ESPN dropped the ball on illegal bat

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The officials weren’t the only ones who screwed up when the Seahawks weren’t flagged for an illegal bat in Monday night’s win over the Lions. ESPN also dropped the ball by waiting until after the game to point out that Seattle should have been penalized, and the ball should have been given back to the Lions, after Calvin Johnson’s fumble into the end zone.

After the fumble, neither Mike Tirico nor Jon Gruden said anything at all about the illegal bat, which the NFL has since admitted should have been a penalty on the Seahawks that would have given the Lions first-and-goal inside the 1-yard line. That’s surprising because Tirico is a consummate professional who’s always well-prepared for any game he calls, and Gruden is a former coach well known for his obsessive attention to detail. You’d think both of them, or at least one of them, would know that rule.

But it’s even more surprising because ESPN has former NFL referee Gerry Austin in the booth on Monday nights specifically to weigh in when there’s an officiating mistake. Tirico even pointed that out on Monday night, saying, “Retired Super Bowl referee Gerry Austin up here in the booth with us” at the start of the fourth quarter. At the start of the Lions’ drive that ended with Johnson’s fumble, Austin was on the air discussing the relevant rule when Lions’ punt returner picked up his own muffed punt and ran it out of the end zone.

So where was Austin a few minutes later? Why didn’t he immediately pipe up and explain that the officials had missed a huge call? We’ve reached out to ESPN to ask that question, but we didn’t immediately hear back.

Eventually, ESPN did identify the blown call, but only after the game, several minutes later. The blown call is the biggest story of Monday night’s game, but many viewers turned off the TV and went to bed without even realizing it had happened.

The NFL’s rules are so complex that identifying bad calls immediately and explaining them clearly is a hard job. Former NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira does the job well on FOX, but former referee Mike Carey has struggled in a similar role on CBS. Austin is used less prominently on ESPN, but Monday night was a perfect opportunity for him to shine. Instead, we never heard a word from him until the game was over.

To its credit, ESPN has done a good job of covering the story today. Mike & Mike began their broadcast this morning with a long discussion of the blown call, and it has been prominently featured on other ESPN programming all day long. But the time to identify the blown call was when it happened, and ESPN missed it.

108 responses to “ESPN dropped the ball on illegal bat

  1. Given what we’ve seen from the NFL and their lackey ESPN for the past year, is it really surprising they didn’t mention it during the game?

  2. Calls get blown every week, it’s just the nature of the beast. Even with full time refs it wouldn’t solve the problem, which is applying numerous complex rules to on the spot decisions.

  3. @Michael David Smith ,
    REALLY ???? You’re going to put blame on ESPN ? That’s ludicrous at best. I can’t post what I really think of your theory. I’ll bet you didn’t know the rule either until Austin brought it up. You should be ashamed for writing this piece of garbage, really !!
    And I’m not a fan of either team involved.

  4. Doesn’t the NFL have a guy that is suppose to buzz down to the head ref if he sees something that should be reviewed. Especially if the game is inside two minutes of either half (which last nights game was so even if a coach could challenge that play he wouldn’t have been able to last night because it was inside of two minutes.)

    If the league did add a spotter (which they did right? Maybe I’m mistaken) the spotter missed it too.

  5. Clearly ESPN was waiting to see how the NFL reacted to the call. When Blandino fell on his sword, that gave ESPN permission to pursue the story. Hard hitting journalists, aren’t they.

  6. This needs to be a review-able call. Refs are human, and they can make the wrong call from time to time. (although this guy really doesn’t have much of an excuse) The NFL needs to make the entire play reviewable without exception so they can correct these things in the future. (or so they can think of another BS reason to give Seatlle another unearned victory)

  7. I thought Gruden actually said at the time that it was a “heads up” play for Wright to knock it out of the end zone.

    Seems like an unnecessary rule anyway.

  8. The Seahawks are paying Russell Wilson 1.6 million per game to put 13 points on the board. They need all the help they can get.

    Lions should have won that game. And they would have if the correct call was made.

  9. I wouldn’t consider it a blown call.

    The ref used some decent judgement in that case. The ball was going to go out of bounds even if he didn’t touch it and no Lions player could make a play on it to prevent it.

