End-zone angle shows Matt Rhule was right about missed intentional grounding call

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A controversy emerged on Sunday regarding whether Browns quarterback Jacoby Brissett properly executed a clock-killing spike with 13 seconds to play, setting up the eventual game-winning 58-yard field goal.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule argued that Brissett committed intentional grounding by not immediately spiking the ball.

“I started screaming, ‘Intentional grounding, 10-second runoff, game’s about to be over,'” Rhule said after the game. “They obviously called it and then changed it, and it was told to me that — I’m going to get in trouble here, but — it was told to me he just pump-faked it,” Rhule said after the game.

Beyond the 10-second runoff, the 58-yard try would have become a 68-yard proposition. Otherwise known as “just beyond the range of Brandon McManus.”

Referee Brad Rogers addressed the call after the game with a pool reporter. Said Rogers, “After discussion, we determined that stepping back does not disqualify the quarterback from spiking the ball and we allowed him to do that by rule.”

Brissett did indeed step back. It was obvious from the TV angle. Here’s what wasn’t obvious. From the end-zone angle (which I have seen with my own lying eyes), Brissett executes a quick but definite pump toward the ground after getting the snap and before stepping back.

During the game, Rogers admitted that there was a fake spike, in explaining that the flag that had been thrown would be picked up.

We quoted the rules here. They’re worth repeating. First, “a player under center is permitted to stop the game clock legally to save time if, immediately upon receiving the snap, he begins a continuous throwing motion and throws the ball directly into the ground.” Second, “a passer, after delaying his passing action for strategic purposes, is prohibited from throwing the ball to the ground in front of him, even though he is under no pressure from defensive rusher(s).”

By executing a quick fake spike after getting the ball (possibly to evaluate whether the defense was susceptible to a Dan Marino move), Brissett squandered the ability to spike the ball thereafter, without the outcome being intentional grounding. He did not “immediately” begin “a continuous throwing motion” that resulted in the ball being thrown “directly into the ground.” Also, he apparently “delay[ed] his passing action for strategic purposes.” The actual spike, then, should have been a penalty.

Not that any of it matters at this point. It’s not as if the game can be protested. At best, someone from the league offie will privately tell Rhule he was right. Maybe that will help reduce the heat a bit with owner David Tepper. Maybe it will make it less likely that Rhule will be fined for what he said after the game.

The bigger issue is credibility. Mistakes are made. Either they are admitted, or they’re concealed. Here, Rogers gave bad information to the media about whether the decision not to penalize Brissett was the right one.

And, obviously, it changed the outcome of the game. Unless Browns kicker Cade York would have been able to make a field goal from 68 yards.

Maybe he could have. The point is that, if the rules had been properly applied, he would have had to try.

16 responses to “End-zone angle shows Matt Rhule was right about missed intentional grounding call

  1. The league won’t do anything about it until next year. Nickell Robey Coleman clearly committed pass interference and the league was quiet until they made PI something coaches could challenge. The only time I have ever seen them do anything was the Jerome Bogert inadvertent whistle call in the playoffs last year. All they did there was take that crew off playoff games. They never said he was wrong.

  2. I’m not surprised by the bad call – in the game last night there were at least five missed non-calls against Seattle (helmet to helmet, 3 defensive offsides, and one pass interference/holding non-calls). The game was so poorly officiated and selectively called by the officials that I wondered if the game was rigged. It was that bad.

  3. Whether it’s replay or otherwise, overturning a call should have a higher standard of proof than the same judgment call that created the flag in the first place.

    In other words, unless you’re really sure, the call stands.

    The Browns had two manufactured call outcomes go their way on that last drive. That’s a good way to create a really cynical feeling in fans right off the start of the season.

  4. Between O-lineman Bitonio getting his head pushed into Brisket and still getting the roughthepasser call, & the take-your-time-on-deciding-to-spike-the-ball issue, seems like the Clowns lucked out.

  5. To me it appears that Brissett was thinking about the fake spike but quickly realized/saw that none of the receivers left the line of scrimmage after the ball was hiked.

  6. 2 bad calls on the final drive resulting in 25 yards and an extra 2 downs. Really makes you wonder with betting with how bad the officiating has become and how easily outcomes are determined by officials.

  7. Because the league wants the Browns in playoff contention by the time Watson returns, so they will continue to get favorable calls like this until then.

  8. “O-lineman Bitonio getting his head pushed into Brisket and still getting the roughthepasser call” _____________________________________ the call was Burns helmet hitting Brissett’s and as a neutral party it happens quite clearly even if the replay angles weren’t very good (and the announcer was entirely wrong saying it was bitonios arm when it was the minor helmet contact from burns but the NFL always calls that now). The spike non call was pretty clearly the NFL not wanting a procedural issue to end a game. Which is dumb since they’ve called plenty of rules strictly to end games before, but they figured it would cause less controversy to just ignore the rule and gift the browns a win.

  9. The Browns have gotten hosed on many a bad call like this over the years. Nice to see it happen to someone else for a change.

  10. The roughing the passer call on the last drive was far more shadier than the fake spike. If I were Rhule I’d be more that one (as well as packing my bags) than I would the fake spike.

  11. We preach this to the kids at the pee-wee level (not just football, but in ANY human officiated sport)… “Never let the final outcome of a game be decided by the officials. Handle your business.”

  12. I don’t complain about bad calls. They happen and I am old enough to have learned to live with them. I also think there is too much complaining about how the game is called, I think the refs do a pretty good job considering the what they are asked to do. With that said this should be reviewable. It isn’t really a judgement call and will ALWAYS happen in a crucial time.

  13. To me, the lack of consistency is the most frustrating. Other than officiating consistently being atrocious, what is and isn’t a penalty is so different from crew to crew. It also blows my mind how often false starts are missed

  14. The rule is written entirely around the intention. The call was 100% correct based on Brissett’s intention which is obvious to the entire universe was to stop the clock. There needs to be a rule change. Just allow the player to announce to the ref loss of down and clock stoppage, and get rid of the spiked ball entirely. Sooner or later, a nose tackle is going to get lucky and end up with an interception. I really would like to see the NFL handle that one.

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