Momentum builds for replay review of hits on defenseless players

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Sunday’s roughing the passer call in the 49ers-Seahawks game has a strong similarity to last Sunday’s unnecessary roughness call in the Patriots-Chargers game.  Both calls flow from the rule against certain types of hits on defenseless players.

For a quarterback in the pocket and a receiver in the process of making a catch, the relevant rule is identical.  No hits are permitted to the head or neck area, and no hits can be made elsewhere to the defenseless player with the hairline or crown of the defender’s helmet.

In the aftermath of the flag thrown on Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner for the hit against Chargers tight end Ladarius Green, PFT reported that the question of whether such hits will be subject to replay review could be placed on the Competition Committee’s offseason agenda.  In the aftermath of Sunday’s hit by 49ers linebacker Nick Moody against Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the issue will be placed on the Competition Committee’s agenda.

But here’s the catch.  For the same reason the Browner penalty wouldn’t have been overturned via replay review, the flag thrown on Moody most likely would have been upheld.  The replays of the hit do not show indisputable visual evidence that the ruling on the field was incorrect.

Despite the hue and cry against the call from referee Ed Hochuli (including an admission by NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino that a mistake was made), the rules expressly prohibit “[l]owering the head and making forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/’hairline’ parts of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body.”  It appears that Moody put the forehead/”hairline” of his helmet into Wilson’s chest.

Players, coaches, commentators, league executives, and/or fans may not like that, but the rule currently prohibits use of the forehead/”hairline” of the helmet against a defenseless player.  Perhaps instead of making such plays subject to replay review, the rules should be revised to permit use of the forehead/”hairline” of the helmet in a spot other than the head or neck area of a defenseless player.

70 responses to “Momentum builds for replay review of hits on defenseless players

  1. What if the replay shows the ref wasn’t in a position to see the “penalty” in the first place? Hey Ed, nobody came to the game to see your gun show.

  2. The Coaches should have the ability to challenge EVERYTHING!!! Just limit the amount of challenges they can make per half. Why is this such a hard concept to comprehend!?!?

  3. After Hochuli stood by his call with the hairline explanation postgame, I was surprised Blandino said the call was incorrect, a rebuke that could tick off the ref union. I don’t think the call was in the spirit of the rule, as if you raise your head and roll off going to the ground, the form was as perfect as you could expect given the physical reality that a player’s head is well above his shoulders.

  4. While we’re at it, are there any other NCAA rules that the NFL might want to consider copying for itself?

  5. I understand the NFL’ need to protect players. But when two players are moving at a fast rate of speed, or are in the air, how much control does a player have to not hit someone with a part of their helmet? These are nanosecond decisions. By the time a player lowers his shoulder to hit someone, the target may have moved. The solution? Take off the helmets. If they still want to hit with their heads, so be it.

  6. It was a huge bad call.

    It helped end the 49ers season.
    It could alter who wins the NFC west.
    It could be the difference between homefield throughout for the Cardinals or for Seattle.
    It also means any of the other NFC teams might have to go through Seattle, instead of Arizona, or if they lose, someone else.

    Yeah, it was a huge call with ramifications all throughout the NFC.

    Once again Seattle gets a massive benefit thanks to the refs.

  7. Great. More commercial breaks and an even longer game.

    ————————-

    Same amount of challenges does not make for a much longer game. If you still get only a max of 3 challenges, youre talking about a grand total of 3 minutes per side per game.

    When you have a game changing call, like you did this weekend, thats a miniscule amount of time to fix that big of a problem.

  8. Bad things happen when you try to enforce the impossible.
    The game is just fast to call hard hits effectively and consistently.

    Players know what they’re getting into before they even put on the pads, let them play!

  9. The call had zero effect on the game, therefore it had no effect on playoff positioning or home field advantage or even the price of tea in China.

    Green Bay losing had more of an effect on any of those scenarios than the Seattle/San Fran Niners game.

  10. Are you high?!?

    I agree it was a terrible call but to say it altered the game is ridiculous.

    Seattle was already up 3 points.

    The difference would they would have been up 6 points instead of 10 points.

    ————————————————————-
    jmc8888 says: Dec 15, 2014 2:49 PM

    It was a huge bad call.

    It helped end the 49ers season.
    It could alter who wins the NFC west.
    It could be the difference between homefield throughout for the Cardinals or for Seattle.
    It also means any of the other NFC teams might have to go through Seattle, instead of Arizona, or if they lose, someone else.

    Yeah, it was a huge call with ramifications all throughout the NFC.

    Once again Seattle gets a massive benefit thanks to the refs.