    Kam Chancellor made a great play and the ref didn’t inject himself into the outcome of the game by giving Detroit the ball at the 1.

    It would upset me if I were a Lions fan, but it’s not like the ball was sitting just over the goal line and the defensive player batted it out to avoid a recovery.

    Good on ya, Ref!

  10. I get that ESPN should have mentioned it, but last time I checked their analysts and retired referees can’t alter the outcome of the game from the booth.

  11. I wondered why it wasn’t called when it happened, but because the officials, coaches, players and announcers seemed not to notice, I thought there may have been a rule change I wasn’t aware of.
    Me, an average Joe Smoe football freak, caught what all the guys making the big bucks missed.
    Stupefying.

  12. As a Lions fan, the most disappointing part of all of this isn’t the fact that we lost- we deserved to lose- it’s the fact that this prolongs our coaching staff’s stay in Detroit. Lombardi has to go, and frankly, so does Caldwell. Austin is the best coach on the team, based on everything I’ve read and witnessed in the last season plus.

  13. It’s like the media is trying to give the refs a pass, because no one knows the rule. It’s the refs’ job to know the rules better than everyone else.

  14. The NFL is barely watchable with PI calls all game long that change the face of the game. The only drive the dolphins had in London was a result of 60+ yards in PI. If you do not tape the games the product is becoming unbearable to watch. The rules in the NFL are slowly putting it at the level where everything is subjective leading one to believe the games are FIXED! Seriously, enough with PI, enough with defensive holding, penalizing hard hits that induce FLOPPING.

  15. Nobody knew what the proper PSI for a football was either…..until The League decided to frame the Pats.

  16. None of this matters. The review is for the purpose of determining if it was a fumble or not. Calling this penalty via the review process would be the same as calling an illegal pick that was missed, or a holding that was missed, or an offsides that was missed. The refs had to call it when it happened – the review process can’t add a penalty call.

  17. How many times do I have to point out that this was not a blown call?? Kam Chancellor punched the ball out of CJ’s hands before he broke the plane of the goal line. Wright gently guided the ball out the back of the end zone. To reward the Lions with the ball on the 6 inch line is the most ridiculous notion ever. That Ref made the correct determination – that ball was going to go out anyway. Absolutely nothing to discuss.

    Everybody is outraged now, but not a peep out of all those NFL analysts, coaches and players or 20 million people watching when it happened.

  18. ESPN blew it. the easy explanation is.
    it didnt involve baiting of any kind.
    it was non political/socially impacting
    It was the key event in the entire 3 hrs
    and they didnt even mention it.
    If anyone thinks this network offers any value any more i sure would like them to point me in that direction.
    Gerry Austin? He was probably napping by that time of nite, geezus.
    the real issue is how the NFL continues to bless these officials who blow calls, WITHOUT question impact the outcome of the contestS and it goes on and on and on.
    gerry austin on tv.
    jeff tripplette officiating games and the like and then theres that Mr Bogar who is so blind and ignorant that he couldnt hit a bear in the butt with a bass fiddle.
    The NFL is becoming more and more questionable ethically and how the outcome of games are determined.
    When an official is in position, sees the play clearly and then for whatever reason doesnt even blow the whistle should suffer multiple game suspensions and pay downgrades.
    Thats what would happen to the rest of us if we failed to do our job repeatedly and cost other people their jobs since they are in RESULT oriented fields.
    Roger, on your way out the door, do one thing right and go to full time officials.
    Rog, you only get one chance to make a final impression and help repair your legacy.

  19. It’s well known that ESPN won’t say anything negative about the NFL, and had they identified the blown call it would have brought up too many issues for them. Best to stay quiet and deal it with it tomorrow and pretend they missed it. You can bet if it was the Pats it would have got mentioned as the NFL has an open hunting season on the Pats.

  20. veence69 says:
    Oct 6, 2015 2:43 PM

    The Seahawks are paying Russell Wilson 1.6 million per game to put 13 points on the board. They need all the help they can get.
    ————————–
    The Lions are paying Stafford almost as much and his offense only put 3 points on the board.

