn’t the only reason the Packers lost. If Crosby makes that field goal, they win. If that TD pass winds up counting rather than being negated by yet another penalty, they win. If they stop the run on that last drive, they win. Their failure to do just one of those three things cost them the game. They were simply outplayed and on both sides of the ball and quite frankly deserved the loss.
    That’s ok though Vikings fans. You were barely able to get this one, but you got it nonetheless so celebrate it. We’ll be back.

  10. As happens so often in the NFL these days, it was a flag looking for an infraction. “Intentional grounding… No? Er, I mean, Illegal Forward Pass. Yeah, that’s the ticket! Illegal Forward Pass! Oh, that pass was SO illegal!”
    You can count on a flag during every big play in a game and on most third downs. The refs seem to feel compelled to dictate the outcome of every game.

  11. I like the call – not just because I am a Viking fan. I’m sick of rules that protect the quarterback. Rodgers was trying to avoid a safety or a touchdown. There is no way he was really trying to complete a pass – he was just trying get the football out of the end zone. If he says he actually thought he had a chance to complete that pass, he is lying. Then again, it’s not really a lie if you believe it.
    Great “interpretation” call by the ref.

  12. I wish this guy would have been the head offical in the snow game between new england and oakland if he’s going to make calls based on intent of the QB.

  13. Anyway you spin that, I think it should have been a safety. It was clearly just a desperation attempt to avoid getting touched in the endzone, he had no idea where the ball was going or if anyone was even near it. He just slapped it out there. Good play by Kevin Williams regardless though.

  14. jhop20723 says:
    November 10th, 2008 at 9:09 am
    I can’t wait to hear how Mike Pereria spins this on Official Review…just say the ref f’d up Mike…don’t tell us how you almost always get it right, just say they f’d up!!!
    Man, couldn’t have said it better myself. Perera always discusses the human element of the game, how mistakes happen and are unavoidable, quickly followed up by comments like “Given the circumstances, the game official did everything possible to get that call right” …often neglecting the bottom line; did the zebra blow another call???
    This one is obvious. Rodgers made a great effort, the referee made a great effort to cover his own @$$. Fire ’em all.

  15. What is a game official doing giving a post-game interview? Isn’t that against your beliefs that officials shouldn’t intentionally draw attention to themselves, a la Hochuli? Where’s your outrage on that one Florio(s)?

  16. Read the rule again: “Intentional grounding will be called when a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage due to pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion. ”
    Rodgers was “facing an imminent loss of yardage due to pressure from the defense” and he threw “a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion.” He was falling down and his back was to the line of scrimmage. You can’t tell me he even saw the guy he threw the ball near.

  17. Get used to this kind of thing in Commrade Obama’s New America. Pretty soon, everyone will think they can do this.
    Riveron should be fired. Today.

  18. As a Packer fan, I’m putting this behind me. It’s not that the Pack had a an otherwise steller performance. It doesn’t matter how badly the refs screw up anyway; there is no recourse or appeal. Roger runs a dictatorship that gags eveyone who doesn’t work in his office. If the NFL office says anything, it will be to spin this to make incompetent officiating our illusion.
    This fits in well with the dictatorship we’ll now be getting from the Federal Government. We might as well get used to it. The only thing both entities want the rest of us for is our money.

  19. The impact of this call is similar to impact of the “Tuck Rule”. The Tuck Rule was a result of an ugly pass too.
    Now another set of fans feel the pain that the Raiders fans felt.
    The concern for all NFL fans is that this new “Ugly Pass Rule” may be called in future game just like the Tuck Rule is still being called.

