Leavy explains decision to uphold key Pats fumble


The AFC title game changed dramatically when, after the Ravens opened an eight-point lead on the first snap of the fourth quarter, a run by Pats running back Stevan Ridley resulted in a helmet-to-helmet hit that seemed to knock him out on his feet, causing him to lose the ball on his way to the ground.

But did the ball come out before or after his leg landed flat on the turf after an awkward, twisting flip?

Referee Bill Leavy, who reviewed the play via the on-field replay booth, says it did.

“What I saw was the receiver was going to the ground, had both legs off the ground, no body part was on the ground,” Leavy told a pool reporter after the game, via ESPNBoston.com.  “The ball hit his knee and dislodged from his hand before the rest of his body hit the ground, therefore it was a fumble and we confirmed it.”

Though the presence of the term “receiver” is odd because it was a running play (there’s a chance the error wasn’t Leavy’s), the point is that the ball was indeed knocked loose when it struck Ridley’s leg, which happened before Ridley’s leg landed on the ground.

Not mentioned by Leavy was the helmet-to-helmet nature of the hit that knocked the ball loose.  That’s because helmet-to-helmet hits against runners aren’t prohibited.  Though some believe the rules in this regard are inconsistent or vague, the NFL’s goal is to ensure that players not able to try to avoid a helmet-to-helmet hit shouldn’t be subjected to a helmet-to-helmet hit.  That’s why the rule applies only to players in a defenseless posture, like quarterbacks throwing a pass and receivers just after catching one.

Some may disagree with the reasoning, but that’s the rule — and that’s why Ridley was fair game for a helmet-to-helmet hit.  And for the fumble that resulted when the hit knocked him sufficiently loopy to lose control of the ball.

37 responses to “Leavy explains decision to uphold key Pats fumble

  1. Oh please, dont even go there. It was a fumble, caused by a devastating, legal hit. Way to go Ravens. Superbowl bound. Loving it!

  2. Should have been a personal foul – leading with the helmet call on Pollard. Everyone heard and saw the hit, as well as an unconscious Ridley falling to the ground.

  3. Good call.

    Case closed.

    It’s just a game. I am not going to do anything differently today based on what happened in Atlanta and Foxboro yesterday.

  4. I’m not Pats fan at all, and was happy to see the Ravens win last evening. That said, I was thinking that he was down when the ball came out. It was a close play, no question, but it the refs had ruled him down, I would have completely understood why.

    Great hit on the play. Hope Ridley recovers from it.

  5. I thought he was clearly down and I’m not really a fan of either team. I also think that and the fourth and four brady brain fart really changed the game in favor of the Ravens.

  6. I wonder if Pollard will get a fine for the hit. It looked to me that Ridley lowered his head to take on the contact but these things always seem to go the wrong way.

  7. I love how all of these ravens fans and players are jumping around saying the patriots are arrogant and win with no class. Thus, being guilty of the very thing they accuse the patriots of.

  8. It was definitely a fumble, the refs made the right call and the replay confirmed that.

    But Pollard is the dirtiest player in the NFL these days, and this is just one more example. The NFL needs to change the rules to eliminate ALL helmet-to-helmet hits. We’ve had enough Junior Seau’s.

  9. Pats fan here – that was a fumble. Not sure why people are making a controversy out of it. It was close but they got the call right.

    Having said that, leading with the crown of the helmet is cheap football. But cheap and Bernard Pollard have become synonymous.

  10. I have never seen someone stretch further to call something a fumble in my life, but it really doesn’t matter either way.

    The Patriots were beat at that point.

  11. If you watch the play you will see that Ridley lowered his head and pads to drive into the tackler at the same time that the defender lowered his pads to tackle Ridley. Unfortunate circumstance but legal hit. Hopefully Ridley will fully recover… football is a violent sport… DUH!!!!

  12. It was helmet to helmet because Ridley dropped his head and struck Pollard in the head with his helmet

  13. These rules suck. Mostly because of the inconsistency in which they are called… Pollard was flagged for a defenseless receiver hit he put on Hernandez early in the game yesterday… Then, in the 4th quarter, the Ravens TE Pitts was completely blown up on a hit that was much worse and no flag was thrown… why? In my opinion, both were great hits and neither one should draw a flag… but whatever way its going to be called, be consistent…

  14. The helmet to helmet and ‘defenseless receiver’ rules are just ridiculous and create a randomness to the enforcement which is maddening. There is no allowance made for intent, or lack thereof. I really hope the NFL doesn’t try to start enforcing H2H rulings to runners with the ball (like Ridley last night). Further neutering of NFL defenses is definitely not necessary.

