Lack of cameras on the goal line limits refs’ replay rulings


One of the most fundamental questions in football — whether the ball crossed the goal line — is often the subject of instant replay review. Too often, there’s simply no replay angle that can definitively answer that most fundamental of questions.

That was the case on two different occasions in San Francisco on Sunday, as the Rams won with the help of two very close calls, one at the end of the first half and one at the end of the game. In both cases, there was no definitive replay angle that showed whether the ball crossed the goal line, and therefore the referee had to defer to what had been called on the field. In both cases, the Rams benefitted.

Most of the attention this week has gone to Colin Kaepernick’s attempt to sneak into the end zone at the end of the game, which could have been a game-winning touchdown but became a game-losing fumble. Kaepernick insists he’s positive he still had the ball when he crossed the goal line, but the officials weren’t so sure, and the replay angles were inconclusive.

But the Kaepernick play wasn’t the only close call at the goal line in that game. At the end of the first half, Rams return man Tavon Austin caught a missed field goal, started to run it out of the end zone, attempted to reverse course just as he was crossing the goal line, and eventually was tackled and brought down in the end zone. The officials on the field ruled that Austin’s forward progress had been stopped in the field of play, although the 49ers thought they had tackled Austin in the end zone and deserved a safety. Again, the referee said there was no conclusive replay angle.

NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said in a video released by the league that there’s simply no way for the referee to make a definitive ruling if there’s no camera on the goal line.

“There just wasn’t anything definitive,” Blandino said. “Very difficult to tell from this angle, and we really need a shot down the goal line. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that. . . . With a goal line shot we would’ve been able to make a definitive ruling, but with the angles available it just wasn’t there.”

That raises a question: Why don’t the NFL and its network partners agree to have a camera fixed at each goal line at all times during every game? That would serve the referee, the teams and viewers at home well. It wouldn’t clear up every call — sometimes even when there is a camera at the goal line, it’s unclear where the ball is because players are blocking the camera’s view — but it would clear up enough calls that it would be worth doing.

67 responses to “Lack of cameras on the goal line limits refs’ replay rulings

  1. I always wondered why there wasn’t a permanent camera on each goal line. Maybe it just made too much sense.

  2. A billion dollar business can’t figure out simple problems. Cameras are not that expensive. There should be a camera on each sideline at the goal line as well as one directly above each goal line. That would be six cameras. There should be one on each sideline at the back line of the endzone. That would be four more. and one looking from the back corner of each endzone down each sideline. That would be four more. These cameras could be permanently placed at each NFL venue and be in addition to the broadcast cameras.

    It is also time to raise the uprights another 20 feet so no kick goes over the top of the upright.

  3. As a fan of the ream on the receiving end of both terrible blow calls that gave away the game and our season likely, I fully hartedly agree that there needs to be 2 fixed cameras on each goal line as well as the overhead looking straight down on the play from overhead, as well as a time code for each camera so they can cross reference when the ball came out of Kap’s hands lined up to where his body position was to see that it was in fact a game winning TD.

  4. They need to put cameras built into the pylons. Never mind it’s ridiculous to think a multi-billion dollar business could make that happen.

  5. Too many cameras and replays as it is. Play the game the way it was meant to be played, instead of being a videogame.

  6. why spend money to have problems fixed when you save money by fining and suspending players to appease feminists and submissive white knight beta males?

  7. Just 4 days later, a camera view down the goal line helped confirm a Browns TD which is confusing as hell as it happen. You had runner lose the ball, back judge calling touchback and offside penalty, etc.

    If the NFL is going to take the lead and have central location for Head Officiating guy is going to communicate then they need to come with standard placements.

    You can’t be 100% accurate everytime but at the very least you can say you have the possibility to do so. Sometimes a player will block the view, that something fans can accept.

  8. They should have a lazer down the line with some kind of tracking system that only picks up the ball

  9. Best coach in football already suggested it. In the ways that the dark hoody would.

    Bill Belichick playfully suggested the NFL hold a “bake sale” to pay for the extra cameras it would take to cover all boundary lines to aid instant replay.

