If the Packers had beaten the Giants by seven points or fewer on Sunday, the NFL offices in Manhattan would have been besieged by calls, emails, pitchforks, and/or torches as to the failure of referee Bill Leavy to overturn a ruling on the field that Packers receiver Greg Jennings had lost possession of the ball in the first quarter before he was down.
Even though the Giants won the game by 17 points, Leavy’s indisputable failure to find that indisputable evidence existed to reverse the non-fumble finding has made a major stir. The league has explained the decision.
“Rule 7, Section 2, Article 1 of the NFL Rule Book (page 35) states: ‘An official shall declare the ball dead and the down ended: (a) when a runner is contacted by a defensive player and touches the ground with any part of his body other than his hands or feet,'” the league said in a statement emailed to PFT by NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. “So by rule, if Jennings’ calf was on the ground prior to the ball coming loose, he is down by contact. Contrary to what was suggested during the game, there is no need for the runner’s knee to be on the ground.”
That’s a not-so-subtle slap at FOX, whose broadcasters (including rules analyst and former NFL V.P. of officiating Mike Pereira) believed that Leavy had committed a pretty big blunder. In the end, Leavy’s decision apparently flowed from uncertainty based on the video as to whether Jennings’ calf was on the ground before he lost possession of the ball.
“Rule 15, Section 9 of the Rule Book (page 98) governs instant replay reviews and states: ‘All Replay Reviews will be conducted by the Referee on a field-level monitor after consultation with the other covering official(s), prior to review. A decision will be reversed only when the Referee has indisputable visual evidence available to him that warrants the change,'” the league said in the statement.
“Referee Bill Leavy conducted the instant replay video review and determined that there was no indisputable visual evidence to warrant reversing the on-field ruling of down by contact. As a result, the ruling on the field stood.”
That’s fine, and we appreciate the explanation. But the video clearly showed the ball coming out before any part of Jennings’ leg was on the ground.
Many of you will assume that the league is merely circling the wagons on this one. Even though the NFL has been candid in the past about some officiating mistakes, that assumption seems to be valid this time around.