  20. Well, as usual, this game is done and it doesn’t matter what the call was. The more I think about the more it doesn’t.
    The Vikes gave the game to Greenbay. The Vikes tanked after taking an 11 point lead and Greenbay gave it back to them. The Pack should have won it 30plus to 21 and couldn’t pull it off.
    Somebody has to win this division wether they want to or not. It’s the rules, somebody has to win. I don’t see the Vikes cleaning house on the remainder of their schedule. The only gimmie might be the Giants. Last game of the season, if the G-men have the East locked up with homefield, why risk injuries to key players against a team doesn’t matter.
    There’s a scenario where the Vikes could back into the playoffs. It looks like based on schedules that the Pack, Bears and Vikes could wind up splitting with each other and dropping at least 2 outside the division.
    All the wildcard slots will go to better divisions. The North has no shot at a wildcard slot. As it stands right now, no team in the NFC North looks like they will just pull ahead.
    It could easily come down to who the G-men don’t want to play in the post season. They could actually let the Vikes win. There will be no homefield advantage in the North for the exception of the first game against a wildcard team. After that whoever gets the North is on the road. The road records for these teams have not been that good at all.

  21. Although my name shows bias, plain and simple the ball was not “potentially” catchable and it did not reach the line of scrimmage. So yes it was not an illegal forward pass but it was indeed intentional grounding. Why has profootballtalk become a site that tries to create big stories? This was one of the last places we as fans to go to avoid sensationalism but this season it has definitely taken a turn.
    And to stop the idiots from crying I’m a Vikes fan, I indeed am not and I was hoping the Vikings would lose so I could make fun of my coworkers all day today.

  22. We need new announcers, watching the bills/pats game noone even picked up on the fact that it wasnt illegal. They just reported it as truth when in fact my 11 year old said “What was illegal about that?”.

  23. Well-since the ref’s job is NOT to devine “intent” but to call what he sees, I personally, think the call sucks. BUT it was no worse than several others in the game–most notably Adrian Peterson pulling his helmet off repeatedly to argue with the refs–that’s a 15-yarder as well, unless of course, you’e the new golden child…..

  24. Intent doesn’t imply to rules. The rules don’t say that you have to try to complete a pass when you throw one. The rules say that if you’re outside of the pocket (he was) you can throw the ball away (he did, doesn’t matter that it was underhanded), BUT the ball has to cross the line of scrimmage (it did). Bad, horrible call by the ref and I hope he’s looking for a new job as we speak.

  25. i am as disappointed as any other pack fan about this loss, and while i DO believe this call was blown, as well as a few others, i won’t blame the calls for our loss. and to say that the packers did not deserve to win the game isn’t really a fair statement. did the vikings “deserve” to win? why? because the pack didnt score an offensive TD? the packers D played well(other than 192 yds to peterson) and well enough to put them in a spot to win with a field goal.
    rodgers shoulder must be worse than people realize, he barely threw the ball yesterday. i know the vikes were putting pressure on him, but there were times where he had 3 or 4 seconds and didnt throw the ball. i didn’t see views of down field, but i refuse to believe that MN had ALL of our WR covered so well that rodgers couldn’t even ATTEMPT a throw…something just isn’t right about that. anyway, refs are blowing WAY WAY WAY WAY WAY too many cals this year. WTF!?

  26. Aren’t most penalties judgement calls?
    If you want to get to the spirit of either penalty, its a QB getting rid of a ball with no reasonable chance of completing it solely to avoid an inevitable sack. There are parameters set to allow this that include throwing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage, being out of the pocket, and in the vicinity of the receiver.
    Rogers neither threw beyond the line of scrimmage or was out of the pocket. It was the third criteria that was the judgement call. Was the receiver within 5 yards? He was on the 10 and the ball hit the 7. But the receiver was also a few yards closer to the sideline (the ball did not drop just in front of him) so it was a judgement call if he was within 5 yards.
    And even if it was measured that the receiver was 4.99 yards from where the ball hit the ground, this was not what determined the final score. If it is called incomplete, it is then 3rd and 20 at the 10 yard line. Odds are that the Packers do not pick up the first down and punt, giving the Vikings the ball near midfield and needing just a little offense to get in FG range, that would have netted the Vikings one more point than the 2 for the safety.
    Not to mention the whole dynamics of the game change. If the Vikings get neither that safety nor a FG afterwards, they don’t go for it on 4th down at their own 41 with 10 minutes left (they were down 3 at the time and could afford to give a a FG if unsuccessful and be within a TD of victory — if they’re down 5 they punt the ball and the Packers do not get their final FG).
    So stop focusing on a borderline judgement call in the first half. The Packers lost, not because of a safety, but because they couldn’t stop Adrian Peterson (especially on the final drive) and couldn’t pass protect Rogers long enough to get the passing game in sync.

