Jets-Pats finish includes another field-goal controversy

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Last year, the Patriots lost to the Jets on a field goal, thanks to the throwing of a flag on a failed effort that gave the Manhattanites a Mulligan.

This year, the Jets didn’t get a second chance to get their first win since Week One.

It happened on the last play of the game, a 58-yard field goal try that would have delivered, if good, a 28-27 victory for the Jets.  As explained (and demonstrated with an Instagram video that probably won’t be up for very long unless the dude who posted it acquired the express, written consent of the NFL) by Dom Cosentino of, an official seems to keep Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower from lining up directly over the center at the snap of the ball.

Rule 9, Section 1, Article 3 provides that any player within one yard of the line of scrimmage on a field goal try “must have his entire body outside the snapper’s shoulder pads at the snap.”  So if Hightower had planned to walk up to the center — and to remain right in front of him until the snap — a flag would have (or at least should have) been thrown, and the Jets would have (or at least should have) gotten a chance to kick the ball from five yards closer.

So is it appropriate for an official to help a guy avoid a penalty by getting him lined up the right way?  Some would argue persuasively that officials should let nature takes its own course, allowing the improper alignment and then enforcing the rule against it.  Others would point out that officials routinely help players get properly lined up so that the game isn’t bogged down with flags; for example, receivers often check with the line judge or the head linesman to ensure that they are on or off the line of scrimmage before the snap.

We’ve asked the league for comment on whether it’s appropriate for the officials to intervene in this specific situation.

Ultimately, it may not matter.  Right after Hightower is steered away from the snapper, the Patriots’ entire defensive line shifts on both sides, sliding into position just outside the snapper’s shoulder pads on either side.  If Hightower was planning to walk all the way up to the snapper, he probably didn’t plan on staying there.  It looks like the goal was to distract the snapper, with the intent of stepping back out as the other players shifted.

Of course, the snapper could have opted under those specific circumstances (if they had happened) to initiate the play prematurely, hopeful that the flag would be thrown and the 58-yard try would become a 53-yard attempt.

We don’t know what would have happened because the official kept Hightower from completing his walk up to the line of scrimmage directly over the snapper.

UPDATE 9:32 a.m. ET:  The NFL tells PFT that this is “standard operating procedure,” aimed at promoting player safety.

65 responses to “Jets-Pats finish includes another field-goal controversy

  1. Oh, for the love of bacon. You’re giving the tinfoil hat spyhaters more non-stories to whine about.

    This happens – as is noted in the story – all the time. Also, as noted in your story, the entire line shifted, and he never would have been lined up there at the snap. Why fuel the crazies?

  2. They do it all the time. Quit looking for something here and watch other games. DUH!!!! You don’t want officials to effect game outcomes and now you do? Make up your mind.

  3. Brady And BB wont win a Super Bowl this year so who cares ,,,,,neither will the Jets so its all irrelevant !

  4. I recall this happening once before because it was on a “mic’d up” thing and it was pretty funny. An official tried to move a Jets player away from the center and after the play he was like “Don’t be grabbin’ my butt! Who was that!?” and then the official explains it was him and the guy from the Jets was cool with it. It was within the past couple years but I don’t remember who on the Jets or when.

  5. Apparently the controversy is all in your head. If you’re going to put every play under a microscope (even more than the referees, league offices, and opposing coaches), can you do this for EVERY team? Or is every Patriots narrow victory fodder for your sub-mental conspiratorial mind?

  6. and here-in; the World gets a glimpse at what it is like to be a Jets fan!

    The most pathetic organization in the history of the league… Only Jacksonville (if they had been around longer) could touch these losers.

  7. If you look at the play, Hightower was already starting to move (his leg makes a step) as the ref touched him. This happened at the same time the line all moved toward the center of the line. This seems like a predetermined defensive set. That said, Hightower can stand there as long as he moves before the ball is snapped.

  8. As said, if receivers can check with the refs to make sure they are on side and lined up properly (and coaches can make arrangements for time-outs), I’m not seeing the problem here. Especially if the league views it as a safety issue.

  9. This is the league taking care of their favored sons. Look no further than the refs giftwrapping a win for the Patriots against the Browns last year on a phantom call at the end of the game.

  10. Nah nobody is falling for this trap. At the end of the day, the Jets defense failed them and the teams inability to score touchdowns cost them the game. Geno Smith does not have a real no. 1 WR threat and it shows. He is getting better. Its a shame that a W did not result based on a very good game on his part.

  11. refs are to officate not make an outcome possible…He should be fired… The integrity of the game is fragile any thought that games are fixed like the NBA, and WWE
    all will be side show game.

