Cam Newton drew criticism for not diving on a fumble in the final minutes of Super Bowl 50, but he likely would've grabbed the ball had Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller not scooped it away and toward the end zone. In a conversation with Sports Illustrated's Peter King, Miller admitted he knocked the ball backward on purpose, which is technically against NFL rules.
In the NFL rulebook, an illegal bat is defined as any time a "player bats or punches a loose ball in the field of play toward his opponent's goal line."
While Miller's illegal bat was more of a scoop than a punch or hit of the ball, he told King that he wasn't trying to recover the ball, but just get it away from Newton so a teammate could recover it.
"So I couldn't get to the ball right away. I thought Cam was going to jump on it, but I guess, I mean, he didn't want to dive down there on it. I couldn't fall on it, so I was just trying to, I don't know, get it to one of our guys."
Days later, however, the Super Bowl MVP denied that he tried to bat the ball.
"I was trying to scoop it up and go score," Miller said on ESPN, via Pro Football Talk. "If you watch the film again, I am trying to scoop it and score. If I batted it, it’s totally different."
The play came with just over four minutes left in the game while the Broncos were defending a 16-10 lead. The fumble was recovered by Denver inside the 10-yard line and set up the Broncos' only offensive touchdown of the game that extended the lead to 24-10 with 3:08 left on the clock.
Illegal bats are rarely called penalties, even if they are obvious to the viewer. So it would've been shocking if an illegal bat was called on a play that was such a subtle move by Miller and difficult to notice even on replays.
According to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, illegal batting is a play that NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino thinks could be added to the list of reviewable plays, but it's difficult to imagine that even replay review would have overturned the call in Super Bowl 50.