A controversial call took place during Sunday’s Patriots-Dolphins game, when Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert fumbled, the Patriots recovered, and the Dolphins kept the ball because the officials incorrectly ruled that forward progress had been stopped.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick pulled out his red challenge flag and talked to the officials, but they appeared to tell him he couldn’t challenge the play. On Monday morning, Belichick confirmed that.
“Not reviewable. Forward progress isn’t reviewable,” Belichick said.
But PFT checked with the league office today and was told that while forward progress is not reviewable, there are aspects that can be reviewed if forward progress is ruled.
And a little-noticed change to the rule on reviewing forward progress was made in 2022 that directly relates to the blown call in Sunday’s game. On page 7 of the Instant Replay Casebook, a situation similar to Mostert’s fumble is addressed. The three words in italics were added in 2022:
“If on-field officials rule forward progress, then replay can only review the position of the ball in relation to the line to gain or goal line and can rule that there is a fumble (with clear recovery) if possession is lost prior to or simultaneously with the defensive contact.”
Former NFL referee Gene Steratore, who now works as a CBS rules analyst, wrote on Twitter that Belichick should have been allowed to challenge, and would have won the challenge if he had, precisely because the Dolphins’ fumble took place simultaneously with the Patriots making contact.
“This specific instance is reviewable. Since the ball came loose following immediate contact and there was a clear recovery, I believe replay would have overturned and awarded the ball to New England,” Steratore wrote.
Those three words that were added to the Instant Replay Casebook made a big difference, but they were widely overlooked. Including, it appears, by Belichick and the officials who told him there was nothing that could be reviewed on the play in question on Sunday.