  12. The only controversy is why the catch by the Jets receiver that was bobbled out of bounds on the last drive wasn’t reviewed.

  13. i would say the bigger controversy was the catch that wasnt reviewed, 2 plays prior. ball was moving as the receiver was getting out of bounds. maybe it was a fine catch, but should have been reviewed

  14. I believe that if it had been any other team and referee that the ref wouldn’t have prevented the team from committing a potential penalty.

    If their goal was to prevent penalties there would never be an illegal formation penalty because they’d “correct” the player before the play starts.

  15. The Pat’s seem to own the officials. Look at the calls in the Buff-NE game last week. How many times have you seen the Pat’s run pick plays and never get called, but the officials call it twice against the Bills.

  16. Really? I’ve seen refs do that many times during many games to protect the long snapper. Just fans looking for a way to blame everyone else but their team. I hate the Pats, but the refs actions was not cheating. Pats can do that on their own.

  17. No question…..the official should be reprimanded. It is his job to penalize the player/team when he violates a rule and not to aid or assist the player in the prevention of committing a penalty – especially in that situation. Definitely a conflict of interest.

  18. I bet the ref’s doing this happens on more field goals and PATs than you realize. I’d almost be willing to say that it happens at least once or twice during every game. It’s usually when the lineman is lined up just offset to one side of the snapper, but still inside of the snappers shoulderpads. Most times the lineman doesn’t move and no flags are thrown.

  19. He wasn’t within 1 yd of the line of scrimmage (easily 3+ yds deep) the rule 9-1-3a doesn’t apply.

    “a Team B player, who is WITHIN ONE YARD OF THE LINE OF SCRIMMAGE, must have his entire body outside the snapper’s shoulder pads at the snap”

  20. Who are these “Manhattanites” to whom you refer? I doubt many long-time Jets (including Rex Ryan) live anywhere but New Jersey.

  21. nflfan4
    Really now? Brandon LaFell has been called at least 4 times this season on pick plays alone. Amendola at least once. Heck LaFell was called on a pick play during last nights game. LOL

  22. If you look at the yard markers, the LB was about 5 yards away from the Center. That’s not exactly breaking the rule is it? Perhaps the ref is entitled to stand there to view the snap and hold and was simply moving the LB out of the way.

  23. As a Pats fan I freely admit that the Jets should have won that game. However, it also played out exactly as I’d hoped: Pats win and humiliate Rex Ryan at the last minute, but in a way that’ll probably let him keep his job (since we all know the Jets are bound to go on a run to 7-9 or 8-8 once the games no longer matter). Only thing missing was the need to bring back Mark Sanchez to reunite football’s greatest comedy duo, and I thought we’d even gotten that when Geno went out briefly after that knee hit. Soon, my precious, soon.

  24. Attention all Patriot haters and conspiracy theorists: PFT has now established its own controversy, please insert your remarks below and be sure to make them shrill, over-the-top and preferably paranoid. Thank you for your cooperation.

  25. Where to even start. How about the putz that thinks the pats never get called for pick plays. It happened last night you putz. And not only did it happen last night, but Amendola has had 8 or so catches taken off the board this year because lafell was called for offensive pass interference. It is a running joke between my brother and I. Every time Amendola catches a pass we look for the lafell offensive pass interference flag. So give me a break with that lame complaint

    As far as the officials from last night? Christ were they in the tank for New York. Geno running toward the right sideline with the ball in his right arm. Runs out with his left shoulder just short of the sticks. Ref puts the ball down, notices it is short, respots the ball and gives them the first down. Or on the jets opening drive, the 3rd down run to the right, amaro was holding mccourty so bad it changed his direction and the refs didn’t see it. Maybe the catch just a few plays before the field goal in question. The ball was being bobbled as he went out of bounds. I wanted them to throw the challenge flag and realized they couldn’t because it was under 2:00. Where the hell was the review. When nfl network showed the replay it was clear as day he didn’t “have possession” when he went out of bounds. Revis got called for defensive holding on picture perfect defense. You couldn’t teach it any better than that. It’s ridiculous. Brady got pushed to the ground after he throws the ball and no penalty? Then devey gets a penalty for standing up to him, as brady is pushed to the ground a second time. And everyone acts like brady gets super protection from the refs, laughable

    The officials suck every week. And one team always gets favorable treatment

  26. ^^^
    Chuck Norris, you get it… also how about that “holding” call on Browner when his hand grazed the Jets receivers shoulder. Anyone that thinks the refs were trying to help NE should have their heads examined.