  27. “Favre-style desperation underhand throw”
    Sorry, but that would indicate that Rodgers was trying to complete a pass to a receiver. He wasn’t. That was not a pass. He didn’t even look downfield. He was simply trying to bat the ball out of the end-zone to avoid a Vikings TD.
    Good point Olive-Garden.
    Also, Peter King is absolutely full of it.
    He says “Aaron Rodgers threw an underhanded pass that landed about three yards from Packers tight end Tory Humphrey” This statement is flat out wrong. Humphrey was about 10 yards from where that ball hit the turf and he was about 15 yards from a place where the ball could have even been considered catchable. Watch the video… it’s not even remotely close.
    Also, anyone who says this play was the difference in the game is also full of crap. That’s just speculation, and it’s not even realistic speculation at that. Had the Pack not gotten nailed by the Vikings D-Line for a safety, the Packers would have had to punt out of their own end zone, likely resulting in a minimum of a Vikings field goal or TD. So instead of giving up 3 or 7 points, they gave up 2 and got themselves out of terrible field position.

  28. Also, Rodgers was not outside of the pocket. The right tackle lined up on the top hash mark and Rodgers was still within that boundary when he batted the ball. So, if you want to call that bat a pass, fine, but he was in the pocket and there was no receiver in the area.

  29. NFL = Not For Long .. when you make calls like that.
    A little more ummppf on the “flip” and Rodgers looks like Farve completing an impossible pass. We’ve all seen plenty of QB’s “Farve it” and flip the ball underhand, shovel pass, etc.. when in a dire situation. Im no Packers fan but, they got hosed on that one.

  30. Did Rodgers not fumble the ball…So would it not then be an illegal forward pass once a player fumbles the ball, you cannot throw, bat or otherwise advance the ball forward in any motion?? Maybe I am not clear on the rules of a fumble, but if you look at the replays the ball was knocked loose, Rodgers recovered the fumble, and threw it forward.

  31. Can a player even pass the ball after a fumble? And if so, is it because he’s the QB or could any player pick up a fumble and pass the ball?

  32. come on guys. it’s hard to say a ball is not “potentially catchable” when it lands 2 yards away from you. ever seen myth busters? a NFL WR presents a bigger target than an elephant!
    no matter how much you want to convince yourself that it was absolutly a saftey or penalty of any kind, there is still a good argument that the call was blown. whatever though, like STEVE2E said, it doesn’t matter.
    so congrats vikings fans- chilly finally beat the pack, he will keep his job a little while longer, and you STILL wont win the division.

  33. Who cares? Bitching on the internet like a bunch of old ladies isn’t going to change anything.

  34. “this was not what determined the final score” – Didn’t the Vikings win by one point?
    “Was the receiver within 5 yards? He was on the 10 and the ball hit the 7.” Ok then, so what is the point, that it was a bad call? And the best Viking fan comment of the day is “he was just trying to avoid the sack so he just flipped it towards an open WR, that should be a sack.” Can someone tell me which QB in the NFL is trying to take the sack and not avoid it? Just admit it was a horrible call and a call that had a huge impact on the game. There were some suspect calls during crucial drives against the Packers that were as questionable. I think there are going to be some questions on more than just the bad safety call.

