To some Jets fans, it looked like an effort to help Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower avoid a penalty. To the league office, it looked like something that happens all the time.
The NFL explains that an official’s redirection of Hightower, who was creeping toward an illegal spot in front of the snapper on a would-be game-winning 58-yard field goal try, is something that happens often.
“It is a standard officiating procedure that occurs regularly,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy said by email. “In fact, it is on [NFL V.P. of officiating] Dean Blandino’s video that went to the teams yesterday and will be on the version of it that goes to the media today.”
McCarthy explained that officials intervene not to keep teams from giving up field position, but to keep players from getting hurt.
“That rule was adopted for player safety purposes, another good reason to help avoid violations in advance,” McCarthy said.
Even if the official hadn’t redirected Hightower, chances are he would have jumped back out when the linemen shifted to a position just outside each shoulder of the snapper. Still, there’s a way the dominoes could have fallen that would have resulted in the Jets getting five more yards, putting the attempt at 53 yards instead of 58.