NFL: Key block during Jets-Patriots punt return came from the side


The Jets and Patriots seemed to be headed for overtime. Until they weren’t.

The score was knotted at three. The Jets were punting with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation.

Marcus Jones caught the ball at the New England 16. He broke to the right sideline. And off he went.

He cut back inside near the 50, foiling punter Braden Mann‘s apparent plan to knock Jones out of bounds. Jones eluded Mann — and Jones was gone.

Justin Hardee had the final chance to catch Jones. Hardee was closing in on a last-ditch effort to keep Jones from scoring.

Enter Mack Wilson Sr. He hit Hardee, knocking him to the ground and allowing Jones to score.

But was it a legal block? It looked like it was a block in the back. The league says it was not.

Per the NFL, the key is the direction which the force originated from. The officials determined the block originated from the side, and so they did not throw a flag.

But that’s not what the rulebook says. At Rule 3, Section 4, the rulebook defines a block in the back as “a block that is delivered from behind an opponent above his waist.” The rulebook also says that it is not a block in the back “if both of the blocker’s hands are on the opponent’s side.” However, the rulebook plainly states that, “if either hand is on the back, it is a foul.”

Also, Rule 12, Section 1, Article 3 defines an illegal block as occurring when a player “blocks an opponent (from behind) in the back above the opponent’s waist, or uses his hands or arms to push an opponent from behind in a manner that affects his movement, except in close-line play.”

Watch the video. Watch it again. Initial contact may have come from the side, but Wilson instantaneously (if not simultaneously) shoved Hardee in the back, too. With at least one hand, possibly two. The shove in the back (not the side) is what put Hardee on the ground.

Was first impact technically on the side? Maybe. Did Wilson shove Hardee in the back with both hands? Absolutely.

And here’s the key, as it relates to parsing the language of the officials rules. Given that the rulebook makes it clear that it’s a foul if either hand is on the opponent’s back, common sense suggests that any exception based on initial contact coming from the side before one or both hands are placed on the opponent’s back, that exception would be printed in the rulebook. Without a “first contact from the side” exception, it’s a foul if the blocker puts his hands on the opponent’s back, and shoves.

Here, Wilson put both hands on Hardee’s back. And shoved.

So it looks like it should have been a foul. It would have taken the touchdown off the board. The Patriots would have gotten the ball at the 25. The hit happened at the 15. A 10-yard penalty would have been applied.

It would have resulted in the Patriots trying a field goal of roughly 43 yards for the win in regulation. Coincidentally, Patriots kicker Nick Folk had missed both a 43-yarder and a 44-yarder earlier in the game.

So, yes, if the flag had been thrown, the game quite possibly would have ended up in overtime. And if it had gone to overtime, who knows what would have happened?

30 responses to “NFL: Key block during Jets-Patriots punt return came from the side

  1. Of course it came from the side. The shoulder is the side, not his back. People are so jealous of NE’s successes of any kind at all, they just make things up.

    Also, it wasn’t a “key” block. Jones was running into the end zone in front of the Jets player anyway.

  2. Watch it. Watch it again. It was going for 6 either way (and it did come from the side). Not a Pats fan, either.

  3. And if they had called that this article would be all about how it was unfair since first contact had come from the side and how the guy was going to score regardless.

  4. Bad calls happen (I’m a Jets’ fan).

    Good teams do not put themselves in a position to have one bad call decide a game.

    Good teams also understand situational football and punt the ball our of bounds so a return is not possible. And for you analytics guys, no matter how small the possibility of a return for a TD is, if it is punted out of bounds the possibility is 0%. Beat that.

  5. It was a block in the back and I don’t care, didn’t bet the game or cheer for either team. Whether or not one feels that player could have made the play is really immaterial here. He was the closest runner to the ball and it was an obvious call. It should have been flagged. Calls get missed all the time and I don’t waste all that much time with it.

  6. As someone who hates both teams, I can objectively say it was from the side and didn’t have any consequence to the play, anyways. I would’ve preferred these two turds of teams tie, but it is what it is.

  7. Good no-call. We don’t need ticky-tack stuff stealing highlight reel game changing plays from the game. It was a side block. Definitely not a block in the back.

  8. Justin Hardee wasn’t going to catch the runner. Would have been sad to see a flag on that play.

  9. That guy wasn’t making the tackle anyways. Refs saw that and were like, let’s get this miserable game over with.

  10. Hardee was well behind Jones and stumbling. He not only had no chance of stopping Jones he turned to avoid the hit that he saw coming.

  11. Ten million flags thrown in this game and they miss the critical one that decided the game. Bang up job.

  12. Questionable officiating is a fact of life in the NFL. Get use to it! If you blame your losing on officials calls just go get a L tattooed on your forehead because that’s what you are!

  13. The point is, it’s irrelevant. If the call was made, the Pats would have the ball on the 20 anyway with 5 seconds left. Nick Folk hits that 99% of the time, and Jets still lose. Only thing that would change was the final score, but not the outcome.

  14. Everyone all excited over a last second punt return instead of pointing out that the Patriots only scored 3 points on offense in the whole game. BB better worry about his sorry offense.

  15. patsfan4lifedynasty says:
    November 21, 2022 at 2:43 pm
    The Patriots are well coached


    That is why they scored 3 points on offense I guess. Patriots fans are lost in a dream. A bad one at that.

  16. It wasn’t a key block. It was an unnecessary block. It wasn’t going to change the outcome if he left the guy unblocked. Poor decision because it definitely could have been called. Going the same direction, with an attempt to hit from the side and knowing it wouldn’t have affected the play the refs made a good call, but it could have gone the other way without much argument.

  17. I watched the replay several times. Hardee stepped out of bounds for about 10 to 15 yards before the questionable block making him ineligible to come back onto the field

  18. The Jets player had no chance of getting Jones, block in back or not. Jones was way past him. It was a stupid block by Wilson. No need to take the chance of a penalty. Either way, Pats would have won with a FG, even though Folk missed 2

  19. I get wanting to get it right. IMO they did. That said, the Patriots get the ball back with 7-10 seconds and a timeout. In theory they had 1 play to gain more yardage for any potential FG.

  20. lawrence stacy says:
    November 22, 2022 at 6:56 am
    patsfan4lifedynasty says:
    November 21, 2022 at 2:43 pm
    The Patriots are well coached


    That is why they scored 3 points on offense I guess. Patriots fans are lost in a dream. A bad one at that.


    I suspect that was more about being coached how not to block in the back than an indictment the Patriots offense is great. Trust me few if any Patriots fans are waving the pom poms over this offense.

    That said only one team accumulated 103 yards total. And it wasn’t the Patriots. 🙂

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.