Official: NFL rules prohibited review of field-goal block play vs. Packers
By Alan Robinson
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, 4:57 p.m.
The Steelers likely were cost possession of the ball — and a Packers' touchdown — because the game officials were not permitted by NFL rules to review what happened after they blocked a Green Bay field-goal attempt, according to NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino.
Packers kicker Mason Crosby's 23-yard attempt with 5:32 remaining Sunday in the third quarter was blocked by nose tackle Steve McLendon. Steelers safety Ryan Clark gained possession of the loose ball, and his knee appeared to touch down — which should have ended the play — as he attempted a lateral to William Gay.
Gay couldn't control the ball, which was batted out of bounds by defensive end Ziggy Hood. Referee Carl Cheffers' crew called Hood for illegal batting of the ball and, because the Steelers were ruled to have never gained possession, Green Bay was given the ball back and an automatic first down at the Steelers' 2-yard line. Packers rookie running back Eddie Lacy scored on the next play.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said afterward the call was wrong, but he was told the play could not be reviewed — and Blandino agreed.
“The ruling on the field of whether Clark possessed it or not is not a reviewable aspect,” Blandino said during his weekly appearance on the NFL Network. “That's something the (NFL) Competition Committee has looked at in the past, and I'm sure they'll continue to look at it.”
Coincidentally, Tomlin was added to the competition committee only this year.
If the play had been reviewable, Blandino said, it is likely the call would have been reversed and the Steelers would have been given the ball — which would seem to be the logical outcome to a play in which the Packers had a field-goal attempt blocked. An angry Tomlin could be seen discussing the call with Cheffers after the play ended, and a few minutes later as the Steelers were scoring two touchdowns in a span of 18 seconds.
While watching video of the play, Blandino said, “He (Clark) is going to gain control, and it actually looks like he throws a backward pass. So, had this been reviewable, I think we could have overturned this. Pittsburgh would have kept the football and we would have enforced the foul from the spot of the bat (by Hood), and they would have kept the ball.
“So it's an interesting play, (but) not something that's currently reviewable.”
On Monday, Tomlin said, “I didn't understand that (the play not being reviewable), but I'm sure there are several, many rules in the book that I don't understand in great detail. It made common sense to me that I could challenge that, but they ruled otherwise. I'm sure at some point I'll get clarity in regards to that. But in the game, obviously, I thought that was going to be a challengeable play. Makes sense that it should be, but it wasn't.”
What upset and admittedly angered Tomlin and his players was that the Packers benefited not only by retaining the ball, but gaining better field position and a first down, an illogical conclusion to a play in which they had a field goal blocked.
For any comparable play in the future to be reviewed, a rules change must be enacted.
Despite the call, the Steelers (7-8) won 38-31 in Green Bay to retain their slim playoff hopes going into their regular season-ending game Sunday against the Browns (4-11) at Heinz Field.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at a firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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