Zebra Report: Mike Martz, Illegal Forward Pass, and Conspiracy Theories

FanHouse's resident referee will chime in weekly with thoughts on major topics relating to officiating. We call it The Zebra Report. Matt Snyder is a high school official with eight years experience. While this is like a third-year resident critiquing the work of a world-renowned surgeon, it's still better than someone who has never worn the stripes.

Lots of controversy this week surrounding the boys in stripes, whether warranted or not, so let's jump right in ...

Incident 1:Mike Martz says the Niners were "screwed every way possible" by the officials. Ah, I love a good example of lacking accountability. I'm sure it was the officials who told Martz to run the football on the previous play with around 10 seconds left and no timeouts. I mean, that's the only way "every way possible" works as an accurate statement.

What do you want from the officials here? They can't give one team an advantage. The Niners were out of timeouts. It was advantageous enough for the Niners to be bailed out by the replay review -- otherwise they would have been hit with a five yard penalty for illegal formation on their spike, and the clock still would have wound on the ready-for-play whistle after the five-yard march-off.

The officials spotted the ball at the 1 yard-line during the replay because that's where they thought the ball was to be spotted after the previous play. When reviewing a play, they can review everything. They determined where to properly spot the football during said review, so they moved it. They can't mill around and make sure Martz has the play called that he wants because that would like giving the Niners a timeout. Hell, they already basically had a timeout during the replay. Also, there's a reason the officials didn't directly tell Martz about the re-spot ... he's an assistant coach. Officials talk to the head coach, not a guy who thinks he's much more important than he really is. Head coach is the boss. Everyone else back off.

This is just -- as I said -- another case of a guy who made an awful play-call on the previous play trying to save face and place the blame elsewhere. Well, where else to put it but on the maligned officials? That's elementary league crap, Martz. Be a man and be accountable.

*** UPDATE *** Pereira discussed this situation with Peter King on Sirius Radio ...

Incident 2: DPI call gets the Chiefs into scoring range late. Look, we all saw it. The slow-motion replays showed conclusively, in my mind, that Clinton Hart played great defense and did not contact Tony Gonzalez before the ball arrived. (By the way, we went through PI rules here) At this point, I'd guess the official who made the call agrees with that assessment.

Here's the thing, though. He didn't see it in slow-motion. In fast motion, my gut instinct was that the DB arrived early ... CBS color commentator Steve Tasker was the same way. He immediately said it was the correct call and the defender arrived early. Then they slow it down for the replay, and you could see all three of us -- Tasker, official, myself -- were wrong. This goes back to the question we've discussed before ... if the players are so fast and strong that fast motion plays can be so deceiving, should you be allowed to review penalties? A review in this play would have obviously caused a waved-off flag.

Aaron Rodgers PFT had good coverage

- Everyone agrees the "unnatural throwing motion" stuff is junk, and even the league has admitted the call should not have been illegal forward pass.

- The criteria for intentional grounding are met in the fact that the ball did not get back to the line of scrimmage and the quarterback was under duress. He was clearly not attempting to complete a pass, and was, instead, desperately heaving the ball out of the end-zone to avoid a safety.

- On the other hand, he was outside the pocket. Shouldn't this void the grounding call?

- Also, there was a receiver in the area. Shouldn't this void the grounding call?

I've talked to some sources with much more knowledge than myself (NCAA, NFL experience) and all of them believe intentional grounding should have been called. I'm guessing the intent to save from a safety instead of completing a pass, the fact that Rodgers clearly had no idea there was a receiver in the area, the fact that the ball didn't make it back to the line of scrimmage, and the fact that the receiver obviously had zero chance to even make an attempt to catch the football all played into this opinion.

This was a very controversial and difficult play, and I wouldn't be surprised if some rules stipulations were added onto the intentional grounding rule in the offseason ... because two things are clear: 1. It definitely should have been grounding, but; 2. under the rules, it sounds like his being outside the pocket should negate the grounding call.

Incident(s) 4: Conspiracy accusations regarding the Giants on Sunday Night Football. First of all, I'm not mentioning him by name because he's so deplorable, but I heard from others -- I don't watch; again, deplorable -- there was a certain talking head on ESPN flipping out and crying "conspiracy" for the Giants to win that game based upon two calls. How laughable, and frankly, embarrassing. Either way, we'll take a look.

- The first play in question is very, very close. Eli Manning was called past the line of scrimmage for -- notice a theme this week? -- illegal forward pass. By rule, the passer's entire body must be past the LOS for the penalty to be called. We were shown what I believed to be very conclusive replays that Eli's back foot was still on the line, therefore, the officials correctly overturned the call on the field. The fallout has been more directed at the fact that NBC was showing a red line across the field on the line of scrimmage to prove the ruling correct or incorrect.

- Brandon Jacobs touchdown, where he appeared to fumble immediately after the ball broke the plane of the goal-line. I actually didn't even think this was questionable, so I was shocked to learn people were complaining about it. There was no camera directly over the top of the goal-line, which is the only way we could have seen for sure if the call was correct. It appeared from every angle we had that Jacobs was a half-yard or a whole yard into the end-zone before the ball came loose. At least that's how I saw it. .

Incident 5:Adrian Peterson removes helmet, no flag for unsportsmanlike conduct. Mike Pereira, head of NFL Officiating has stated that he's annoyed with the officials for not throwing a flag here, so there's nothing more for me to say. Obviously, that's a missed call.

Non-Incident, which I wanted to discuss anyway. In the Bears/Titans game, on a 4th and just more than five, the Titans punter was run into by the Bears. The call was running into the kicker, which is only five yards and not an automatic first down. Running into the kicker is an act that displaces the kicker without roughing him. So you run into him and he falls down. Roughing is when you tackle, charge into, or completely take out the legs of the kicker. In this case, the Bears player did take out the legs of the punter, but he has already trying to stop and barely clipped the lower legs. It was the proper call by Ed Hochuli.

Often times, running into vs. roughing can be a difficult judgment, though ... so I just wanted to attempt to clarify.

That's all I've got ... I'll be back next week. As always, if you want a rule or play reviewed (even if it's a local 8th grade game), you may submit one to our mailbox.

Zebra Report: Mike Martz, Illegal Forward Pass, and Conspiracy Theories originally appeared on NFL FanHouse on Wed, 12 Nov 2008 12:55:00 EST . Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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