  11. When is the NFL going to outlaw contact. it’s ruining player safety and must be addressed. Player safety is an oxymoron. If players want to be safe give up football and select another sport or profession.

  12. I would say if the referee makes the incorrect call…. for example calling helmet to helmet when it should be contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless receiver that call should be able to be overturned since the call was incorrect. And no they shouldn’t be able to correct it on review unless they are going to do that with all other rules as well.

    While they’re at it, why don’t they start adding some equivalent penalties to the offense. Similar to illegal contact giving the offense an immediate 1st down with penalty yards, how about push offs and offensive pass interference getting penalty yards and automatic 3rd down.

  13. The NFL should eliminate the “indisputable” requirement to overturn plays. They often don’t get indisputable evidence when watching in real-time so why not just have refs make the best judgement based on the super slo-mo replays.

  14. Because of calls like these it’s becoming easy to lose interest in the game. It’s not worth the time anymore to see games possibly being decided on horrible rules and calls. #walkingaway

  15. Great lets slow the game down more. 3 hour games are now 3 and a half hours. If the morons in the replay booth could make a decision in 30 seconds like us on the couch can and if we didn’t have 4 minutes of commercials every time there is a replay then yeah lets have more replays.

    We are looking at 4 hour games soon.

  16. It’s a bad rule, and that is more important than what replay options may be available to review it. Just re-write the rule so that you can’t lead with the helmet when hitting the above the shoulders, and you can’t lead directly with the crown of the helmet. This whole leading with ‘hairline’ crap is absurd. How else can you tackle the quarterback, especially when coming up the middle?

  17. I have post this almost every week. I watch EVERY game

    The refs are fixing games. There is no way they can be that inept always, helping the same teams.

    They have cheated the 49ers since the super bowl year.
    I could name 50 calls right now since then. Drew Brees hit for one

    Yesterday yet again multiple calls against them , not just the ridiculous call on the tackle of Wilson

    Their needs to be an investigation into the NFL.

  18. In Sunday’s Steelers/Falcons game, Jason Worilds flew past the protection and decked Ryan in what seemed to be a nanosecond. The ref immediately threw the flag and called roughing the passer. The announcers started speculating that Worilds must have led with his helmet or hit Ryan in the head, but the replay left them stammering. It was a textbook wrap-up hit; Worilds didn’t lead with his helmet or go near Ryan’s head. The ref reacted to the speed with which Worilds took down Ryan and how hard they hit the ground. So if you can’t really see what happened, it must have been an illegal hit??

    Yeah … we definiately need replay on these calls.

  19. I personally think there should be a stiffer penalty for defenseless hits. Yesterday B. Bulaga was blind-sided on an interception and ended up with a concussion. From what I saw he wasn’t near the play and it wasn’t really necessary to hit him. I think sometimes some of these players go too far. I am all for solid, clean hits, but if player did that to a QB on an interception he would have gotten a 15yd penalty and quite possibly ejected. What difference should it make if it is QB or a tackle.

  20. wouldn’t it be easier just to require defenders to wrap up, or make an attempt to wrap up, you know, what they teach in peewee ball?

    just ban hits where there is no attempt to properly tackle.

  21. NFL keeps hiding behind “player safety” but officials are also discussing making the extra point a more difficult and violent play. I don’t get it. The call on the Matt Ryan hit was brutal. It was as clean a sack as you’ll see. Great hit.

  22. The nfl has it exactly how it wants it. Have all sorts of “judgement” calls so that the refs can help control the outcome of game for the team the league wants to win ie: patriots.
    Every single call should be able to be challanged with 3 challanges issued but you keep getting more until you are wrong. Its the way to stop the fixing of games.

  23. savagenation2011 says:
    Dec 15, 2014 3:23 PM
    I have post this almost every week. I watch EVERY game

    The refs are fixing games. There is no way they can be that inept always, helping the same teams.

    They have cheated the 49ers since the super bowl year.
    I could name 50 calls right now since then. Drew Brees hit for one

    Yesterday yet again multiple calls against them , not just the ridiculous call on the tackle of Wilson

    Their needs to be an investigation into the NFL.

    1 1
    Report comment
    —————————————————————-
    A. I’m guessing you’re just ignoring the two obvious PI calls that SHOULD have been made on the 49ers in the first half.

    B. You don’t watch every game. You could not have by now seen every game played yesterday.

    C. I’m sure its the refs. It couldn’t be the fact that Kaep has sucked it up to damn near Tebow levels this year and the 49ers have been completely DECIMATED by injuries.

    Nope. Must be the refs. SMH

  24. jmc8888 says: Dec 15, 2014 2:49 PM

    It was a huge bad call.