  35. If Peter King said it wasn’t a penalty, then it was. I hope he spills his fancy coffee on his lap.

  36. Even though it shouldn’t have been called an illegal forward pass, it should have been called intentional grounding, as he didn’t get the ball near the original LOS. The LOS was the 10, he barely threw the ball to the 7 yd line. That’s not “near or beyond.” I’d also argue that he wasn’t even outside the pocket. It was hard to tell, but it seemed like he was even with the right hashmark, which would mean he’s still in the pocket. It’s intentional grounding, no ifs, ands, or buts.

  37. We first need to eradicate bitter conservative posters whom equate any wrong doing to an oppertunity to bash Obama.

  38. As I told my eight year old who got hosed on a bad call in his soccer game, that’s why you go out and bury an inferior team – so the refs CAN’T decide the game for you. Packer fans always go on about how they were one pass from the Super Bowl last year. Well, are you that good or was last year a fluke? If you ARE that good, you should be able to handle the Vikings easily. Being a fan of neither team, it appeared to me that Green Bay and the Vikings are two very mediocre teams that happen to have a few outstanding individual players.

  39. the ball landed on the 8 yard line so it is near the line of scrimmage as the rule states…it was not batted,rodgers threw in an underhanded motion..there was a receiver at the 6 and one at the 10…that is not a tackle at the top hash that is the te who ran a pass route so Rodgers is out of the pocket…that call did make a difference in the outcome of the game…it would have been 3rd down so you cannot just ASSUME the outcome of the 3rd down play….you cannot just ASSUME the vikes would have gotten a fg or td instead,especially the way frerotte was playing…and the vikes got the ball (don’t remember what they did tho)after the safety anyway in what was a 10 yard difference from the free kick(20 yard line) and where the last play took place before the safety(10 yard line)…again this is no different than a qb throwing the ball directly into the ground on a screen play that has gone to hell as he is solely throwing it into the ground to avoid a sack and imminent loss of yardage and all screens do take place behind the line of scrimmage otherwise your o lineman would be illegally downfield

  40. ‘If you can get a better view (like from behind the endzone) and Rodgers doesn’t have control of the ball and the ref can argue he “smacks” it forward without establishing control. This would be illegal right?’
    no, that would be a fumble

  41. Osiris333 says:
    November 10th, 2008 at 10:03 am
    Get used to this kind of thing in Commrade Obama’s New America. Pretty soon, everyone will think they can do this.
    Way to bring politics into this conversation pin-head.

  42. Why is everyone avoiding the fact that the ball had been FUMBLED?! What are the rules on throwing a fumbled football?

  43. My understanding of the rule is that a quarterback has to be outside the pocket to legally throw the ball away, and the ball has to reach, or go past, the line of scrimmage. Rodgers, when he threw the ball, was still inside the right hashmarks (if they continued into the endzone), which is roughly where Green Bay’s right tackle lined up. That’s usually how they define the area of the pocket, so I don’t think he was outside the pocket. However, the pocket had collapsed, and he was well outside the are where the Green Bay linemen were currently standing, so, for the sake of argument, I’ll give you that part. However, the line of scrimmage was just past the 10 yard line, and the ball landed at the 8. Rodger’s “pass” did not satisfy both parts of the rule, and therefore was intentional grounding.
    The refs made the right call…eventually…when they changed the call to intentional grounding. That ‘illeagal forward pass’ bit was crap.

  44. What’s the big deal?? It only cost my Packers two points.
    Oh, wait a sec, we only lost by one point. Hmmm.
    Thanks for nothing, idiot ref.

  45. It was a bad call at the time and given what has been talked about and observed after the fact it’s even worse now.
    I’m not saying that this cost GB the game but like many other games the refs do have way too much influence on the outcome(s) and that has to stop. The NFL is quickly becoming the NBA in that you really have to question the integrity of the league when you keep seeing this many blown calls (or non-calls).
    The part I don’t understand is how they didn’t use replay to determine whether or not it was an illegal pass or a safety. At the time that was a pretty important call so why not try to get it right????

