Late in the second quarter of a Thursday Night Football game, the Dolphins’ Brock Osweiler robot malfunctioned and launched a football in the opposite direction. Every thing about the play looked like a fumble, so the Texans scooped it up and ran into the end zone for what appeared to be a fumble.
It was a football comedy at its finest:
how do you throw a pass backwards lmao pic.twitter.com/SZ05IfznZ2— Jordan Heck (@JordanHeckFF) October 26, 2018
But after a review, officials determined that Osweiler’s arm was going forward and that the play was an incomplete pass. HUH?
It was probably ruled correctly
Here’s the relevant section of the NFL rulebook (emphasis mine):
Item 1. Contact by Team B Player. If a Team B player contacts the passer or the ball after forward movement begins, a forward pass is ruled, regardless of where the ball strikes the ground or a player. When this occurs, intentional grounding rules do not apply.
If a Team B player contacts the passer or the ball before forward movement begins, the direction of the pass is the responsibility of the passer, and grounding rules apply.
It’s clear from replays of the hit that nobody touched the ball except Osweiler, but that doesn’t matter. Osweiler begins the process of throwing a pass and he’s hit by a defender, so it doesn’t matter where the ball winds up.
The only close part of the play is whether or not it’s a fumble or an incomplete pass. The infamous “tuck rule” that helped the Patriots to the Super Bowl comes to mind, but that was changed in 2013. Now, the NFL rulebook explicitly says that pulling the ball back is now a fumble, not a pass.
Item 2. Passer Tucks Ball. If the player loses possession of the ball during an attempt to bring it back toward his body, or if the player loses possession after he has tucked the ball into his body, it is a fumble.
Item 3. Passer re-cocks his arm. If the player loses possession of the ball while attempting to re-cock his arm, it is a fumble.
Determining Osweiler’s intent is tough, but officials ruled he was attempting a pass and that means it wasn’t a fumble.
Here’s the NFL’s explanation for the call:
“In #MIAvsHOU, @MiamiDolphins QB Brock Osweiler’s hand starts forward with control of the ball and the ball goes backwards because of defensive contact. Therefore, the result of the play is an incomplete pass.” - AL— NFL Officiating (@NFLOfficiating) October 26, 2018
Rulebook reference: https://t.co/Fd53f9Fb8M pic.twitter.com/N2TnPGbTag
As much as it seemed like the NFL refs were awful all game as part of some kind of conspiracy, this was probably the right call.
The Texans went to halftime up only 14-10 instead of taking a double-digit lead into the second half. They won handedly, 42-23.
But the real crime is that Osweiler’s comedic play didn’t matter.