Hail Mary plays will be reviewed under same standard as they are judged on the field

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The official NFL rule book never uses the phrase “Hail Mary.” It doesn’t create a separate pass interference rule for the Hail Mary play. But that doesn’t stop the NFL from applying a different standard to those plays that are unmistakably characterized as a wing and a pray and a deep, high throw aimed at picking up a large chunk of yardage quickly.

A Wednesday interview with NFL senior V.P. of football operation Al Riveron made abundantly clear two things about the Hail Mary play. First, a different standard for determining pass interference applies to Hail Mary plays, even though the rules don’t provide for or allow it. Second, the same uncodified standard for spotting pass interference in a Hail Mary setting will apply to replay review of pass interference calls and non-calls on Hail Mary plays.

“For the Hail Mary, there’s a lot of things that could happen that’s allowed that everyone knows when there’s Hail Mary for example there’s some contact allowed that generally would not be allowed when it’s just one receiver and one defensive back on a normal pass play situation,” Riveron explained. “Everyone understands what the philosophy on that is. We got input from the coaches, the General Managers, presidents, players, legends, officials, what we came back with on the final way of how we’re going to write this rule, we simply put in there that if that play goes to replay by either a coach’s challenge or it’s stopped inside of two minutes, it will be reviewed in replay under the same philosophies that is being allowed to be played on the field. We will not apply a different standard when reviewing that play in replay as opposed to how it’s officiated and what is allowable on the field. The same way we’re allowing the players to do certain things when there’s a Hail Mary involved, it’ll be reviewed in replay the same way.”

That makes sense, but with the Hail Mary play never addressed in the rules, it’s hard to know what the standard is for making a ruling on the field of interference in those instances, and for reviewing the ruling on the field when that occurs.

“There were so many variables and we didn’t want to limit the players per se,” Riveron said. “So what is a Hail Mary? This might not be the scientific answer we’re all looking for, but I think overall everyone understands when we see it, what a Hail Mary is. Again, how do we define it? Outside the 30? One minute and 28 seconds? 35 yard line? Two defensive players? Four offensive players? Equal numbers of players? How much pushing? How much shoving? It’s one of those things you know it when you see it and that’s a Hail Mary. When something goes beyond the point of what’s allowable, we will all agree on it. Or maybe we won’t. For the most part, everyone understands what’s allowed, what’s not allowed on a Hail Mary. It’s probably fortunate that we’re not putting this play into a box because it’s something when we see it, and when I say we I mean the football community from fans to coaches to players to officials, we’ll all agree that that’s a Hail Mary and we’ll understand what’s allowable and what’s not.”

He’s right, in theory. But it’s one thing for the officials who are among the players to decide to flag or not flag pass interference in those Hail Mary settings. It’s quite another for Riveron to study one frame at a time a veritable Zapruder film of clues lurking among bodies jostling for position and deciding whether he truly knows it when he sees it, when he knows that he’s seeing it in a way that no one has ever seen it before.

40 responses to “Hail Mary plays will be reviewed under same standard as they are judged on the field

  1. This is going to end incredibly badly. There is no doubt going to be a hail mary in which a ref sees pushing and shoving but in his opinion not enough to make a call. Then is overturned. We will all complain that officials aren’t on the same page. This is as dumb as when the NBA says “we don’t make that call in the final minute”. Yea, terrific idea to play by an unwritten set of rules during typically game winning/losing plays.

  2. Then again…we ALL know what regular pass interference or a catch looks like when we see it but that doesn’t stop the NFL from screwing that up, does it?

  3. This is why there should be clearly defined rules – so there is no confusion or room for gray area. The refs should ONLY have to worry about applying the rules on the books (like judges) not writing/creating the rules for themselves (and fans) on the fly based on the play.

  4. So basically if a team totally mugs all Pats receivers on a mary (SB LII) it will continue to be ignored, but when the new-improved stingy Pats D do it to stop Mahomes, it’ll def be called.
    #ParityRegulator
    #MakeItUpAsYouGo

  5. What are the odds the NFL botches this, and that a game is swung because of a bad call?

    50-50?

  6. once the ball is in the air…everyone down field is a receiver…. any deliberate pushing or pulling should be called as such

  7. streetyson says:
    August 29, 2019 at 7:39 am
    So basically if a team totally mugs all Pats receivers on a mary (SB LII) it will continue to be ignored, but when the new-improved stingy Pats D do it to stop Mahomes, it’ll def be called.
    #ParityRegulator
    #MakeItUpAsYouGo
    —————————–
    A Patriots fan complaining about the refs? Good one.

