Blindside block foul called against the Saints was proper application of horrendous rule

NFL: AUG 24 Preseason - Saints at Jets
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We saw this coming in August 2019. It reared its head again in a big spot on Thursday night, with millions watching the Saints host the Cowboys.

With Dallas leading 13-10 in the third quarter and the Saints facing first and 10 from their own 21, the officials called New Orleans tight end Garrett Griffin for an illegal blindside block, as he crossed the formation to pick up blitzing Cowboys defensive back Jayron Kearse.

The foul wiped out an 11-yard gain and resulted in an 11-yard penalty, a 22-yard swing that put the Saints at first and 21.

Three plays later, the Saints punted. Four plays later, Cowboys running back Tony Pollard went 58 yards for a touchdown. And it was then 20-10 and the lights were almost entirely out.

Troy Aikman of Fox immediately described it is a “terrible call.” The NFL has kept its head low and its mouth shut about it.

But that’s the rule, bad as it may be. Check out our story from the preseason of the first year in which the rule was put on the books. As we explained at the time, the inaccurately-labeled rule “doesn’t carve out situations where the opponent sees the hit coming,” and “it prohibits a blocker from blocking with his helmet, forearm, or shoulder while moving in any direction other than toward the opponent’s end line.”

It’s just a bad rule. It’s a rule created by non-football people looking for ways to reduce the number of big hits in a given game, potentially as part of the broader quest to finish the push for 17 games and to commence the effort to expand to 18.

When it happened in 2019, the NFL posted the clip on Twitter and defended the call. This time around, it’s publicly crickets.

Privately, the league will describe it as a “judgment call,” and will explain that Walt Anderson and Perry Fewell will review the film from all angles, and then get back to the club on any questions it may have.

Here’s a question? When else has this actually been called in the last two-plus seasons?

The league previously admitted that the rule was improperly applied in a Bills-Texans playoff game, because the hit applied by Buffalo tackle Cody Ford was not “forcible.” Last night, Griffin applied a helmet-to-helmet hit to Kearse, even though he other (as he should have) used his hands to make the block. Without the collision of helmets, it’s not a foul.

Again, it’s a bad rule. It’s poorly named. It’s surely not aggressively enforced, or we’d be writing stories like this more frequently.

The likelihood that it isn’t regularly enforced becomes a huge part of the problem. As one person with extensive NFL experience observed last night, “If that’s a penalty, they’ve literally missed over 20 flags a game, because that was a common pass pro[tection] block.”

The fact that it was called last night is precisely the kind of thing that makes people think the fix is in, even if it isn’t. The best approach for the league, then, would be to fix the blindside block rule.

7 responses to “Blindside block foul called against the Saints was proper application of horrendous rule

  1. Aikman has become unwatchable. Aikman doesn’t seem to come prepared. It’s as though he has a few things written down that he wants to get into the broadcast, and often times it just doesn’t fit what’s taking place on the field. Time for some new faces in broadcasting, and I don’t understand why networks can’t just hire professionally trained analysts who actually know what they’re doing. Keep the ex-players on the pre-game shows. You don’t have to watch those, but you do have to watch the game.

  2. charliecharger says:

    December 3, 2021 at 8:51 pm

    Aikman has become unwatchable. Aikman doesn’t seem to come prepared. It’s as though he has a few things written down that he wants to get into the broadcast, and often times it just doesn’t fit what’s taking place on the field. Time for some new faces in broadcasting, and I don’t understand why networks can’t just hire professionally trained analysts who actually know what they’re doing. Keep the ex-players on the pre-game shows. You don’t have to watch those, but you do have to watch the game.

    ===========

    I’ve always been an Aikman fan, but man, I couldn’t agree more. It’s almost painful at times nowadays. Sometimes he still breaks down plays well, but I’ve started to notice that he often starts his explanation halfway through but as if he’d started it at the beginning. “Like I said, the safeties rolled to the right” but he never said it. I’m starting to worry that those concussions are getting to him.

  3. I’m trying to understand what the difference in a running back who’s lined up on the right side of the quarterback and goes to the left to protect his quarterback from a blitzing cornerback,,, a very bad call in that Saints game,,,

  4. Yet another horrible call for us, go figure. These refs should be fired.

    And Aikman sounds so bad because he wakes up every morning and gets a concussion getting out of bed.

  5. As a Cowboy fan, I didn’t agree with the call. I realize it the rule, but it’s a horrible rule. However, the Cowboys have had so many calls go against them this year, it was nice to see one finally go our way.

  6. charliecharger says:

    December 3, 2021 at 8:51 pm

    Aikman has become unwatchable. Aikman doesn’t seem to come prepared. It’s as though he has a few things written down that he wants to get into the broadcast, and often times it just doesn’t fit what’s taking place on the field. Time for some new faces in broadcasting, and I don’t understand why networks can’t just hire professionally trained analysts who actually know what they’re doing. Keep the ex-players on the pre-game shows. You don’t have to watch those, but you do have to watch the game.

    ===========

    I’ve always been an Aikman fan, but man, I couldn’t agree more. It’s almost painful at times nowadays. Sometimes he still breaks down plays well, but I’ve started to notice that he often starts his explanation halfway through but as if he’d started it at the beginning. “Like I said, the safeties rolled to the right” but he never said it. I’m starting to worry that those concussions are getting to him.

    ===========

    Weird that you guys are complaining about Aikman on THIS play, regarding which Aikman was exactly right.

    Terrible call. Terrible rule.

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