    “We just spent however many millions of dollars on the replay system. I mean, there are 1,000 cameras in every stadium, so if somebody spills a beer on somebody, we have it on record, right?,” Belichick said Tuesday at the NFL meetings. “Maybe we could have a bake sale to raise some money for the cameras. We could do a car wash.”

  10. Yeah, how about if we stop blaming two calls for the 49ers’ loss and the Rams’ win. How about the bogus early whistle on Gore’s clear fumble, which would have resulted in a Rams touchdown? Worst call in the game. C’mon people. “The 49ers were robbed!” In your dreams. Take your loss and move on.

  11. Put a chip in the ball and an underground wire sensor along the goal line. Activate the wire, when there’s likely to be a goal line dive. Could also indicate a safety (as in the first half play).
    When the chip crosses the wire…ding! ding! ding!

    Or, borrow Belichick’s cameras. There in the visitor1s locker room…check behind the heat vent.

  12. There are dozens of things that could be changed to improve the quality and fairness of the game. Everything that is a problem to complain about has a solution to it, and there are still a lot of rather simple problems that haven’t been solved let alone the slightly complicated and very complex problems that also exist.

    It’s not even accurate to say there isn’t conclusive evidence to determine some of these rulings because there are plenty of images from different angles and one could theoretically take the time to measure where a ball is located by taking the actual measurements of bodies in the picture that serve as reference points and processing through a math/measurement analysis if necessary to figure out the location of the ball. This can be done unless the ball position is in a blind-spot when possession is lost.

    It would take a very long time to process sans computers/cameras/technology, which means that until the NFL powers in charge care enough to solve replay inadequacy problems on plays that aren’t at the mercy of an untimely blind spot the referees should stop saying there is inconclusive evidence and instead state:

    “The conclusive evidence that does exist is too complicated and time consuming to analyze within a reasonable amount of time to determine what the correct call is, so we shall defer to the initial guesswork.”

  13. I believe MLB had tiny cameras in front of home plate a few years ago that looked up at the batter/catcher. If they can put a camera in the field of play that does not alter the game then certainly the NFL can find the money to put cameras on the goal lines. It may not solve the goal line issue but it can’t hurt.

  14. Hello fortywhiners, Vinny Testaverde’s helmet says hello.

    Seattle Seahawks

  15. here’s a thought, why doesn’t the leader of the NFL get his head out of his butt and actually come up with a solution to something like stationary camera’s that can zoom in to specific lines… like every person who watches football games thinks of when watching.
    Oh that’s right, he’s too busy making the league billions of dollars and making decisions that either alienate his entire fanbase or cause him to have to compound earlier issues with ruling’s that he screwed up to begin with.
    Or he’s off spending some of the 40-50 million dollars he makes…

    -get him out of office now.

  16. Because, it’s about the money. It’s not about what team wins or loses. If they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. It’s always about the money.

  17. Goal line technology is already in use in several sports. Time for the NFL to join this century.

  18. I’ve been asking that question for years. Since replay is a part of the game (and baseball will learn this too), there should be the same amount of cameras at every game, from pre-season to the Super Bowl, no exceptions. Right now, the networks can say “oh, it’s Tennessee and Jacksonville, we’ll send our 6th level announcers and a minimum of cameras” (e.g. only one high end-zone camera for FGs and PATs regardless of which end, no reverse angle cameras across the field) – while NBC and ESPN have a full set of cameras all over the stadium for the Sunday and Monday night games.

    The NHL learned quickly – they have the fixed cameras overhead aimed straight down, mini-cams in the nets, and right behind the glass, at the 2 goals. When a goal goes to replay in Toronto, they have clear shots all the time.

    However many cameras were at the last Super Bowl, that’s what should be at every game – including 4 cameras for the goal lines, one on each side at both ends of the field.

  19. I just watched my 9-year old granddaughter run in a 1-mile “cross country” race for the third grade girls. Each runner had a chip in their runner’s number and we knew the exact instant they crossed the finish line. There was no controversy. It didn’t require a camera. If 2 runners were neck and neck, we knew who won. No cameras, no multiple views, no replay.

