Few penalties in the NFL would seem to be less subjective than whether the ball is snapped before or after the play clock reaches :00. But that’s not the way NFL officials do things.
The Lions found that out the hard way on Sunday, when the Ravens clearly snapped the ball for their last offensive play after the play clock had expired. The Ravens should have been penalized five yards for delay of game, but they weren’t, and they ended up winning the game on a 66-yard field goal that bounced in off the cross bar and would have been five yards short if the penalty had been applied.
Lions coach Dan Campbell said today that he called the league office for an explanation and was told that delay of game is a subjective penalty.
“It’s really a subjective call is really what it came down to,” Campbell said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “So I think they’re kind of split on it. Some are — it’s just, you guys have heard the procedure of it and I’ll be honest with you, I don’t even, I’m so over it now.”
Unlike in basketball, where the shot clock clearly defines whether or not a violation has taken place, in football the play clock is not so clear because an official looks at the play clock, then looks at the ball to see whether it has been snapped, and some officials take longer than others to shift their eyes and throw their flags.
Campbell said he usually doesn’t bother to turn in questionable calls to the league office because he doesn’t think it does any good.
“The ones where it’s like, ‘Should this have been holding?’ Well, I know I’m going to get the yes, it should have been holding, but that goes both ways,” Campbell said. “Each team will turn those in and it’s like, look, that’s not worth it. It’s those ones where, ‘Why would you pump the play clock here? Why would that have been done?’ Like I don’t understand that, and then when you get clarification one way or another then at least that helps you moving down the road. I want to use it like not so much, like, ‘I told you, you were wrong.’ I want it, moving forward is there something that I missed or something that can help us down the road, more than anything.”
The Lions were on the wrong end of a missed call, but as Campbell knows, there’s nothing they can do about it now.