  21. Of course, none of this would be an issue if the Lions $132 million dollar receiver had held on to the ball.

  22. This post is baffling. I am no BSPN fan. Not in the least. But c’mon, very few of us thought of applying the rule in that context. It’s not even clear Gerry is physically in the booth beside Tirico and Gruden. More likely, it took time to verify his comment and then relay it to the broadcast team, around commercial breaks and post-game routine. Tirico is a high-caliber commentator; if he didn’t know the rule, 99.9% of his audience didn’t either.

    You can do better. You should do better.

  23. Another week. Another game’s outcome determined by a blown ref call. So much for the league’s desire to ‘get it right.’

  24. scrp2 says:
    Oct 6, 2015 2:54 PM
    How many times do I have to point out that this was not a blown call?? Kam Chancellor punched the ball out of CJ’s hands before he broke the plane of the goal line. Wright gently guided the ball out the back of the end zone. To reward the Lions with the ball on the 6 inch line is the most ridiculous notion ever. That Ref made the correct determination – that ball was going to go out anyway. Absolutely nothing to discuss.

    —————

    Except a player is not allowed to “gently guide the ball out the back of the end zone” without incurring a penalty. It was a blown call and the league admitted as much.

    Are you a Seahawks fan? If so, I feel bad for you because your team looks pretty bad. Face it, they barely scrounged a victory at home against the 32nd ranked team in the league. And they needed the refs to blow a game-changing call to do that!

  25. I will not rest until all penalties are reviewed by NYC.
    I want to see real -time measurements of feild-tempature, PSI of footballs in play, humidity and photon count at filed levels.

    This sport is no longer a sporting event, it has become a marketing event for inconsistency.

    AND until the REDSKINS change their name, I will proclaim the NFL to be a racist business.

  26. All of this talk about what ESPN should have done…the refs should have done…etc. The only important that should have been done was Calvin holding on to the football. Don’t blame the refs or ESPN for the huge mistake by the WR.

  27. You have deleted posts by me for no apparent reason. They have not been offensive, or at least not nearly as offensive as many of the posts I have read by others. I am betting that I was watching NBC long before you were born (you who deletes me) and am offended that you single me out without reason. I’d email you off the board if I could. As it is I’ll contact NBC and let them know that you people are arbitrary on the site and offend long standing customers for unknown reasons.

  28. Tirico, and less so Gruden, couldn’t say enough good things about Seattle and their 12s all night. It was gross.

    It almost seems like they didn’t want to point out anything about the illegally batted ball for fear their love-puppy could lose the game over it.

  29. Why is this ESPNs fault in any way, shape or form?

    The referees missed a call that maybe 1% of the viewing audience knew about and ESPN is supposed to present immediate and damning explanation of the rule live on air?

  30. There are but few coaches who know that rule. BB is surely one of them. ESPN? You have to ask? Gruden comes across as supremely confident. Dope. And a former official in the booth? Please.

    Remember where the game was played.

  31. After the discussion of the rule, Trent Dilfer started looking for ways to say it wasn’t the ref’s fault. At one point he tried to say the refs don’t have all the looks that people on TV have, until the replay made it obvious that the ref was looking right at the play. Then Dilfer started trying to say the ball was barely touched by Wright and (given the circumstances) it was a good non-call.

    Dilfer then suggested that the refs probably saw the penalty, discussed it, and decided not to enforce it because it would potentially change the outcome of the game.

    Dilfer’s logic is baffling — if the rule shouldn’t be enforced when it can change the outcome of a game, then why have the rule? You either enforce it all the time or you don’t.

    It comes down to Dilfer/ESPN just trying to come up with some kind of political spin, however bizarre, to try to help the NFL save face.

  32. So if ESPN has some blame on this because Tirico and Gruden said nothing. Does that mean the NBC team of Michaels/Collinsworth should be held accountable for any rule violations that are NOT mentioned in the future? Actually, please NO, the less Collinsworth talks…the better!

  33. How would they know if it was intentional or not though? Everyone was mostly caught up in Megatron fumbling from the one, saw a few Seahawks around the ball, and they assumed the game was over just like most of us.

    Lets be real here: most people didn’t realize this was a rule that would favor the offense nor did they catch this until they showed the replay after the game. And I am sure that the ref didn’t see any intent during the live game at his angle, which is why he didnt throw a flag. Credit it to human error which happens during the game, plus its not a reviewable play anyways.