    It helped end the 49ers season.
    It could alter who wins the NFC west.

    Blah Blah Blah…

    Get a clue dude, the game STILL would of ended 10-7.

  25. Let me get this straight…

    Seattle is the most penalized team in the NFL

    AND

    their opponents any given weak are the LEAST penalized.

    And yet there’s a conspiracy to help Seattle.

    Wow.

    Well done NFL, your subterfuge is remarkable.

  26. The Seahawks would’ve still likely would’ve won the game but you’re kidding yourselves if you don’t think that kind of call doesn’t impact the game.

    It’s the fourth quarter and instead of needing one score to take the lead you need now need at least two scores just to tie the game.

    That’s clearly going to have an effect on play calling because time is a factor and you need to make sure to score quick enough to be able to stop their offense and have enough time to score again.

    Again Seahawks would’ve still more than likely won but those kinds of calls can seriously have an impact on the outcome of games.

  27. .
    Nick Moody puts his hands up and his hands hit his chest first, his helmet then hit his hands…
    So… yeah…
    I guess 2 hand touch to the chest is an illegal hit now.
    .

  28. Instant replay has destroyed the game. Refs make decisions on a nano second and 95% of the time they are correct. Like life itself not everything can be perfect humans make mistakes. I’m willing to take that trade off and take instant replay out of the game.

  29. Allow reviews of this and pass interference calls which are the most “lethal” of all penalties which can range from 5 yards to 80 yards and we are all good. PI calls are also all over the map…many a game decided by a 40 yard penalty on a blown PI call.

  30. Everyone saying the Nick Moody call didn’t affect the game is a moron.
    A. it would have forced Seattle to attempt a field goal (which isn’t guaranteed to be made).
    B. playing with a 6 point deficit (assuming the field goal is made) and playing with a 10 point deficit are two completely different things, SF has to pass more, Seattle gets to pressure more.
    C. Momentum is a real thing, coming into a drive feeling good about your defense getting a stop can roll into positive play on offense.

    But for those of you who don’t understand the game go ahead and tell the rest of us who do how that didn’t impact anything.

  31. I am not a Seattle or Frisco fan, I’m a Panthers fan. I watched that hit live, and for once agreed with Aikman. It was a horrible call. What in the hell was Moody supposed to do? Was he supposed to bend his head backward as he made contact with Wilson? He would have hit Wilson in the chest with his face mask, and probably cracked his neck, and probably still received a flag for hitting Wilson too hard. This is getting way out of hand.

  32. 7ftgriff says:
    Dec 15, 2014 4:02 PM
    Everyone saying the Nick Moody call didn’t affect the game is a moron.
    A. it would have forced Seattle to attempt a field goal (which isn’t guaranteed to be made).
    B. playing with a 6 point deficit (assuming the field goal is made) and playing with a 10 point deficit are two completely different things, SF has to pass more, Seattle gets to pressure more.
    C. Momentum is a real thing, coming into a drive feeling good about your defense getting a stop can roll into positive play on offense.

    But for those of you who don’t understand the game go ahead and tell the rest of us who do how that didn’t impact anything.
    =======================
    While true, none of this changes the fact that the 9ers could not and did not move the ball to even the Seahawks 35 yard line at any point in the second half, before or after that call. Even if you assume Hauschka would miss (despite being one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL), it’s still 10-7 and the 9ers are still on their third string running back with no ability to move the football.

    It didn’t impact the final result. Stop crying.

  33. @jmc8888

    Oh that’s funny, a Cards fan talking about calls changing the NFC West. Didn’t hear any complaing about the “touchback” call that wiped out Detroit’s return, or Kelce’s fumble that cost Kansas City…

    Nope that one call, creating 4 extra points in a game that the Hawks won by 10, changed the division

  34. 7ftgriff says:
    Dec 15, 2014 4:02 PM

    Everyone saying the Nick Moody call didn’t affect the game is a moron.
    A. it would have forced Seattle to attempt a field goal (which isn’t guaranteed to be made).
    B. playing with a 6 point deficit (assuming the field goal is made) and playing with a 10 point deficit are two completely different things, SF has to pass more, Seattle gets to pressure more.
    C. Momentum is a real thing, coming into a drive feeling good about your defense getting a stop can roll into positive play on offense.

    But for those of you who don’t understand the game go ahead and tell the rest of us who do how that didn’t impact anything.
    =============================

    Dude, you had 67 TOTAL YARDS in the second half.

    Both your starting RB and his back up were injured and out of the game.

    SF went for it twice on 4th down – it wasn’t like they punted but may not have if the game were closer.