    It is impossible for defenders to adjust mid-air to avoid a descending offensive player. If you look at the call against Ray Lewis in I think the 2nd quarter yesterday – he tries to go lower but the receiver is descending faster than him so the helmets touch. Flag thrown. What was he supposed to do there?

    The very next drive, Pitta gets destroyed over the middle on a clearly H2H hit (no matter what Phil Simms says about it being clean) – no flag.

  15. The running back put his head down before contact. Are we going to call illegal helmet-to-helmet contact on ball carriers? Steven Ridley initiated the contact by putting his head down just before he hit the tackler. It was a good no-call of a penalty and the ball carrier knocked himself out by not following the first rule of running the ball. “Always see where you’re going.”

  16. Watch the replay, Pollard was clearly aiming for Ridley’s chest/where he was carrying the ball. Ridley dips his head almost a foot, which caused the helmet-to-helmit contact.

  17. good luck tackling 5′ 8 rbs who lower their head without making contact with the helmet.

    the defenseless receiver penalties are already ridiculous, as the receiver who crouches to absorb the hit puts the defender in a no win spot.

  18. All the comments from Patriots fans show why they hold the NFL record for consecutive blackouts at 17 games. If you’re going to be a loud mouth, fair-weather, bandwagon fan at least read a rule book; you can only helmet to a defenseless player. Also, Brady proved my point last night, that he is nothing more than a product of the NFL trying to put fans in the stands in Boston. The guys cant throw the ball more than 10 yards accurately.

  19. As ketch20too says, Ridley initiated the helmet to helmet contact with Pollard. I thought he was down by contact when I saw the play, but the consensus seems to be that the ball was already coming out before the leg was down. Either way, it was one of may bonehead moves by the Patriots, starting off with the fake fake punt. Has Bellichick been tested for blows to the head?

  20. Can we just make the NFL review process like college football? Have a full time official in the booth and have him decide—if i have to watch a game official walk over to the “hood” one more time im gonna freak.

  21. If you are going to flag defensive players for hits to the head then you must adjust the rule and flag offensive players for lowering their helmets and using them as a weapon.
    A certain Minnesota running back would never have another 1000 yard season because he wouldn’t be able to use his helmet as a weapon anymore.

  22. Rule needs to be changed to:”any player knocked out cannot fumble.” Protect the players. Clean hit, but the fumble should be disallowed.

  23. As much as I would like to complain about this and a couple other things, the Ravens beat my Pats fair and square. They played tougher, Flacco was better than Brady, and Belichick got out-coached.

    I was actually thinking of rooting (a little) for the Ravens before Suggs opened his big, stupid mouth. Then I remembered what a bunch of whiners and poor-winners they are. GO NINERS!

  24. The explanation sounds reasonable in the context of the rules, but I don’t agree with the rules. “Defenseless posture” is open for interpretation, but I think a direct helmet to helmet hit should be a penalty. I am not sure how Ridley is supposed to defend himself from the crown of another helmet on a play like that, so what gives? Ridley was knocked out from the hit, & the ball hit his leg because he was unconscious & is not in control of his body or the ball.

  25. A proper tackle does not include head down. Sometime in the future a player will become paralyzed on a hit like that, & it most likely will be the tackler. That will change the rules.

  26. The runner lowered his head. And he’s a runner. Shouldn’t apply. But shouldn’t have applied til the ray Lewis hit either. Bull that defensive players get penalized for offensive players actions, then the hit on pitta want called. They really tried to give the game to the pats, didn’t they? They just sucked too bad

  27. This was a good call by letter of the rule. But it doesn’t explain how Bill Leavy is still a ref in the NFL.

  28. Leavy and his crew are as much a joke as the replacements. He made this call from the couch instead of being the impartial force on the field real time. Dude, you’re paid to make calls!

    The Ravens are nothing if they don’t play rough and the League knows it and lets it go. Tackling by the helmet, always leading with the helmet to tackle and getting that one more hit in after the whistle are their trademarks that bums like Leavy are afraid of managing which only leads to injuries.

    Football is a rough sport, but letting the Ravens play dirty and loose shows the refs, League and the players themselves aren’t committed to safety.

  29. Very tough call based on how close it was either way, but the right call.

    Pats fan.

    I’m more concerned about Ridley’s health anyway. That fumble wasn’t even close to being the biggest reason they lost.

  30. Ridley lowered his helmet to meet the Ravens helmet. Wasn’t the first time that happened. Ray Lewis was flagged on a play after NE did the same. This was mentioned on Sirius XM Radio this morning, and was plainly evident on the field. And by the way, it’s illegal for Brady to kick Ed Reed. Where was the flag for that all you Ravens haters?

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