    And even IF the Lions got the ball back, there was no garuntee that they would have scored, which the Hawks demonstrated in last years Super Bowl.

  34. scrp2 says:
    Oct 6, 2015 2:54 PM

    How many times do I have to point out that this was not a blown call?? Kam Chancellor punched the ball out of CJ’s hands before he broke the plane of the goal line. Wright gently guided the ball out the back of the end zone.
    **********************************
    You can point it out as many times as you want. The fact of the matter is that you are incorrect. The ball was knocked loose, bounced into the end zone, and was then batted out of the end zone by the Seahawks.

    See Rule 12.1.8 (b)

    “A player may not bat or punch: (a) a loose ball (in field of play) toward opponent’s goal line; (b) a loose ball (that has touched the ground) in any direction, if it is in either end zone; (c) a backward pass in flight may not be batted forward by an offensive player.”

    Therefore, it is a penalty, and a blown call.

  35. I think it was an intentional oversight by the refs. Here’s my theory. Goodell the Narcissist was certain Seattle was going to win the SuperBowl last year, what with all the distractions Goodell imposed on the Patriots. That didn’t happen. So this year, he figures the Seahawks have the best chance again and that there is no way they will lose two years in a row. But then he sees Seattle tanking this year and so decides he has to prop them up. So he called in the oversighted call to ensure a Seahawks victory. All so that they can beat the Patriots in this year’s SuperBowl.
    You see why I think Goodell is a Narcissist? He thinks he knows best. But I say fire the guy and bring back the integrity of the game.
    And by the way, Brady will win SB 50 MVP.

  36. Also, the Lions should not be rewarded for fumbling the ball into the endzone. At least when it happened in the Miami/New England game back in 2013, the defender was knocking the ball TOWARDS the Pats goal line in an effort to recover the ball closer to give the Dolphins a better advantage at scoring.

  37. Here’s an idea how about sports journalists just report the facts of the game leave your opinions & agendas for political journalists

  38. Somewhere– All of those replacement officials are saying, “I could referee an NFL and blow a call to determine the outcome of a football game”.

    The Difference: The media would call it a travesty of the game if replacement officials do it.

  39. It appears as PFT missed posting the story as well. You had to wait for ESPN to create a story and then now you are critical of the people who supplied you that story.

    As explained by ESPN rules analyst Gerry Austin after the game (and confirmed to ESPN by NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino), Wright committed an illegal bat that should have given the ball back to the Lions at the spot where they lost possession, with the ball moved half the distance to the goal line.

  40. The play resulted in the ball being turned over to Seattle.
    Turnovers are all supposed to be reviewed.
    I’m totally confused how it wasn’t reviewed and corrected.

  41. The same people here saying it is no big deal acted the same way when Aaron Rodgers admitted he over inflated footballs and nobody cared. Then when the league can frame Brady about something nobody knew or cared about in NFL history, the whiners get their panties in a bunch and call for the crucifixion of Brady and make Goodell their new hero! Maybe it’s time for Goodell to focus on the game and how the refs are ruining it rather than how he can abuse his power and get away with it in order to appease the owners and fans of 31 other teams. Refs, NOT players are determining the outcome of games so wake up people.

    Judge Berman, “Brady plays better when the balls are properly inflated”.

  42. tsasotv says:
    Oct 6, 2015 2:54 PM

    That’s because it wasn’t done by the Patriots. They surely would have caught it then.
    ————————————————–
    Remember the Pats losing to the Jets on a call during a missed field goal attempt? First and last time that call has been made so yes, if it had been detrimental to the Patriots the NFL would have made darn sure it was called. Let’s just admit it, the NFL is rigged.

  43. On the replay, it appeared the official was reaching for his flag, but opted not to call it. There are judgement calls made throughout every game that are/are not made. Some just look more blatant than others. In this situation, I understand his judgement.

    Like calling defensive holding on a DB clear across the field on 3rd and 25!

  44. veence69 says:
    Oct 6, 2015 2:43 PM

    The Seahawks are paying Russell Wilson 1.6 million per game to put 13 points on the board. They need all the help they can get

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Anyone other than Wilson would have had zero points. If you actually WATCHED the game, you would know Seattle’s OL might as well not even bother to line up. Wilson escaped literally dozens of defenders during the evening who had their hands on him.