  8. Another year of the NFL saga of making up all these rules and yet cannot figure out what they are

  9. I can kind of see where the NFL is coming from here, after all on almost every typical “Hail Mary” play, there is contact coming from both receivers and defenders, and the league isn’t going to want to call offsetting penalties and do the play again over and over.

    But I agree that the league also needs to define what a Hail Mary play is and specify what kind of contact will be overlooked and what will draw a flag.

  10. With replay in effect, the original “Hail Mary” (Drew Pearson vs. the Vikes in the playoffs) would have been reversed for Pearson pushing off – OPI.

  11. That makes perfect sense. A Hail Mary play is more like a rebound in basketball – all he’s saying is that if they flagged contact before the ball arrives, it would become a meaningless play. They’re trying to be as fair and consistent as possible and some people demand precision and objectivity where none exists.

  12. This will end up like offensive holding. There is holding on every play and everyone knows it. Everyone also knows what’s allowed and what isn’t. The officials know, the players know, the coaches know, and even us fans know.

    And yet, the their are fan bases out there that are absolutely convinced their team never holds at all while all opposing teams hold egregiously on every play; and they pout and they stomp their little feet and they cry incessantly.

    Yeah, those fan bases will “know it when they see it” alright.

  13. I think what might save them is that in those scenarios everyone is turned around and going for the ball, not each other. That allows for a ton of contact, even a fair amount of body blocking to be deemed legal. What they would do is look for plays guys made that were not on the ball but rather on another player to render him incapable of catching. For example player A Is right in front of player B. As player A starts to leap player B, instead of also leaping and trying to fight for the ball as it comes in, grabs player A by the shoulders and pulls them down. Or just grabs them and throws them out of the way…..Then goes for the less contested catch. That is ok to call, I have seen that called many times so it would not be anything new. As far as both guys slamming each other while they are both going for the ball thats legal.

  14. The “we all know it when we see it” philosophy works on obvious calls. But on close calls our viewpoint is influenced by which team we play or root for. So unless you make it clear and write it down, there will be a lot of crying on the losing side.

  15. Curious to see how they would rule Chris Hogan getting body bagged 25 yards down the field on an “obvious hail mary”.

    Do you really overturn it and create another crap storm?

    Not my football.

  16. torgow says:
    August 29, 2019 at 9:43 am
    Thanks a lot, Sean Payton. You whined your way into irrevocably changing the game.

    ———————————————————————-

    your venom would be better directed at the officiating crew and NFL

  17. This entire concept is absurd. It is a forward pass, no different than any other and should not have a separate standard on the field or in the replay booth. This garbage explanation will allow the NFL to adjust a game at will. If the passing team is behind by 9 it will almost certainly be called just to keep up the suspense and keep eyes glued to the TV generating ad revenue. If a “preferred team/money making team” is involved they will likely get the call. If this is how they are going forward then the NFL needs to explain why it is acceptable to cheat on certain plays and which plays specifically will fall under that ridiculous umbrella. The hail-mary exception and the “let them play” attitude in the playoffs have been ruining football. Use the objective standards and disregard all other factors such as time left in the game, score, teams/players involved, playoff implications, etc. I want to watch a genuine competition, not a potentially rigged/scripted sports-themed reality TV show.

  18. “For the Hail Mary, there’s a lot of things that could happen that’s allowed that everyone knows when there’s Hail Mary for example there’s some contact allowed that generally would not be allowed when it’s just one receiver and one defensive back on a normal pass play situation,” Riveron explained. “Everyone understands what the philosophy on that is.”

    They don’t even know what a catch is, so they can hardly say “everyone understands”.

  19. The difference between a Hail Mary and most pass plays is both the offense and the defense have an equal right to the ball on a Hail Mary because it’s basically thrown up for grabs. It’s the same thing with a regular pass that happens to be poorly thrown or well covered such that either guy could get it. Because of that, there’s going to be more jostling for position that is perfectly within the rules. You still can’t tackle a guy, so they shouldn’t let that go.

  20. Sounds like defensive holding gate 2.0 The NFL is going to ignore the rule book for an entire season and not enforce offensive pass interference on Hail Mary plays and then after someone wins the super bowl by taking advantage of it, they will meet and decide to enforce pass interference on Hail Mary plays again.

