Packers’ intentional penalty could have triggered an unusual rule

NFC Championship - Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Green Bay Packers
Getty Images

At the two-minute warning of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, the Buccaneers had the lead and the ball, with second-and-1. The Packers made a smart decision: They intentionally jumped offside, figuring it’s easier to stop a team from picking up a first down and running the clock on first-and-10 than on second-and-1.

Because it was a smart decision by the Packers, the Buccaneers should have declined the penalty. They didn’t, but if they had, it could have triggered an unusual rule in the NFL.

If the Buccaneers had declined the offside penalty, the Packers might have committed another penalty. The Buccaneers cold have declined that, and then the Packers could have committed another. All this would have been happening without the clock running. So what happens if one team keeps committing penalties and the other team keeps declining? How does the game keep going?

The answer is a rule that is almost never applied, called a “palpably unfair act.”

If one team continues committing penalties in a situation like this, the referee has broad authority to enforce the palpably unfair act rule and do whatever he thinks would be fair. For instance, a team committing penalties over and over again to keep the clock from running might be warned that if they don’t stop it, the ref will just take 40 seconds off the clock himself. And then if they commit another penalty after that, the ref would take that time off the clock.

Palpably unfair acts are extremely rare, but they do happen. The most famous example at any level of football came in the 1954 Cotton Bowl, when Dicky Moegle of Rice had the ball and was in the clear running down the Alabama sideline when, Tommy Lewis of Alabama jumped off the bench, ran on the field and tackled Moegle. Under the letter of the rule, that would have been illegal participation, a five-yard penalty, but the referee decided to call a palpably unfair act and award Rice a touchdown.

Presumably, Sunday’s NFC Championship Game never would have come close to a palpably unfair act. If the Buccaneers had declined the penalty, the Packers probably would have accepted that their strategy didn’t work. If the Packers had tried to keep doing it, the referee would have warned head coach Matt LaFleur to knock it off, and only if the Packers had continued committing penalties after the warning would the referee have taken the highly unusual step of calling a palpably unfair act.

16 responses to “Packers’ intentional penalty could have triggered an unusual rule

  1. This was after the two minute warning and the Pack had all three timeouts. Its weird that the refs would take 40 seconds off the clock or I assume force them to take the timeout and stop the clock. Would the refs sit there and force them to burn their timeouts? Each time he threatens to run the clock?

  2. 100 percent of all those players and coaches have never even heard of a ‘palpably unfair act.’

    Believe that.

  3. Poor Packers. Feel sorry for them.

    When they lose though, they like to say gopack meaning gopacking. That’s the way to cheers. 😃😃🤣😅🤣🤣🐵🐵

  4. Lol, Viking fans and their opinions. Climb out of third place next year then you can talk. Perennial losers talking smack about fanbases not being happy to be in the nfccg. SMH.

  5. The Packers intentional penalty . . . and less than stellar coaching decision . . . are almost as good as our Vikings’ “take a knee” moment in a certain NFC championship game . . . almost.

  6. I missed the play, and thought that the Packers had done something smart that every defense should do against players like Rodgers: blow up the blocker if you jump offside. Encroachment doesn’t give up a free play.

  7. Should have been called on Trip Tomlin. How in the world is he still on the NFL Competition Committee? It makes no sense.

  8. Now that would have been fun to see. If Belichick were coaching, I guarantee he would have pushed that one to the limit. I wonder how many of the refs would have even been aware of that catch-all rule?

  9. funny how the NFL has a palpably unfair act rule when some of the rules are in and of itself palpably unfair such as spot of the foul pass interference and awarding the defense the ball for a fumble that they did not recover that just happens to occur out of bounds in the end zone oh and by the way is also not reviewable.

  10. I don’t always refer to incredibly obscure rules that will never be called as things that “do happen.” But when I do, I bring up Dicky Moegle.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.