But the play was called back due to illegal formation. John Harbaugh was furious:
He had reason to be. Everything about the formation was perfectly legal:
Urschel is lined up here at the left end of the offensive line. Since there are no wide receivers on the line of scrimmage between him and the sideline, he's in position to be an eligible receiver. However, since he wears No. 64, an ineligible number, he would've needed to report as eligible to the officials. The refs claimed in their announcement that Urschel did not.
Here's the problem though: He clearly did.
Urschel clearly talks to the official and rubs the numbers on his chest, which is the symbol you're supposed to make. You can see Harbaugh making the same symbol while jawing with the referees:
How bad of a screw-up was this? Let's turn to FOX refereeing expert Mike Pereira. At first, he was confident that Urschel must have done something wrong:
64 has to report directly to the referee and no one else. It is obvious he didn't. The referee would know.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) October 27, 2015
But then he saw the replay, and had no idea how the ref had turned a blind eye:
I am very perplexed how the referee did not interpret that as reporting. He has to do it before entering the huddle, but he did.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) October 27, 2015
Real Mea Culpa on my part....I would not have believed that 64 had reported. Hard to understand. 64 did what he was supposed to do. Crazy.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) October 27, 2015
I honestly would not have believed it with the replay showing it. Quit killing me. Let's move on.— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) October 27, 2015
It's the ref's responsibility to be aware of this sort of stuff at all times. In this case, he wasn't, and that's a pretty big failure.
The Ravens probably know the rules on eligibility and formations better than anybody at this point. The Patriots famously played around with eligibility against the Ravens during last year's playoffs, irritating Harbaugh massively and leading to a rule change making what New England did illegal. Then the Ravens used essentially the same play Week 2.
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SB Nation presents: The NFL needs to tell us what a catch is IN PLAIN LANGUAGE