In order that we can put this behind us and look ahead to the upcoming game against the Bengals, I thought I'd share some of the main developments since yesterday.
First of all, it's now apparent that the Patriots employed the same tactic on a field goal attempt in the Saints game. It's since emerged that the Dolphins alerted the league to the fact that the Saints had also got away with this in their week five meeting.
The likes of Mike Reiss and Rich Cimini also accused the Jets' Quinton Coples of doing this on the field goal that tied the game at the end of the fourth quarter. See image here. However, that merely underlines that you can't always rely on TV footage. Now that the coaches film has been released by the NFL, it's indisputably clear that Coples was engaged with a blocker and did not push a teammate into the line.
It wouldn't have made much sense for the Jets to break a rule they'd reportedly told the officials to look out for during the game, anyway.
More, including the actual wording from the NFL rulebook, after the jump.
On the television broadcast, you could hear Bill Belichick screaming at the officials that the player was on the line of scrimmage. The plot thickened when reports emerged that the language in the rulebook had changed in the hours following the game, but the truth was that there was some inaccurate wording in an NFL.com report but the wording in the NFL rulebook is clear and unchanged and does not specify that a player would need to be off the line of scrimmage to be penalized. Deadspin summarized the situation well here.
As Deadspin points out, there was one mistake on the play and that's the fact that Jerome Boger announced the penalty as unsportsmanlike conduct when it should have been unnecessary roughness. Since both penalties are assessed 15 yards from the line of scrimmage, that did not affect the outcome of the play.
Whether Belichick knew about the rule and hoped to get away with it, or legitimately thought he had found a loophole which would allow him to create an advantage for his team by enabling them to promote a situation that the NFL had been seeking to avoid without breaking the rules is anyone's guess. Former Jets special teams guru Mike Westhoff's view was that the Patriots did it on purpose and got caught. Westhoff had actually pushed for a rule change several years ago. The rule was actually implemented this year after former Jet Will Montgomery lobbied the NFLPA to push for it after suffering a hamstring injury in a pileup caused by such a tactic.
For completeness, here's the actual rule from the NFL rulebook:
Rule 9 Scrimmage Kick
Section 1 Kick From Scrimmage
KICK ON OR BEHIND LINE OF SCRIMMAGE
Article 1 Team A may attempt a punt, drop kick, or placekick from on or behind the line of scrimmage.
Penalty: For a punt, drop kick, or placekick that is kicked from beyond the line of scrimmage or not from scrimmage:
Loss of 10 yards from the spot of the kick.
Note 1: This is not considered illegally kicking the ball.
Note 2: The penalty for a punt, drop kick, or placekick from beyond the line is to be enforced from the spot where the ball is punted or kicked when the player’s entire body and the ball are beyond the line of scrimmage. This includes either when the player is airborne or touching the ground.
Note 3: A second kick from behind the line of scrimmage is legal provided the ball has not crossed the line.
KICKING TEAM PLAYERS ON LINE DURING KICK
Article 2 During a kick from scrimmage, only the end men (eligible receivers) on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, or an eligible receiver who is aligned or in motion behind the line and is more than one yard outside the end man, are permitted to advance more than one yard beyond the line before the ball is kicked.
Penalty: For advancing more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage before the ball is kicked: Loss of five yards.
DEFENSIVE TEAM FORMATION
Article 3: Defensive Team Formation
(a) When Team A presents a punt, field-goal, or Try Kick formation, a Team B player, who is within one yard of the line of scrimmage, must have his entire body outside the snapper’s shoulder pads at the snap.
(b) When Team A presents a field-goal or Try Kick formation:
(1) No more than six Team B players may be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the
Note: These restrictions do not apply if a team does not present a standard punt, field goal, or Try Kick formation (an equal number of players on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper in a tight formation), or if, after the offensive team has assumed a set position, there is a shift, or a player goes in motion.
Penalty: For illegal formation by the defense: Loss of five yards.
(2) Team B players cannot push teammates on the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.
Penalty: For unnecessary roughness: Loss of 15 yards