    You mean the NFL with their billions can’t figure this out and put a chip in the football and wire the goal line? The third-grade girls can.

    And by the way, they really did have a bake sale and a car wash to pay for it.

  20. The issue with this call wasn’t that there was no conclusive evidence to overturn the call. The real issue I had is with the initial call in the first place. The ball is clearly picked up in the end zone by Laurianitis. The NFL said that the ref saw the ball come loose before reaching the goal line. But if you watch the play in real time, you’ll see that not a single ref rushed to the pile to see who had possession as they do in fumble-pile ups. No ref blew the play dead. Laurianitis came away with the ball, then the refs all looked at one another, then one of them out of nowhere hesitantly called fumble. A solid goal-line angle on this play would have most likely overturned the initial call. But that doesn’t fix the issue of a horrible call that would subject the outcome of the game to instant replay in the first place. The referees have been terrible this year all around. There have been more of these calls all across the board this year that even the strike season. The NFL needs to have a better system in training the refs and reprimanding them for these stupid calls, more than it needs technology to fix them.

  21. There are other issues with replay that should be fixed and would not cost a thing. Close plays, for example, are inconsistently reviewed. If a runner stretches for the goal line and the ref signals TD, it is automatically reviewed to make sure he is right. If he would not have signaled TD on that same play it would not be reviewed unless the coach challenges. Same with fumbles and interceptions. If they are called they are reviewed. If they are not called then the coach must challenge. That system is stupid and the review is solely based on what the ref initially calls. The fix is to review all close plays such as this. If you are going to review to make sure a score or turnover happened then you need to review to make sure they didn’t. The point is to get those crucial game changing calls right without penalizing either team in the process.

  22. Well, that’s what happens when Jeff Fisher is a part of the competition committee.

    The most overrated head coach of my lifetime got a win that he never deserved.

  23. Cameras are expensive. You all act like the NFL has a bunch of extra money to throw around.

  24. I like the idea of a sensor in the ball to know if it in fact crossed the goal line, but, a sensor will not help determine if the player had possession of the ball while it crossed. Which I believe was the whole issue with the kaepernick play at the end of the rams game.

  25. dennisatunity says: Nov 7, 2014 8:38 PM

    You mean the NFL with their billions can’t figure this out and put a chip in the football and wire the goal line? The third-grade girls can.
    There’s a real reason they can’t chip the ball – Any part of the ball can touch any part of the front of the goal line and be a touchdown. In theory, the laces can break the plane and be good for 6. There’s no place to put a single chip that would cover every external point of the ball – if the chip is in the middle of the ball, it wouldn’t know the endpoint of the ball got there… or if you put a chip at each end, what if the ball carrier has it sideways? And they don’t want to coat the entire surface of the ball with some detectable material because that could make it harder to handle.

  26. MLB has cameras embedded in the dirt near 1st base. Not really difficult to place one and no, players wouldn’t get hurt on them. Even using the old tried and true broadcast camera on the sidelines will work. The Browns/Bengals game had one and they could clearly see the action going on at the line.

  27. You guys proposing the sensor chip idea in the football to react with crossing the goal line, that won’t work because it doesn’t prove a thing related to possession. It doesn’t matter if the ball crossed the goal line at all if it’s not secure in Krappernick’s hands.

  28. PFT would be more interesting if it had an opinion article.
    An opinion on this is decades old and this problem should have been remedied.
    I think this article just reinforces the fact that that NFL should listen to its critics more often.

  29. How about GPS the football? Kind of like when the NHL put that chip in the puck a few years back.

  30. More cameras aren’t the answer…. Just because someone feels cheated doesn’t mean we need more cameras.

    Bad calls are part of the game. It’s called human error.

    Soon you all will want a chip in the ball that goes off when the ball crosses

  31. sosuhme says:
    Nov 7, 2014 9:01 PM
    Cameras are expensive. You all act like the NFL has a bunch of extra money to throw around.
    Maybe the NFLPA can exempt some money for extra camera systems from the pool. Split it 50/50. You know, like partners do. Or is that just what they say when looking for more cash?