    You’re really reaching.

  35. The NFL claims they care about player safety. Switching from game to game Sunday afternoon, I probably saw 2 dozen hits more vicious than the hit on Russell Wilson, with no flags. Again, no consistencey from game to game! I’m not a fan of either the 49er’s or Seahawks, but that brutal call had a MAJOR affect on the outcome of the game. Watching these calls is turning the NFL into a comedy show.

  36. If the rule is “crown of helmet OR hairline” it is a stupid rule but a reasonable call.

    Unlike the two PI calls that were ignored on SF.

  37. Calls go your way….calls go against you….if you do not believe that it balances out, google Phil Luckett-Seahawks. Yeah, that call yesterday was not correct but…..

  38. QB’s may as well start wearing red no contact jerseys, funny thing if you read lips, Hochuli was like are you alright to Wilson, Wilson was even embarrassed to answer since he knew the 49ers were had.

  39. Hey rather than adding more challenges, how about we tell these overgrown divas the are playing football. I am all about protecting players from horse collar tackles, the Hit that created the Brady rule, any hit that resembles a WWE finisher before they pin the guy, but The hit Wilson took, regardless if it was crown or face mask that hit, was square in the chest. I mean if the Redskins are allowed to break Romo’s back, people should be allowed to take clean hits on a quarterback regardless of how hard it is.

  40. College Football has this process right. If the ref drops the flag, it is immediately reviewed. If the penalty is upheld the player is booted from the game. If not, there is no foul & the ball is placed at the dead-ball spot of the play.

    Why the NFL hasn’t adopted this method of handling illegal hits is beyond me.

  41. If they have to use slow motion to determine whether or not a defensive player committed a foul…. maybe its just a bad rule.

  42. Yes, maybe a bad call but that’s not the problem. When the NFL has crews that call so many more or less penalties than another crew that it’s rated then that’s the problem. Consistency. Coaches and players have no idea what’s legal or not.

  43. Remember when it was the replacement refs that were terrible?
    I guess this job isn’t that hard to find replacements.

  44. Who cares? Niners aren’t even competitive enough to make it controversial. The Seahawks DEFENSE dominated the day. And, as usual, frisco couldn’t score in the second half. Let’s be honest, the Niner’s offense is pathetic. That’s the true travesty if you ask me.

  45. ED HOCKOLEY IS A FRICKING CHUMP. YOU COST US THE GAME AND THE PLAYOFFS AND PROBABLY HARBAUGH. NICE GOING MINDLESS ONE! OH RAIDERS ARE HORRIBLE TOO!

  46. Last Sunday, Brandon Browner was called for an illegal hit. On instant replay, slow motion, it was clear that Browner hit with his shoulder, with his head was off to the side of the targets torso. Clearly the officials got that call wrong

    Now the hit Wilson took from Nick Moody was leading with the head into the torso, which is considered spearing with the helmet is illegal. Clearly Moody’s head was not positioned off to the side of the Wilson’s torso, his helmet clearly hit the middle of Wilson’s chest, that is considered spearing with the helmet.

    When the NFL came out with that rule last year, they said that running backs could not lower their heads and spear defense players down the field. I remember many RB complaining about the new rule.

    The officials were calling it like they saw it, leading with the helmet, spearing the torso. That was the correct call on Nick Moody’s illegal hit

  47. The flag on Jason Worilds is the reason I went from being a 50/50 hockey/football fan to being pretty much a 100% hockey fan. I hadn’t watched a game in a month, I pretty much stopped caring, and really the only interest I have in the NFL is my fantasy team. I started to watch that game, and soon as I saw that call I literally stopped watching. I thought, I don’t care who wins or loses, this game is unwatchable. My favorite sport growing up has been ruined. I don’t even enjoy it. Why am I still coming to NFL message boards and watching NFL news coverage? I don’t know, habit? But those habits are being replaced, and Goodell is why.

  48. Ok, but they should be able to challenge penalties that weren’t called as well. So when the 49ers interfered with Luke Willson and no flag was thrown, PC should be able to challenge and get yards/1st down for that.

    It works both ways.

  49. Was really surprised to see the league say the call was incorrect given that there was at least some indication that the hairline of the helmet was the initial point of contact. The league is so hyper sensitive about injuries and this call was marginal, but not really that far from being legit that you’d think it would fall into the range of the “if in doubt, throw the flag” things that relate to safety matters. Maybe a private discussion with the refs but not a public statement.

    Was no need to lead with the helmet at all in this case, a proper tackle can be done while leading with the shoulder without driving the helmet (whether it was the hairline or the mask) into the player.

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