  46. If that was Favre, the officials would have called it roughing the passer. 1st and 10 Green Bay following the penalty.
    If I were the Packer’s I would be more concerned about the fact the kicker missed a relatively routine game-winning field goal in an indoor stadium long after the 2 point safety.
    Trust me, Crosby makes that field goal, no way in hell the Vikes march down the field for a FG in less than 30 seconds.

  47. “Well-since the ref’s job is NOT to devine “intent” but to call what he sees, I personally, think the call sucks. BUT it was no worse than several others in the game–most notably Adrian Peterson pulling his helmet off repeatedly to argue with the refs–that’s a 15-yarder as well, unless of course, you’e the new golden child…..”
    Golden Child????????? Oh, Brett, Brett, Brett. Get off your high horse.

  48. It was a bad call but you got to love the Viking fans. they are back on the band wagon. I would gladly accept this BS call if it means having Childress at the helm for two more years.

  49. “BUT the ball has to cross the line of scrimmage (it did).”
    The ball was 2 yards shy of the line of scrimmage, if thats crossing it then you need to get a new pair of glasses. Throw everything else out the window except for the fact that it has to go near or beyond the line of scrimmage regardless if the QB is outside the pocket. Yes there was a receiver, about 4 yards away and yes he was outside the pocket, but the ball never got near or beyond the line of scrimmage. 2 yards short is not near the LOS. So with the ball 2 yards shy of the line of scrimmage it is intentional grounding. I don’t understand the confusion with the refs on that. They could have replayed it and seen that it wasn’t to it.

  50. >>most notably Adrian Peterson pulling his helmet off repeatedly to argue with the refs–that’s a 15-yarder as well, unless of course, you’e the new golden child….. <<
    On behalf of all of us that had to watch 15 years of NFC Central/North football where you couldn’t even look sideways at Brett Favre without getting flagged for roughing the passer, let me point out just how hilarious your whining is.
    Wide right.
    Make third grade-level poetry out of that, sparky.

  51. “It was a bad call but you got to love the Viking fans. they are back on the band wagon.”
    There is no bandwagon, stupid. . .except the one carrying all the mold-and-urine wearing Green Bay fans that was last seen careening off a cliff.
    “I would gladly accept this BS call if it means having Childress at the helm for two more years.”
    Brad Childress > Mike McCarthy
    Good thing ol’ Jabba the McCarthy got that big contract extension this off-season. He’ll need that money when he’s looking for a job after 2009.
    Wide right.

  52. Since Florio is such a fan of Sirius Satellite Radio, I hope that he’ll have something on there about Mike Pereira’s visit with Randy Cross this morning, in which he said that the official made the correct call. Since Pereira is the head of NFL officials and all, that should pretty much put an end to that.
    Of course, that doesn’t mesh with his anti-Viking, pro-Packer conspiracy theory, so I’m guessing we won’t hear hide nor hair of it.

  53. Based on the definition given by our VP of Officiating, the genius that he is, the ‘illegal forward pass’ call should be called on every single forward pass thrown in the NFL, as each and every pass is based on the opinion of the referee. Every pass we see is ‘unnatural’ and the rule and any pounts given off this call, or lack thereof, should be dismissed. The NFL VP, genius, needs to ban this call from the referee vocabulary, as it does not exist in the NFL rule book. It was called again today, on a lateral pass that in no way, shape, or form could be considered a forward pass. Do they think we are just idiots watching this game? They all need to go back to referee school, or quit their jobs due to the inaccuarcies and failures they have had this season. This would apply to each and every officiating team I have seen so far this year. What will next season hold if nothing is done now???

  54. There are no stipulations in the rulebook stating that a player isn’t allowed to try and avoid the seemingly inevitable. It is obvious he was trying to avoid a safety. But he was trying to avoid a safety by acting within the rules. Just like running from a d lineman when they are chasing the qb in the end zone, the qb is trying to avoid a safety without breaking any rules. I don’t care if the Packers deserved to lose or not, the officials are ENFORCERS of the rulebook, not JUDGES of the rulebook.

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