  32. I keep hearing people talk about chips and such in the ball. First off, it may throw off the balance of the ball, so I don’t think it will happen. But, also, it is a large ball, how many chips would you need? It isn’t as simple as one chip in a ball, as any part of the ball to cross the goalline is a TD. At a bare minimum, you would need two, one in each tip of the ball, but it isn’t always the tip that is the first to cross. And, that still wouldn’t clear up whether a knee or elbow was down first, only that the ball crossed the line at some time after the snap of the ball. It isn’t as simple as some would have you believe.

  33. You people who think you are so clever by suggesting a chip in the football and a wire or laser or whatever to confirm whether the ball crossed the goal line are missing one key point.

    That does nothing to determine whether the ball was in possession when it broke the plane. Or whether or not the offensive player was down by contact when the ball broke the plane. Or whether or not his forward progress was stopped, etc.

  34. whinerhater says: Nov 7, 2014 7:35 PM

    FortyWhiners would still find a way somehow to whine and complain


    Cute name. Hahaha

  35. The NHL has it right…cameras all over the net and the calls are immediately looked at by a braintrust. The NFL sucks when it comes to getting the simple things right.

  36. Though I’m not sure why, the NFL (refs) have had it in for the Niners since the super bowl year against the ravens. Time and after time, game after game, terrible calls.

    The naysayers dont watch football closely, every play

    They will never remove referee judgement calls like this from the game, taking the game out of the referees hands with cameras. That would take away the refs abilities to control outcomes of games.

    NFL is rigged, folks

  37. tim81new says:
    Nov 7, 2014 7:39 PM
    why spend money to have problems fixed when you save money by fining and suspending players to appease feminists and submissive white knight beta males?


    This “beta male” will take your girl and eat your chicken . While you beat your chest like an ape..

  38. Poor Rams. They can’t win a game without rules be created to prevent them from winning in the future.

  39. but then how will the refs alter the out come of games with extra cameras? its already hard enough making all those phantom holding calls and tuck rules to make sure a team wins.

  40. they could have go-pros planted all along every goal-line and still get calls totally wrong.

  41. what I don’t understand is that the league can’t definitively make a call. I saw at least one replay angle that definitively showed Kapernick lose the ball before his knee was down, and it clearly showed the ball hit in FRONT of the GL. What was very UNCLEAR was what happened after that.

    So how Kapernick can claim he took it into the endzone, when it clearly showed him dropping it about a foot before he crossed the plane. What I don’t know is if he recovered it and took it across.

  42. How about the ref makes a call, the game goes on and we all move on with our lives? Replay amongst other things has begun to ruined football

  43. I remember when ABC did MNF (Yes i know they own ESPN) but they had cameras everywhere, including the goal line. They also had “Reverse Angle Replay”…why don’t the other networks use that?

  44. During the MLB Playoffs, FOX had a camera mounted in the ground right in front of home plate, looking up at the batter and catcher. Clearly, if baseball can do something creative to install that camera, the NFL should be able to do something too.

  45. NatGeo uses small,almost indestructable cameras hidden in fake objects to view wildlife life polar bears etc so why cant the nfl use these same cameras and attach them to both endzone pylons to have a direct view of the goal line. simple solution.

  46. All of the technology is great, as long is it doesn’t lengthen games. Fans are used to NFL games taking 3 hours (give or take). As long as they don’t do anything to make games even longer, bring on the cameras, replays, and whatever other technology they can come up with to get the calls right.

  47. How about outlawing stupid calls like having Kaepernick QB sneak at the goal line?

    Your team has Frank Gore and you let your puny QB try to sneak it over the goal line?!

    You deserved to lose with that stupid play call!

  48. At most it would require 2 chips in the ball, one under each end of the laces. Using geometry and the signal from each chip, you could easily tell exactly where any point of the ball was. Synced with the cameras, the moment the ball crossed the plane of the goal line, you stop the video there and start analyzing everything prior. Very easy.

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