  21. In 1998 the Bills got screwed by the officials in one of the most lop sided set of calls ever in NFL history. The Patriots’ final drive began at their own 10-yard lone with 1:52 on the clock. Drew Bledsoe completed his first four pass attempts for 40 yards as the Patriots moved to the Buffalo 37. The Patriots were only able to gain one yard over their next three plays, setting up a crucial 4th-and-9 with only 11 second left. Bledsoe fired a 10-yard pass to Shawn Jefferson, who caught the ball at the sideline. The Bills disputed that the receiver had first down yardage and was in bounds, but the officials ruled a Patriot first down. In postgame interviews, both Reed and Flutie claimed they overheard the refs say, “just give it to them.”

    The next play began with only six seconds on the clock and the Patriots on the Bills’ 26. Bledsoe heaved a pass into the end zone with the ball bouncing out of receiver Terry Glenn’s hands. But a pass interference call on Bills safety Henry Jones gave the Patriots a free play with no time left on the clock.

    So Patriots fans shouldn’t complain about a Hail Mary because even before Brady. Kraft was deep in the pockets of the officials.

  22. streetyson says:
    August 29, 2019 at 7:39 am
    So basically if a team totally mugs all Pats receivers on a mary (SB LII) it will continue to be ignored, but when the new-improved stingy Pats D do it to stop Mahomes, it’ll def be called.
    #ParityRegulator
    #MakeItUpAsYouGo
    ——————————————————
    You might want to re-watch that final SB LII play in it’s entirety! You’ll see Gronk blatantly delivering a forearm blow to Jalen Mill’s head around the 20 yard line! FAR more egregious than any incidental contact on the defensive side! Your team lost by 8 points and needed a miracle to even put themselves in position to tie it with a 2pt conversion! Oh…and there’s nothing funnier than a Pat’s fan complaining about officials, lol!

  23. jquaste says:

    August 29, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    streetyson says:
    August 29, 2019 at 7:39 am
    So basically if a team totally mugs all Pats receivers on a mary (SB LII) it will continue to be ignored, but when the new-improved stingy Pats D do it to stop Mahomes, it’ll def be called.
    #ParityRegulator
    #MakeItUpAsYouGo
    ——————————————————
    You might want to re-watch that final SB LII play in it’s entirety! You’ll see Gronk blatantly delivering a forearm blow to Jalen Mill’s head around the 20 yard line! FAR more egregious than any incidental contact on the defensive side! Your team lost by 8 points and needed a miracle to even put themselves in position to tie it with a 2pt conversion! Oh…and there’s nothing funnier than a Pat’s fan complaining about officials, lol!

    ====================

    LOL. nope. Hogan getting body checked was indisputably worse. It was not incidental, it was intentional and not in pursuit of the thrown ball. It was like a special teams block which isn’t legal on a pass. Pats deserved another play. Also Clement never caught it in bounds. Tape don’t lie.

  24. jquaste says:

    August 29, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    “Your team lost by 8 points and needed a miracle to even put themselves in position to tie it with a 2pt conversion!”

    =======================

    Sounds like you would need someone like the all time leader in playoff 4th qtr comebacks for a job like that… which the Pats did.

  25. rogergoodellmyhero says:
    August 29, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    In 1998 the Bills got screwed by the officials in one of the most lop sided set of calls ever in NFL history …. So Patriots fans shouldn’t complain about a Hail Mary …
    ————————
    that about sums is it up, let’s use an example from a call that took place 21 YEARS AGO !!!

  26. I’ve said several times, the solution to this nightmare is actually quite simple. Call everything to the letter of the law… and change the law as necessary. No opinions, no judgement calls, nothing but “This is allowed. This isn’t.” That way, nobody can cry, no matter what color they paint their dog or whatever else some of these people do.

  27. dejc421 says:
    August 29, 2019 at 2:32 pm
    rogergoodellmyhero says:
    August 29, 2019 at 12:21 pm

    In 1998 the Bills got screwed by the officials in one of the most lop sided set of calls ever in NFL history …. So Patriots fans shouldn’t complain about a Hail Mary …
    ————————
    that about sums is it up, let’s use an example from a call that took place 21 YEARS AGO !!!
    ———————–
    In a regular season game on a play that wasn’t even a hail mary…

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