  27. two things:

    given the pat’s last season loss to the jets under a similar scenario, the officials are helping them how exactly?…and what ABOUT that bobbled ‘catch’ that wasn’t reviewed?

    yeah, i agree some of the officiating in the NFL is inept, bogus and in certain instances downright corrupt, but why whine about it? it’s all part of the game…but there is another factor; competitive, intense players who do their damnedest in an effort to make their team win. what if one official wants one team to win, for whatever reason, and another wants the opposite result?

    …did somebody actually refer to the ‘integrity of the game’, fragile or otherwise?

  28. Funny how all you people ignore that the Pats have had numerous phantom calls against them this year that were clearly not penalties, and yet when the refs do something that they do all the time with all teams it suddenly becomes the refs “helping the Pats” or “cheating” or whatever.


    Its called a double standard and it invalidates what you have to say.

  29. As much as i would like to jump on the conspiracy bw, this happens all the time. WRs check with the ref almost every play. If they score a TD and the ref told him to get lined up properly, is that also meddling?

  30. I am not a Jets fan or Pats fan, but I saw worse than this from the Refs last night. 1) the sideline catch by the jets on the final drive, at a minimum, should have been reviewed. Maybe it was a catch, maybe it wasn’t, but it was worthy of a review. 2) The Pats committed Pass interference on the two-point conversion. That was a critical non-call. Maybe the jets would have botched another attempt, but they deserved another chance, because pass interference did occur.

    Lastly, (and i don’t want to make this about last nights game…it’s just a general stance on the topic) I think there is a big difference between a player asking a ref if his alignment or position is correct, and a ref being pro-active and telling a player his alignment or position on the field is incorrect. I don’t think the refs should be allowed to pro-actively offer up a correction. However, if a player ask for confirmation, I have no problem with the refs providing that confirmation or telling the player he needs to adjust. The interaction should be initiated by the player and not the ref.

  31. What is one good reason why he would line up over the center, when it is a flag unless that’s where he was going to stay? What would be the benefit or why even do it if he was going to shift out anyway? Does the refs help teams line up to avoid illegal formation plays?…..NO.

  32. If anything, this should have helped the Jets because the snapper wouldn’t have been blasted as soon as he hiked it or have been distracted by the thought of getting nailed.

  33. I seem to remember a Packers game, a few years back now.. where the refs didn’t move the player, but after the field-goal, threw the flag.

    If memory serves, it cost the Packers that game.

    Has the rule allowing refs to move players been added/changed?

    If the refs can move a player, then why are there “Lined up in the Neutral zone” infractions?

    It has to be consistent, one way or the other.

  34. Ashevillebucs makes a good point about who should be initiating the “correction”. I am not suggesting this is reality, but what if hightower went to the red before the play and asked him to let him know if he was in the wrong spot. Isn’t that the same as a receiver asking a red if he is onside prior to the snap? Is there a time limit on wen the red is allowed to help the player get lined up? You are making the assumption that the ref simply proactively went out of his way to help the pats avoid a penalty. But that is just one theory. The other thing I can think of, what if hightower was there because he was trying to center himself on the defensive lineman so that he could call out a signal to shift. Someone on the defense called it out because all the lineman moved at the exact same time. Perhaps hightower simply wanted to be in position where he was equal distance from all of the lineman for when he made his call. And the. He was going to close back to a legal position?

  35. Bottom line is that the Jets blew their chances at winning this game. They outplayed the Pats in many ways but still cannot find the needed killer instinct to finish drives in the red zone with TD’s instead of field goals.
    Even one TD instead of the FG would have given them a win. I still blame much of the Jets woes on Idzik and his refusal to bring in the players we needed in free agency. We lost this game because we needed better corners and receivers period. But he is waiting till Rex is gone and he can name his own H.C. before he invests in the players needed to win games.

  36. Yea Pats fans. Just imagine had the Pats been the kicking team in this situation. I’m sure your reaction would be ” The ref did nothing wrong” Patty please.

  37. It was handled correctly. At all levels of football, keeping contact off the center is standard procedure. You don’t wait for a long snapper to be paralyzed and then throw a flag.

  38. cadera2014 says:Oct 17, 2014 9:02 AM

    Jets fans have the same inferiority complex to the Patriots that Red Sox fans have toward the Yankees. Ironic.

    Yep, and Red Sox fans feel about Jeter, the way Jets fans feel about Brady…. Oh no wait, we have Pedroia.


  39. If you want to start a controversy, don’t look at the FG. Just go back to the first half, when Amaro dropped that pass. Standing still, two feet on the ground, facing Smith, no pressure, ball right into the chest… come on man!

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