Monday nights in Seattle seem to be a magnet for officiating controversies.
The Fail Mary game is 2012 against Green Bay, K.J. Wright‘s illegal batting of a ball out of the end zone against Detroit in 2015, Richard Sherman‘s non-roughing the kicker against Buffalo in 2016 and Bobby Wagner‘s illegal leap to block a field goal try against Minnesota in 2018 all have come on Monday night.
And yes, Wagner’s blocked field goal against the Vikings was an illegal play.
With the Seahawks holding a 6-0 lead with 5:46 left to play, Wagner leaped over Vikings linemen Danny Isidora and Rashod Hill to block the 47-yard field goal try. While Wagner’s block was legal in that he leaped from the line of scrimmage without a running start from the second level, the fact that he placed his hands on the shoulders of linemen Shamar Stephen and Jarran Reed to help aid his leverage to clear the line was not.
The rule book states the following aspect as being illegal: “Placing a hand or hands on a teammate or opponent to gain additional height to block or attempt to block an opponent’s kick or apparent kick, or in an attempt to jump through a gap to block an opponent’s kick or apparent kick.” NBC rules analyst and former head referee Terry McAulay said the play was an illegal one as well.
Wagner made it clear they knew you could leap over the line from a spot on the defensive line of scrimmage.
“We know the rule change where you can’t run and block the field goal, but if you start on the line you can go and block the field goal,” Wagner said. “If they were ever on the right hash, we were going to call it. It just so happened to be in the fourth quarter around five minutes (to play) that they were on the right hash. You can’t jump over the center but if you got hops you can make it over anybody.”
As far as whether he leveraged himself off his teammates in order to clear the line, Wagner said it’s not on him to make that call.
“That’s really up for them (the officials) to decide. It’s not really on me,” he said. “Even last time when I jumped over last time they said it was legal. But I think not a lot of people are aware of the rules and aware of the changes. So there’s a loop-hole in there where if you start on the line you can jump over. I’m not stressing about that. I made the play. They called what they called. There’s times in games where things happen all the time so I’m not stressing on it. It was a big block. We’re going to definitely take it and it was amazing.”
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer said he wasn’t sure what happened on the kick.
“I don’t know,” he said. “They didn’t tell me. I just asked if I could challenge and they said no.
“Quite honestly, I didn’t see it. I didn’t see what happened. I was told what happened, but I don’t know. You’re not supposed to be able to pull guys down if that’s what they did.”
The penalty would have been a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which would have given the Vikings a first down at Seattle’s 14 1/2-yard line with half the distance to the goal enforced. Instead, Russell Wilson scrambled for 40 yards two plays later and Chris Carson scored on a 2-yard carry to push the Seahawks’ lead to 14-0 with three minutes to play.
A flag was thrown initially by the umpire as it appeared he believed the jump over the line came from depth, which would have been illegal as well. However, head referee Brad Allen said it was a legal jump over due to it coming from the line of scrimmage. The leveraging by Wagner on the play was the aspect seemingly missed.
Wagner had previously jumped over the center to block a Chandler Catanzaro kick against the Arizona Cardinals in 2016. Though that maneuver would be illegal today, he cleanly hurdled the long snap to make that block.
Wagner said they practiced this specific block play four times in practice this week and his legs didn’t have quite as much life in them when he was called upon 55 minutes into Monday night’s contest.
“You didn’t expect to get that many plays before you try to jump over the pile so when I did it in practice I was pretty fresh,” Wagner said. “But in the fourth quarter with five minutes left after all the games we’ve played I was just making sure I got over and didn’t fall because I’m pretty sure you guys would have caught it.”