    Any other QB would have been sacked a dozen times.

    Gruden kept repeating what a magician Wilson is.

  45. Of course most fans are not aware of that rule. So what. We as fans expect the refs to get it right and know the rules. If Dilfer said it was a good non call he’s lost some credibility .

  46. And if NBC missed it you’d be all up in their business as well…

    You, and I don’t mean this blog – just you -have produced a tragically large collection of tripe in this forum, but this has to surpass any and all of your previous failures.

    Seriously, just because you THINK something is a good idea doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check with your boss to ensure you’re accounting for your misgivings.

    May be a good idea to remember if you were a reporter they wouldn’t call you a blogger.

  47. We get it, Mike works for NBC and ESPN is evil. I’m not a fan of ESPN’s “reporting” habits, but it was their onsite referee who noted that it should have been a penalty. The guys in the booth had no idea. The players had no idea. The coaches had no idea. No one was complaining and the game was over. So maybe the headline should read “everyone dropped the ball on illegal bat” rather than blaming ESPN. There are plenty of things to criticize ESPN for, but this is not one of them. I love this site, but this story disappoints me.

  48. I fail to understand how any of the coaches or players didn’t know it was a penalty. Even I knew it was a penalty at the time it happened. Weve seen this called numerous times on onside kicks.

  49. Half these referees are lawyers for their full time job. How someone like that could be 100,000 per game is laughable. Ron Torbor, a terrible head referee, has business dealings with Robert Kraft. That boob that blew the Lions call should be fired immediately. No one should have business dealings with NFL owners outside the NFL. It is a huge conflict of interest. I believe there is major corruption in the NFL to keep certain teams at the top. All the referees should have their backgrounds scoured and their phones gone through.

  50. PFT’s 11:25 game recap article last night also failed to mention the call. Wasn’t for 20 more minutes that you guys picked up on it either. Don’t single out ESPN

  51. ESPN is reporting that the back judge who missed the call last night is the same back judge who missed the call in the Green Bay – Seattle game a few years ago. Back then he was a replacement official. He did so well back then he is part of the NFL crew now.

  52. You make your breaks, both teams got what they deserved, you never leave the game in the hands of the officials, CJ shouldn’t have fumbled. The back judge decided it wasn’t worthy of a flag. End of story. The legit SB49 champs are 2-2 and on their way…

  53. jianningwu says:
    Oct 6, 2015 2:46 PM
    I wouldn’t consider it a blown call.

    The ref used some decent judgement in that case. The ball was going to go out of bounds even if he didn’t touch it and no Lions player could make a play on it to prevent it.

    Kam Chancellor made a great play and the ref didn’t inject himself into the outcome of the game by giving Detroit the ball at the 1.

    Injecting themselves into the game?
    SMH

    That is their ONLY FUNCTION! If a ref decides to ignore a blatant violation that is also injecting himself into the game. How about this,

    DO YOUR JOB!

  54. tbone4444 says:
    Oct 6, 2015 4:41 PM
    You make your breaks, both teams got what they deserved, you never leave the game in the hands of the officials, CJ shouldn’t have fumbled. The back judge decided it wasn’t worthy of a flag. End of story. The legit SB49 champs are 2-2 and on their way…

    Sorry this one needs a second response,

    Legit?

    Legit would have been if they gave the ball to mama Lynch’s boy so Ninkovich & Hightower could have tackled his butt for another 2 yards loss.

    The legit champs are on their way to Dallas while the runners up are 1-2 and a freebie from the zebras.

  55. “The Seahawks are paying Russell Wilson 1.6 million per game to put 13 points on the board.”

    The way their line played they’re paying him that much to stay out of the hospital. A Manning or a Brady would have been carted off on a stretcher. Nobody could look good with that little protection.

  56. When I watched this live I thought the bat of the ball looked wrong. But all the times they replayed it that part was left out.

