The referees appeared to miss what would have been significant call against the Seattle Seahawks during their game in Arizona on Sunday.
The Seahawks blocked a 39-yard Cardinals field goal attempt early in the second quarter when linebacker Bobby Wagner leaped over the Cardinals’ long snapper. However, Wagner made contact with the long snapper with his foot, which many (including Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians and NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth) argued should have been an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for leaping.
Watching the play, it’s clear that Wagner made contact.
But the play was NOT a penalty. Here is the rule concerning leaping in the NFL rulebook:
Running forward and leaping in an obvious attempt to block a field goal or Try Kick and landing on players, unless the leaping player was originally lined up on the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped.
The key phrase in there is “landing on players.” Wagner still clears the long snapper, even though he brushed against him. You can see what landing on a player looks like in this much clearer example of a penalty from last season’s Cowboys-Panthers game.
Dean Blandino, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, confirmed the ruling of a non-call. The officials working Sunday’s game were correct.
In #SEAvsAZ you have to land on the player for it to be a foul. The block was legal.— Dean Blandino (@DeanBlandino) October 24, 2016
From the NFL rulebook, here is everything you can’t do to block a kick. The phrasing of the rule makes incidental contact possible.
Even if Wagner had committed a foul, referees would not have been able to review the play and overturn it. They did review the play, but only to double check whether the Seahawks lined up in an illegal formation. Defenders are not allowed to line up directly over the snapper on special teams plays. After review, Wagner was determined to be legally far enough away from the snapper before the play began.
The Seahawks should know the rules as anyone. Safety — excuse me, deathbacker — Kam Chancellor has a history of leaping over lines to block kicks. Arians may have been mad — after a wild ending, he called the no-call “bullshit” during his press conference — but referees absolutely made the right call on Sunday night.