  57. The way their line played they’re paying him that much to stay out of the hospital. A Manning or a Brady would have been carted off on a stretcher. Nobody could look good with that little protection

    ———————————————————-

    That type of offensive line is what Brady dealt with for the first 4 weeks last season (when Trent Dilfer said he was done). At the snap it was a jailbreak whether it was 4 pass rushers or more.

    There is nothing wrong with Wilson. If he doesn’t have time tombradypeytonmanningjoemontanottograhamjohnnyu would not be able to complete a pass.

    In the end it will be Seattle / Green Bay in the NFC and NE / Denver in the AFC

  58. “Are you a Seahawks fan? If so, I feel bad for you because your team looks pretty bad.”

    Oh please. Let me speak for all Seahawks fans when I tell you we’ve gotten to witness three of the most fun amazing seasons in a row with crazy games, Russell Wilson making insane magic trick plays, and a historically good defense that could be the best in the league for the fourth consecutive season and doing it in an era of free agency and favored offenses.

    We’ve seen obscure draft picks nobody even heard of play themselves to the ranks of the elite.

    Oh and picked up a Lombardi along the way and got to the cusp of another after an incredible improbable comeback in the NFC championship game a year after a matchup in the same game with the 49ers that is simply one of the greatest NFL games ever played.

    Yeah so sorry Seahawks fans. Lol!

  59. Thank God we have all these highly paid, UNION refs to prevent mistakes like this from happening. The replacement refs would have surely blown it…oh wait.

  60. So much talk about batted balls. Just another judgement call from NFL refs made in real time. Is this anything like giving A Rodgers an off-sides free play when his own O-line stands up and stops playing? Both violate the letter of the rule book, but the refs are calling it as they see it I suppose. I don’t see how ESPN has any blame…If refs and coaches don’t know it, why would a broadcaster?

    Did anybody else see Kam blow up Megatron on that crossing pattern catch?

    …back to batted balls.

  61. Maybe the NFL/ ESPN also dropped the ball on the illegal punch as well…..

    We have been talking about the ball bat but what about the following NFL rule when receiver is in possession of a ball:

    A player may not bat or punch:

    (b) A ball in player possession.

    Kam did punch the ball correct?? At least that’s the general consensus I get when I google Kam and Punch together.

    Whats the use of having rules if you don’t use or enforce them??

    We should also get ready to revise the above rule if we all think punching a ball is ok to cause a fumble??

  62. I will say ESPN’s game coverage is bad compared to the other networks. They are always in way too much of a hurry to get to all the pre-canned video packages, graphics, and sideline shots of coaches/important players.

    There will be something controversial that happened on the previous play, and meanwhile they’ll be showing a Andy Reid and a graphic of his record on Monday night when he has eaten more than 3 hot dogs for dinner. Then tell a few jokes, and only then get back to what people actually care about.

  63. ESPN is self-censored television.Authority is always the god they bow to. Ex-espner Colin Cowherd, free to criticize the NFL on his FS-1 show, noted the announcers SHOULD have known the rule and didn’t, but the referees HAD to know the rules and didn’t. Now that Seattle gets an undeserved win, how might that affect their competition as they move closer to the playoffs? The referee, who should be fired for such a consequential gaffe, might have impacted the playoff lineup.

  64. I’m going to say three things here…

    1. I saw it in real time and called it out.

    2. I am not a genius

    3. How come the NFL can’t make a call right?

  65. The NFL has long employed the cheapest refs possible, until recently part-timers who had other jobs during the week. This guy, for instance, for impacting the season like a prehistoric meteorite, shoudl be fired but will not be. He comes too cheap.

  66. When the Refs don’t even know the rules, there’s simply too many obscure rules

    Beyond that, Goodell and the NFL Owners own ESPN and they wont do anything to anger their Masters – at least not until Goodell gives them a hundred million dollar kickback when their broadcast rights are up for renewal

  67. I don’t understand how so many people directly involved with the game do not know some of the rules. If you have paid attention just watching the NFL you should know that rule. It is not as obscure as some have claimed.

    The officials can make mistakes but outright lying to cover a bad call makes the call look biased. The official claimed his ruling was an inadvertent batting of the ball. Nobody in their right mind could honestly say that but that excuse shows he knew the rule. He called what he wanted to call and Blandino is covering up the true scandal by saying the call was missed due to a lack of understanding.

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